Learning about the EU from the inside: Interviews with EU trainees #3

Barbara Zak

This article is the third round of a series of interviews with European Union (EU) interns who agreed to share their experience about their traineeship in EU institutions. I would like to thank all EU trainees for their participation and their time!

Isabella – from Italy/Chile – EU Delegation to the UN – traineeship in the Human Rights Department of the Delegation – in Geneva

1/ Please tell us a little about yourself.

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© Isabella Greppi Maturana

I was born in France, I am half-Italian, half-Chilean and I am currently studying Public International Law at Leiden University in the Netherlands. I graduated from Maastricht University in 2017 with a Bachelor of European Studies. During my studies, I interned at the EU Desk Department of the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Spain in Madrid and did an exchange semester at the University of Hong Kong. After my Bachelor’s degree, I decided to take a gap year and gain professional experience before starting my LLM. From September to March 2018, I did a six-month internship at the European Union Delegation to the United Nations in Geneva, where I worked in the Human Rights Department. From March to July 2018, I interned at the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) in Vienna, where I worked in the Agency’s Justice Section.

2/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship? What does an EU trainee do specifically?

I was working for the Human Rights department of the Delegation, specifically on Human Rights issues in Africa. I would, therefore, follow meetings that dealt with African countries, mainly on Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Egypt. My main tasks involved the following: preparation of briefings and reports from Delegation’s meetings with EU Member States, third countries, UN organisations, Human Rights Council (HRC) mechanisms, and NGOs; research on human rights issues and country situations; analysis of States’ behaviour and dynamics within the Human Rights Council and preparation of draft EU statements for the HRC discussion as well as internal reports for transmission to Brussels.

The biggest task for interns is the preparation of the Human Rights Council and all the work that is left after that. From reporting the weekly or sometimes daily EU Coordination meetings, to conferences at the UN, life at the delegation can get very busy and you might find yourself running between the Delegation and the UN. You get to attend several events including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), where UN Member States (MS) human rights situations are assessed, as well as the Committee Against Torture, the Forum on Minority Issues, amongst others. You also experience the dynamic life of the Delegation since the EU does most of the work in terms of reporting to the headquarters and organising daily EU coordination meetings. Coordinating 28 MS can be very hard, especially when MS have differing views on specific issues!

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© Isabella Greppi Maturana

It was particularly interesting to work at the EU Delegation in Geneva since I had the chance to experience the complex realm of multilateral diplomacy between the EU and the UN. Moreover, Geneva has long been one of the world’s capitals of international law and the headquarters of international institutions dedicated to human rights, which therefore offers you many opportunities.

For more information on internships at the EU Delegation in Geneva, you can have a look at the following video here.

3/ Are there any tips that would be useful for future EU trainees to know?

I applied to several EU delegations around the world, and mostly got unsuccessful answers due to the EU change of policies regarding internships. I finally got a successful answer from the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva, which had posted an announcement on their website for unpaid internships. I applied through their email and sent my CV as well as my motivation letter as requested. Their policy was rather strict in the sense that they only allowed internships for students studying, and thus residing in Geneva or for foreigners who were receiving financial support (scholarship from an institution, country etc.). I had to fill a form provided by the Delegation, where I had to mention my preferences for the department I wished to work in and they eventually called me for an interview.

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© Isabella Greppi Maturana

The EEAS has now changed the procedure for internships at the EU Delegations. Internships are now paid if the delegation can afford to pay their interns and are offered for: i) paid traineeship for young graduates with less than one year of professional experience; ii) unpaid compulsory traineeship for students already residing and studying in the host country; iii) traineeship for students of national administration schools of MS and iv) traineeship for trainee civil servants of an administration in a MS as part of their compulsory professional training. While you must have graduated from a university for paid traineeships, applicants from 3rd, 4th, or 5th year students can apply for unpaid compulsory traineeships.

Working at one of the many delegations of the EU can be an amazing experience, whether you do it at the multilateral level or at the bilateral one. I would definitely recommend it!

4/ Do you have a special memory, one of your proudest moments from this experience to share with us?

The highlight of working in the Human Rights Department was to attend the 36th session of the HRC in September, which lasts for three weeks. The most interesting part is to attend the daily EU coordination meetings, where diplomats from the 28 EU MS discuss their interests before starting the day at the HRC, as well as the ongoing side events and meetings with NGOs. The EU passed two Resolutions in African countries on Burundi and the DRC, which I followed throughout the whole HRC. Prior to the voting at the end of the HRC, there is a whole process of intense negotiations where States address their concerns during public or private informal consultations with the interested parties. A particular memory was when the EU Resolution on Burundi, which extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry, passed with a majority of votes. After long negotiations, it was satisfying to see the resolution pass and be adopted by the HRC!

***

Romain – from France – European Commission (EC) – traineeship in the DG for Economic and Financial Affairs – in Brussels

1/ Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Romain, I was born in France and raised in the Pyrénées, close to the Spanish border. I graduated from a first master of business administration : during my studies I lived one year in Spain and one year in Brussels where I took several classes on Human resources (HR). That is why when I graduated I decided to go for another master where I could study HR. I have had so far 5 different experiences in HR (learning and development, recruitment, internal communication, career guidance and employer branding). After my graduation, I decided to take 8 months off to just travel all over Europe and both West and East coasts of the USA. After that, I applied for a volunteering job in Brussels where I worked for almost two years as a HR business manager for a consulting company.

2/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship? What does an EU trainee do specifically?

I was working in the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN) with the HR business correspondent team, which is the local HR department based in each DG. There I was in charge to support the team to launch internal projects in order to ensure staff engagement. I worked for instance on relaunching the programme for newcomers, organizing the summer school or to support staff in the realization of their projects. I believe that in my case, as a EU trainee, I had the chance to be part of a team that was trusting me with delivering projects for the greater good of our staff. From what I heard and saw, EU trainees bring fresh ideas and their motivation and this can have a positive impact on the common good for the DG (especially in HR).

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© Romain Milhé

3/ Are there any tips that would be useful for future EU trainees to know?

My advice would be: „Build a strong network”. As I am a HR person maybe I am biased here but I believe that the traineeship is a great opportunity to meet people and build a strong network that may be helpful in the future. Go to conferences, have from time to time a coffee with colleagues or other trainees, enjoy activities outside of work with perfect strangers (that may become great friends afterwards) or simply try to look for the right connections that will give you the opportunity to talk about projects you are interested in.

4/ Do you have a special memory, one of your proudest moments from this experience to share with us?

One of my best memory can seem naive but it happened right at the end of my internship. I had to say goodbye to my team and as word was spreading that my traineeship was ending, more and more people came to me to tell me how much they appreciated my professionalism but also my kindness and big smile every time I was passing by to say hello. Of course, I could say that I was proud of being able to support my two colleagues delivering a two-week training course for more than a hundred people, but what is more important for me is to know that somehow if I ever pass by the DG ECFIN, I will be remembered.

***

Dionysia – from Greece – European Commission – Directorate General for Justice and Consumers – Data Protection Unit – in Brussels

1/ Please tell us a little about yourself

I am a licensed lawyer in Greece, practicing in various fields of law the last eight years. I am also holder of an LL.M. Degree in European and Comparative Social Law from Toulouse I Capitole University (France) in collaboration with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece). My postgraduate studies were the incentive to become a more active European Union citizen, since they raised my interest for EU law. Working in an EU institution was a personal ambition and a professional challenge for me.
Work experience is not necessarily a prerequisite for a trainee. However, depending on the position, it is sometimes a useful asset for your personal progress. As for language skills, I speak Greek as mother tongue and I am proficient in English and French, also in terms of legal terminology. Currently, I am learning Spanish.

2/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship? What does an EU trainee do specifically?

In my view, the element that makes this traineeship different and precious is that EU trainees are integrated to their unit’s team and actively participate in meetings and projects. Nevertheless, the extent to which a trainee can contribute to the unit’s work also depends on other factors, such as their qualifications and professional background. An EU trainee mainly assists the unit in their tasks but also carries out work individually.
Respectively, I both performed work that was solely assigned to me or participated in my unit’s tasks and projects. My work was related to the monitoring and enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). My main task was to handle cases on the protection of personal data and the implementation of the relevant EU legislation. I also participated in a project concerning the review of existing EU legislation. Last but not least, I attended meetings, for which I had to draft minutes, I prepared memos and I had the chance to attend hearings at the European Parliament and workshops, related to data protection issues.

3/ Are there any tips that would be useful for future EU trainees to know?

First of all, do your research before applying. Look for the traineeship that better suits your profile and satisfies your professional ambitions. Also, be confident about the time period you want to carry out your traineeship: if you choose to do so right after your studies or if you prefer to gain work experience first. I don’t promote any particular choice, but I think your perception of this experience will be different depending on that. Last but not least: don’t miss the deadlines! The application and selection procedure is long, not to mention competitive.

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© Dionysia Theodoritsi

If you are lucky enough to be selected, one tip is worth remembering: Don’t hesitate to ask! Nobody knows everything and even if so, it’s not you as a trainee :). It’s more productive to have thorough understanding of the task you are assigned to rather than pretend to know and fail to accomplish it. Another tip from my experience is to never miss a chance to participate in meetings, conferences and work-related events. There might be times that the colleagues are busy enough to suggest you to attend a meeting. Don’t always wait for them. Be proactive! But at the same time be considerate. Don’t bring your team in an awkward position if the nature of the meeting does not allow your presence in it.

4/ Do you have a special memory, one of your proudest moment from this experience to share with us?

The traineeship itself was an invaluable experience and a benchmark in my career. I have special memories of my participation in events, hearing, workshops and conferences. Being in the heart of EU decision-making is something that not everybody has the chance to experience and I feel privileged to have had this opportunity.
A particularly special occasion was my participation in the 25 May event, organised by my unit for the entry into application of the GDPR that prominent professionals and experts attended. A proud moment is the creation and editing of the yearbook, along with a team of six other trainees. It is a project entirely carried out by us, the yearbook team, about a book including profiles of all trainees of our session that wanted to be part of it. The idea was brought back to life again after many years and, despite the difficulties we faced, the feedback was really positive, which made me even more excited and proud for contributing in it.
Apart from work, the whole traineeship was a collage of enthralling moments: meeting so many talented people, from different ethnic, cultural, academic and professional backgrounds, having the chance to discuss with Commissioners and high-ranked officials, joining international events and making friends from all over the world were definitely among the highlights of this traineeship.

 

***

Paola – from Italy – Court of Justice of the European Union – traineeship in the Registry of the Court of Justice – in Luxembourg City

1/ Please tell us a little about yourself.

I have obtained a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Political Science and Diplomacy at the University of Milan and I currently study Law at the University of Bologna. After having completed my Masters Degree, thus learning about EU Institutions in a theoretical manner, I decided to apply this knowledge on a more practical scale. Indeed, I applied for an internship at the ECJ in 2017 and was recruited for one in the sunny summer of 2018.

2/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship? What does an EU trainee do specifically?

Generally speaking, the tasks of the interns differ based on the directorate which the intern has been assigned to. In fact, during the recruitment process, interns are selected based on their profiles as well as the needs and requirements of each directorate. If candidates are particularly interested in working for a certain directorate, I would advise them to mention this point in their applications. On a more personal note, I had the pleasure of interning at the Registry of the Court of Justice, which is responsible for handling, classifying and archiving cases and documents in an efficient manner. Moreover, speaking both French and English at a very good level is advantageous for interns when they carry out their daily tasks at the ECJ and when they stroll around in Luxembourg.

3/ Are there any tips that would be useful for future EU trainees to know?

I would say that keeping an eye on the internship’s deadlines, preparing the application well in advance, and keeping one’s cool throughout the lengthy application process, are fundamental traits of a well-organised candidate. Moreover, I would tell unsuccessful applicants not to be discouraged if they do not obtain an internship the first time they apply – competition is tough and luck always plays a role! The important thing is to serenely carry on doing the best one can at university or at work, whilst patiently sending out applications. As for applicants who do receive an acceptance letter, I would advise them to start looking for apartments and to check if their documents are in order. Once they do start the internship, it is fundamental to work hard, but exploring the city and socialising in the weekends is a must!

4/ Do you have a special memory, one of your proudest moments from this experience to share with us?

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© Paola Lo Bue Oddo

I wouldn’t say that I have one specific favourite memory seeing as the whole experience itself was fruitful and enjoyable on an intellectual and practical scale. My colleagues provided detailed background information on certain hearings whose topics were of great interest to me, meticulously explained laws or procedures which I asked them about, and provided excellent career advice. My fellow interns organised enjoyable outings, picnics and lunches, and were very pleasant, helpful and conversational. However, the most distinctive memory which I have is when, after having finished the internship, I got on the bus home, wondering if I’d ever come back to Luxembourg. Therefore I was overjoyed when a few weeks later, I received another offer by the EU Commission!

***

Sofia – from Greece – traineeship in the Permanent Representation of Greece to the EU and in the European Parliament – in Brussels

1/ Please tell us a little about yourself

Hello, I am Sofia Andreadaki, a Greek law school graduate currently working as an official Schuman trainee at the European Parliament in Brussels. I was previously working as a trainee lawyer in a law firm in Greece and before that as an „Erasmus placement” trainee at the ‚Permanent Representation of Greece to the E.U.’ in Brussels, for which I have been requested to talk about as well. This is actually my 3rd time living in Belgium, because I have also done my Erasmus studies semester in K.U. Leuven University, in Leuven, a couple of years ago.

2️/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship ? What does an EU trainee do specifically?

As far as my traineeship in the ‚Permanent Representation of Greece to the European Union’ last year is concerned, it lasted 3 months and it took place in Brussels. My tasks included taking part in the official working groups of the Council of EU in Brussels, at the energy and environment committee. There, I was writing down the minutes of all what the representatives of each country were saying, each of course speaking in other languages with simultaneous translation in English, then I was translating it all in Greek and sending them in the form of reports to the Greek Foreign Ministry. Every day the discussions in the working groups were so in-depth, so I learned an incredible amount of things, terminology and updates about the European Energy law, which I could’ve never learned in law school. The experience was unbelievable, because I had access to all the inside discussions on the latest topics, meetings with important policymakers and lawmaking procedures. I felt like I was present in important moments when the laws that would apply to all European countries were being created..!

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© Sofia Andreadaki

As for my current Schuman traineeship in the European Parliament, I just started it the previous week and I am already very excited about the working environment, the colleagues and the topics we deal with. I feel again that we are part of the policy making procedure of EU, which will then affect all the European households, since 80% of every member-state’s legislation is European legislation..! The experience is so fascinating, that we all feel grateful, as out of 6000 applicants, only 280 of us were selected for the official traineeship in the European Parliament in Brussels. My tasks here include attending the committee meetings of ITRE (the committee on energy, industry and research) since I am working for the ITRE committee, writing reports, doing research, preparing feedback for the official committee working groups and many more which I will discover in the next days.

3/ Are there any tips that would be useful for future EU trainees to know?

First of all, I’d advise them to dare to step out of the comfort zone, be it by applying in such exchange international programs like Erasmus studies or Erasmus placement or to job posts abroad. After that, more practical tips concerning the application procedure of the Erasmus placement traineeship (for which I’ve been requested to talk by the interviewer) would be to get informed about such programs by the University, by attending info sessions or events or ask other former erasmus students and of course by searching a lot online and asking the international office of the university. For example, in order to do my „Erasmus placement” at the Permanent Representation to the EU, I had to first search for months, get in touch with a thousand embassies, representations and consulates in every country as well as with the Erasmus office a million times, in order to gather information. After that, you send your CV to the institutions where you’d like to do your Erasmus placement and wait for admission letters which you then upload, along with many other documents, to the „Erasmus placement” official application. Then you once again wait for approval. All this procedure is very demanding, but the experience will be totally worth it, I assure you! So, I recommend to everyone to be open, search everywhere for such opportunities and keep an eye for anything interesting like that.

4/ Do you have a special memory, one of your proudest moments from this experience to share with us?

Ooh I recall so many memories and moments that I could talk for hours! I can start by mentioning an outstanding moment: already this second week of our Schuman traineeship at the European Parliament, the president of the European Parliament, Mr Tajani, sent an email exclusively to us, the Schuman trainees, inviting us to a photoshooting with him and Bono, the U2 singer! And then Mr Tajani posted our photo on his facebook account, so as you can imagine we felt very honoured.

Moreover, everyday life in these experiences is so fascinating, because you are everyday working and living with international people from all around the world, in European institutions which are dreamy working environments. My Erasmus placement traineeship and the current Schuman stage (as well as the Erasmus studies semester) are/have been the best times of my life, full of so amazing people and a chance to discover what I like doing more in life and how to continue my career path. I have also learned so many things about European law in practice, that I couldn’t have learned just from university. I am also grateful for my supervisors both in the Permanent Representation and at the Parliament, who are so helpful and teach us a lot of things.

My traineeship highlights up to now at the European Parliament’s stage are: laughing so much and sharing common interests with my co-trainees, working with 15 other trainees from 10 different countries in our common office, buying a coffee machine all together, decorating our office… Feeling that we all share common interests, goals and fears, even if we come from different countries and so many more to come, since we are still only at the 2nd week!

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Learning about the EU from the inside: Interviews with EU trainees #2

Barbara Zak

This article is the second part of a series of interviews with European Union (EU) interns who agreed to share their experience about their traineeship in the various EU institutions. I would like to thank all EU trainees for their participation and their time, particularly Alex for his precious help!

Here you can find part 1.

Bálint – from Hungary – European Parliament (EP) – traineeship in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Secretariat – in Brussels

1/ Please tell us about your academic background and your work experience.

I have a Master’s degree in European Studies and I had two traineeships in Brussels before the Schuman Traineeship, one in advocacy (=lobbying), the second in legislative monitoring (=following EU legislation and writing updates to interested companies). This being said, the majority of my fellow interns came straight from the university, so previous job experience is definitely not necessary.

2/ How did you apply for the internship? What are the steps to follow? Do you have any advice to give regarding the procedure?

I applied the way everyone else did – through the Parliament’s dedicated tool (although it looked quite different 12 months ago). Of course this only applies to the Schuman Traineeship, and not for Traineeships with a specific MEP or Political Party, who set up their own requirements and application procedures. The steps to be taken are quite clearly outlined on the website.

I recommend two things. First of all, read about the different DGs, directorates and units, and what they do. It is important that you apply to the department/unit which is a best fit for both your qualifications and your desires, because if you don’t do that, there is a high chance that you will not be selected, or that you will end up doing work that you dislike. If you are not completely sure what a certain department or Directorate does, either contact a trainee that worked there (you can search for them on LinkedIn), or ask on the Schuman Trainee’s Alumni Network Facebook Group.

Secondly, use keywords. As far as I know, the trainees are selected by their (future) supervisors, who are extremely busy with their normal tasks. In order to filter out the hundreds of applications somehow, they will use keywords. What these keywords are is anyone’s guess, but instead of writing a novel about your love for the EU, just imagine what skills and qualifications could be important for the role, and try to fit them all within your application.

3/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship ?

I was working for the Secretariat of a Parliamentary Committee, therefore I did a lot of policy work, such as preparing for meetings (e.g. Trilogues, technical meetings), drafting minutes and feedback notes, meeting with policy advisors and the assistants of MEPs, etc. But if you know well enough what your unit is doing, you can easily ask for tasks that you’d like to do.

Also, I got to go to Strasbourg for a few days on a mission, which is a lot of fun besides being professionally interesting, and I attended a lot of internal trainings, which are also very useful.

Truth is, the EP employees are extremely busy, so busy in fact that they sometimes forget to ask for your help. Therefore, my main advice is this: research thoroughly what your unit does, choose in advance what you want to work on, and just ask to be involved – the administrators will mostly be happy to give you tasks according to your preferences. Don’t just wait for your supervisor to come to you, talk also with other members of the unit, and be pro-active in offering help.

4/ Do you have a special memory from this experience to share with us?

For me, every day was an amazing experience. I had the chance to participate in negotiating laws that will be part of history books, and gained such an insight into EU affairs that even people who spent 20-30 years in EU affairs ask me about certain things (how exactly some internal procedure goes, or what is the dynamic on an average Trilogue, etc.). At the same time, I had an amazing time with my fellow trainees, either just having lunch in the park or having beers at place lux after a long day. So try to enjoy both the professional and the personal aspects of it.

Finally, don’t get discouraged if you don’t get selected. I personally applied 4-5 times before I finally got accepted, and I know people much smarter and better educated than me who are still waiting for their chance. So don’t give up.

***

Alex – from the United Kingdom – Court of Justice of the European Union – traineeship in the English Translation Unit – in Luxembourg City

1/ Please tell us about your academic background and your work experience.

I hold a combined Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in European and International Law called the Integrated Common Programme, the result of a partnership between the Universities of Warwick in England, Lille 2 in France and Saarland in Germany. It was taught in English, French and German and covered areas of national, EU and international law. In terms of work experience, I taught martial arts classes for many years and worked as a customer assistant in my local supermarket throughout my studies. During secondary school, a week of work experience in a legal department of Alstom Power Service encouraged me to consider the combination of law and languages at university level, which is how I discovered my degree and, eventually, the traineeship.

2/ How did you apply for the traineeship? What are the steps to follow? Do you have any advice to give regarding the procedure?

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© Alex Leaver

I found the traineeships page of the Court of Justice of the EU’s website while I was looking for some case-law for a university assessment. After graduating in late 2015, I applied for the March 2016 traineeship period. The first step is to read that page of the Court’s website and, most importantly, take note of the deadlines; there are two intakes per year for paid traineeships (March and October) with corresponding application periods. The application itself is online and you can’t save it or come back to it later – I kept a Word document for the text of my application so it was simple to copy it all across once I’d finished working on it. If you’re accepted, you’ll receive a list of documents to bring on the first day (things like a doctor’s note and a clean criminal record) so make sure that you’re organised. And don’t leave house hunting until the last minute!

3/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship?

As a trainee lawyer-linguist in the English Translation Unit of the Court of Justice’s Directorate-General for Multilingualism, my tasks consisted in the translation of the Court’s legal documents (judgments, orders, requests for a preliminary ruling etc.) from French and German into English. Trainee lawyer-linguists need a degree in law due to the legal nature of the documents translated and must be able to translate from French (the working language of the Court) and one other language into their mother tongue. Trainees will also coordinate with revisers and proof-readers within their translation unit, as well as with press officers, legal terminologists and even the judge’s legal secretaries within the wider Court, thereby playing a key role in the functioning of the multilingual judicial dialogue between national courts and the Court of Justice in Luxembourg and making EU law accessible in every official language of the EU.

4/ Do you have a special memory from this experience to share with us?

While the sheer variety of topics to translate (everything from chocolate bars to terrorism, with plenty of cases of compensation for delayed flights in between!) helped to make the lawyer-linguist traineeship very special to me, the best memories from this experience are those I made with my fellow trainees in Luxembourg, including countless birthdays, meals, cultural exchanges, nights out and trips, the Court of Justice’s summer Staff Party and watching the fireworks for Luxembourg’s national day. More than two years later, I’m still an English-language lawyer-linguist at the Court of Justice in Luxembourg and I’ve been lucky enough to relive the joys of my traineeship with each new generation of trainees that has arrived since then!

***

Khushbu – from France – European Commission (EC) – traineeship in the Directorate-General for Competition (DG for Competition) – in Brussels

1/ Please tell us about your academic background and your work experience.

I have a diversified academic background as I graduated from three different universities.
At first, I undertook a 3-year Bachelor’s degree in French and EU law studies from the Catholic University of Lille. I continued my studies at Nanterre University (close to Paris) with a 1-year master’s degree in Business law and I finally graduated from Paris Dauphine University, again in Business law.
I decided not to orientate my studies to one specific area of law but rather preferred to keep the door open to different opportunities, which I expanded through my work experiences, as follows.
I started with a couple of traineeships in small law firms in France and Ireland, practicing different fields of law alongside lawyers and barristers. Then, after having undertaken one of the best work experience at the European Commission in my career, I joined two different international law firms based in Paris as a trainee with the aim of strengthening my skills into French and EU competition law.
I passed the Paris bar exam and worked with two international companies in competition and distribution law, allowing me to experience the work of an in-house counsel.
Finally, I joined Reed Smith LLP law firm in January 2018 as an associate in the EU Competition team.

2/ How did you apply for the traineeship? What are the steps to follow? Do you have any advice to give regarding the procedure?

Joining an EU institution was just like a dream I wanted to experience in my life. I early inquired about the different ways to undertake a traineeship at DG Competition and waited for graduating from my 1st year of master’s degree to apply.
I applied by contacting a case handler, Mr Jindrich Kloub, who was also one of my former professor at the Catholic University of Lille, and informed him of my interest in experiencing a “stage atypique” (which is different and more flexible internship program in comparison to the Blue Book one).
I sent him to my resume and a cover letter, detailing my personal data, academic background, work experience, languages and motivations. Mr Kloub forwarded my application internally to the Deputy Head of Unit G in Cartels, who interviewed me during a conference call and challenged me through theoretical questions, latest competition case law, my linguistic skills as well as my motivations.
A couple of days later, I was very glad to receive an email from the Deputy Head of Unit offering me a traineeship, which I obviously accepted.

3/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship?

My 4-month experience with the Cartels directorate at DG Competition was amazing and full of various interesting assignments.
I actively contributed to various cartel cases I was working on.
For instance, I worked on a challenging ongoing case in which the Commission was reviewing its position. My work consisted in conducting a document review based on which the initial case team had built a cartel case, but which, at some point, seemed not to be strong enough for prosecuting the involved companies. This document review was supplemented by a new legal analysis to verify the existence of any anticompetitive conduct, beyond any shady behavior.

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© Khushbu Kumar

I also participated in the review of an appeal lodged by a company sanctioned for a cartel, by researching and suggesting legal arguments aiming at supporting the Commission’s sanction decision before the EU General Court. This challenging task allowed me to get involved directly with the Legal service of the Commission and prepare the Commission’s assessment.
Finally, and without being exhaustive, I assisted the Cartel directorate in sustaining their position in the context of the disclosure procedure before US courts, where a plaintiff claiming for damages to remedy his harm suffered following a cartel requested the US Court to enjoin the Commission to disclose very sensitive documents (including leniency applications and settlement-related documents).

4/ Do you have a special memory from this experience to share with us?

Limiting my experience at the European Commission to one memory is very hard.
However, I feel very lucky for having been offered the opportunity to attend an exciting 3-day oral hearing with a case team. During this hearing, companies suspected of having infringed cartel rules were given the chance to explain themselves and assert their rights, legal analysis of the case and answer the Commission’s questions. Their aim was of course to convince the European Commission to drop the case by shedding light on the weaknesses of the case.
Interestingly, this hearing allowed me to put into perspective the administrative nature of the institution and draw a parallel with criminal courts.
Also, and quite surprisingly, this experience convinced me that I wanted to be on the “dark” side to represent companies and have the chance to challenge the Commission’s reasoning on each argument based on the same legal tools.

A quick word to conclude: dare applying to the European Commission for a traineeship! It’s a unique intellectual and human experience which you are the only one to turn into an exceptional one through your motivations, absolute involvement and interest. After having worked there, I felt proud to be a European citizen !

***

Luigi – from Italy – European Parliament (EP) – traineeship in the Directorate-General for Internal Policies (DG IPOL) – in Brussels

1/ Please tell us a little about yourself.

luigi

© Luigi Limone

I am an Italian young professional trying to establish a career in the field of international affairs. I hold a Master’s degree in Politics and International Relations of Asia and Africa from the Eastern University of Naples in Italy, with a major in Middle Eastern affairs and Euro-Mediterranean cooperation. I took part in an exchange academic year in Marrakesh, Morocco, as part of an Erasmus Mundus Programme for the mobility between the EU and North Africa. I have recently finished a traineeship in the European Parliament, within the official Robert Schuman Traineeship Programme. I worked for the Secretariat of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), in the Directorate-General for Internal Policies (DG IPOL). I love travelling, discovering new places and meeting people from different cultures.

2/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship? What does an EU trainee do specifically?

During my traineeship in the Parliament, I collaborated with my colleagues of the migration and asylum sub-unit on different legislative proposals reforming the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), I attended and reported on conferences, hearings and workshops on topics of interest for my Committee, both inside and outside the Parliament, I helped with the organization of events and produced relevant content for the monthly newsletter. In addition, this experience offered me the opportunity to attend trilogues (the inter-institutional negotiations which occur before the adoption of a new piece of legislation), as well as shadows meetings and technical meetings between the representatives of the different political parties.
The working days of an EU trainee in the EP differ from one another. Trainees are required to perform many different tasks, from administrative and logistical support to specific legislative tasks. This makes the experience really enriching and dynamic.
As part of the 5-month experience, trainees have the chance to participate in a mission in the EP in Strasbourg at least once. In Strasbourg, trainees have the opportunity to attend the plenary session in the hemycicle, visit the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe and discover the charm of a multi-cultural city at the heart of Europe.

3/ Are there any tips that would be useful for future EU trainees to know?

To a future EU trainee I would recommend to take the best out of this great experience, learn as much as possible, talk with supervisors and colleagues, show interest and curiosity and, if work schedules allow, attend as many conferences and events as possible in the Parliament, as this is a very good way to enrich one’s own knowledge and background.
Trainees should not forget that this experience also means a lot of fun: if you are doing your traineeship in Brussels, keep in mind that the city offers a lot of different things to do and great opportunities to have fun with your colleagues. Every Thursday, after work, in the square located right in front of the EP – Place du Luxembourg – the trainees of all the EU institutions based in Brussels meet to enjoy some time together and share a couple of beers. It’s also part of the traineeship!

4/ Do you have a special memory, one of your proudest moment from this experience to share with us?

This year, the European Parliament in Strasbourg hosted the third edition of the European Youth Event, an event which takes place every two years and aims to establish a platform to young active citizens so that they can debate their ideas with Europe’s decision makers. The third edition coincided with my mission in Strasbourg. The Parliament gave trainees who were in Strasbourg during those days the opportunity to volunteer for the organization of the event and attend some of the discussions and workshops on the future of the EU. It was one of the greatest moments throughout the whole traineeship experience: I was one of the 8,970 young people who could participate in the event, exchange ideas with peers and enjoy a great multi-cultural environment.

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Working in the Court of Justice of the European Union: An interview with Angela Rogner

Emil Wojtaluk

 

 

Angela Rogner (photo: Cezary Ruta)

Her mother tongue is German and she studied French and English Conference Interpreting at Charles University Graz, Austria. In 1992, she moved to Prague where she worked as a lecturer of German as a foreign language, and at the same time learned Czech. In 1999, she took successfully part in an interpreter competition at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, and in 2004 she joined their staff. Since then, she interprets at court hearings from 5 languages (French, English, Czech, Slovak, Spanish) into German. Here it is: an interview with Angela Rogner, an interpreter with the Court of Justice of the European Union.

 

 

 

 

1) You work as an interpreter in the Court of Justice of the European Union since 2004. Could you explain the process of applying for a job and the stages of recruitment for your position?

I took part in a competition. A competition is a selection process for staff of the EU institutions, handled by EPSO, the European Personnel Selection Office. At that time, every institution still had their own selection procedure. In 1999, an Austrian friend told me about a competition for interpreters at the European of Court of Justice. We decided to go, without big hopes to succeed. The Court of Justice seemed like a mysterious institution and we were sure that the exams would be difficult. They consisted of consecutive and simultaneous interpretation from three EU languages into our German mother tongue. My three languages were French, English and Spanish. My friend unfortunately failed, but I succeeded, to my big surprise. For several years I was on a reserve list for a post at the Court of Justice, and in 2003, before the major enlargement, I got an offer to become a staff interpreter in the German booth. They knew I had Czech in my language combination, and the institutions were looking for people with enlargement languages. Later, I also started interpreting from Slovak. On 31 December 2003, my family was packed up and we left for Luxembourg.

 

2) Did you study law or is this not a prior condition for becoming an interpreter with the CJEU?

I have a university diploma in Conference Interpreting from the University of Graz, Austria. My diploma thesis dealt with the terminology of international treaties, but I did not study law as such. Nevertheless, law has been part of my professional life, in some way or another, during my time as a free-lance interpreter in Austria, and as a translator for a Czech law firm in Prague. A formal law diploma is not required for CJEU interpreters, but a certain knowledge of and an interest in law are an advantage. Of course, there are posts in the EU institutions where a formal law diploma is required.

 

3) What does your work consist of on a daily basis? Do you have to prepare for specific court hearings?

The bulk of my work is preparation. Every week, I am assigned to a number of hearings in cases where German is needed. In order to interpret well at these hearings, I have to be well prepared. The interpreters have access to the case file and study the documents submitted to the Court. A case is not only about specific terminology in various languages, but mainly about a legal dispute that we should understand. What are the parties arguing about, what is the core of the issue? What arguments are put forward? Without sound preparation, we would be unable to adequately interpret a hearing. Proceedings at the CJEU can be brought in any official language. Very often, we have a manifold linguistic situation: The language of the proceedings is, say, English, but various governments of EU Member states intervene, and they will all speak their languages: Greek, German, Lithuanian, French, or Polish.

 

4) Could you explain to our readers, from your own experience, how the principle of impartiality of the judges works in practice? Did you experience anything that could be considered as „unusual” during the Court proceedings?

Sorry to disappoint you, but I never experienced a situation where the judges of the CJEU would not be impartial. People sometimes think that the Polish, the Czech, the Hungarian, the Austrian or any other judge are „loyal” towards their own countries. If this were the case and the Austrian judge would decide in favour of his home country in a case where Austria is sued by the European Commission, European law would be invalidated. The judges operate solely on the basis of European law and interpret it in the light of the given case. Anything else would undermine the very principle of EU jurisdiction.

 

5) What is your position on the current EU proceedings against the Polish government concerning the rule of law and Poland’s judiciary? Is that a discussed issue among the staff of CJEU?

As an interpreter, I have to be impartial. This does not mean that I do not have my own opinion on various matters, but when I work, it must not shine through. My job is to faithfully and convincingly render the arguments of the speaker in the target language, whatever the speaker’s position is. I will not be assigned to the hearing in the case you mentioned, since it will probably be dealt with in Polish and Polish is not yet one of my working languages. Maybe I will have to disappoint you again, but I am not familiar with the precise pleas in law brought against Poland by the Commission. Of course, the events that have taken place in Poland are discussed in the European press and by people interested in the developments in Poland, but there is no special discussion at the CJEU. I believe that judicial independence and the irremovability of judges are very important for the rule of law.

 

6) Finally, what would you advise to students and graduates who aim to work in the EU institutions?

Get a university diploma in the field you are interested in, go abroad, learn languages, apply for an internship with the EU institutions. Check the websites of the institutions where sometimes temporary posts are offered. Take part in an EPSO competition. Don’t give up if it does not work the first time. Try again. Don’t lose your enthusiasm! We need young people who believe in the EU, you are Europe’s future. Additional remark for young interpreters: The CJEU offers also interpreting internships, check out the website www.curia.europa.eu. Good luck!

 

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ECJ: no legal basis for biometric data in ID cards

Katarzyna Stachyra

What would you say if public authorities would ask you for providing fingerprints in order to issue ID card? Citizens from the Netherlands have refused. The Court of Justice of the European Union admitted they are right in judgement in joined cases C-446/12 to C-449/12[1].

Source: resources.infosecinstitute.com

Source: resources.infosecinstitute.com

Providing fingerprints – a serious breach of the physical integrity?

 

H.J. Kooistra, a citizen of the Netherlands, made an application for the issue of identity card. The Burgemeeste refused doing so because H.J. Kooistra did not agree for providing fingerprints and a facial image. He argued that fulfilling these duties constitutes a serious breach of physical integrity and right to privacy. Moreover, he was afraid of the security of his personal data, because they would be storaged in more than one medium, including decentralized database.

According to Netherlands law, providing fingerprints is one of the requirements in order to obtain ‘travel documents’, for example passports. Since ID cards allow EU citizens to move freely within the EU, the official authorities in the Netherlands apply law referred to ‘travel documents’ to them. The court in the Netherlands, before which this case was pending, decided to ask ECJ for preliminary ruling. The key point was to answer whether law concerning passports – at domestic law level as well as EU law – is applicable for ID cards.

Clear answer…

ECJ stated that ‘the fact that identity cards, such as Netherlands identity cards, may be used for the purposes of travel within the European Union and to a limited number of non-Member States, does not bring them within the scope of Regulation No 2252/2004’[2]. It means that according to EU law there is no requirement of providing fingerprints to obtain ID card.

Judgement of ECJ should remind us, that personal data protection, especially biometrics, is an issue that cannot be ignored. Public authorities, even they are acting on behalf of a state, are not allowed to demand providing data if there is no legal basis to do so. They have to act in compliance with law, which protect our fundamental rights. But those mechanisms will be useless without our care for security of personal data.

…and another issue

On the one hand, people’s awareness about their rights, such as right to privacy increase. Some of us are courageous and are ready to tell official authorities that their actions have no legal basis. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who are fascinated by new technologies. They share information about themselves, including biometric data, with private companies delivering ‘necessary’ services that make life easier, for example fingerprints reader instead of using PIN code. Unfortunately, people do not think about potential consequences of mentioned situations. You can change your PIN code many times, you can prove during court proceeding that sign under agreement is not yours, but you cannot change your fingerprints, iris recognition or hand geometry. When it comes to processing these data by private company, our agreement is sufficient basis. Every time before we agree we must consider advantages and risks and decide, whether we really want to say ‘yes’.

[1] Judgment Of The Court (Fourth Chamber), 16 April 2015, In Joined Cases C‑446/12 to C‑449/12.

[2] Council Regulation (EC) No 2252/2004 of 13 December 2004 on standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents issued by Member States.

The EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights – one step back

Katarzyna Stachyra

It was believed that after entering into force of the Lisbon Treaty the accession of the EU to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereinafter: the Convention) will be obvious. The Lisbon Treaty made accession admissible thanks to granting legal capacity to the EU. What is more, it even imposed obligation on EU to become party to the Convention. Negotiations, which have been conducted since 2010 by the European Commission and the Steering Committee for Human Rights Ad Hoc Negotiation Group, resulted in adoption of the draft agreement on accession[1]. This document was examined by the European Court of Justice (hereinafter: ECJ) and its opinion about compliance with the Treaties, released on 18 December 2014 (C-2/13)[2], is significantly negative. ECJ said that ‘the devil is, however, as so often, in the detail’ and pointed out legal issues which have to be solved in order to access to the Convention. Some of these problems are presented below.

photo 1(1)

The Convention and its influence on relation between ECJ and ECHR

After the accession, the Convention will become part of EU law. It means that the EU, namely all of its institutions as well as Member States, will be bound by provisions of the Convention. Therefore, actions of institutions could be controlled according to measures contained in the Convention. In other words, they would be under jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter: ECHR). In this light arises serious question concerning relation between ECJ and ECHR. Accession to the Convention will allow ECHR to assess judicial actions of ECJ or to impose interpretation of the law. Firstly, it is worth emphasizing that judicial independence is the most important feature of courts and tribunals. Secondly, as art. 2 of Protocol no 8[3] reads, ‘accession of the Union shall not affect the competences of the Union or the powers of its institutions’. ECJ as one of the EU institutions has its specific competences. Above all, ECJ has exclusive jurisdiction in disputes between Member States or Member States and institutions, related with interpretation or application of the Treaties. Hence ECJ stated, that possible jurisdiction of ECHR in mentioned matters should be distinctly excluded. Otherwise there is evident incompliance with EU law.

Coordination between the Convention and Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Convention and Charter of Fundamental Rights contain a catalogue of rights and freedoms. Despite the similarities between these catalogues, there are still certain differences which occur in provisions, as well as in interpretations given by ECJ and ECHR. Problem of coordination those two legal acts has significant meaning from the perspective of the level of human rights protection. It is necessary to avoid existing two different standards, because it could violate principle of primacy of the EU law. Because the Convention allows states to introduce higher standards than it presents itself it may lead to establishment of larger scope of protection than it is provided by Charter of Fundamental Rights. As a result, there would be a risk that Charter of Fundamental Rights would be ineffective, which would mean undermining the principle of the primacy of the EU law. According to ECJ opinion, agreement on accession shall include provisions which would prevent indicated situation.

Protocol no 16 – threat to the autonomy of the EU law

Problems with autonomy and primacy may occur after entering into force of Protocol no 16 to the Convention. This protocol introduces new function in ECHR system – advisory opinions, which may be given by ECHR at the request of highest courts and tribunals of state parties to the Convention. Generally speaking, advisory opinions may be compared to preliminary ruling given by ECJ, however they are not binding to national courts. Advisory opinions may infringe the autonomy of the procedure of request for preliminary ruling – use of the first solution may lead to resignation from the second one and, as a result, may constitute circumvention of the law. ECJ expressed in its opinion the concern about relation between those two procedures. It is on position that agreement on accession should clearly eliminate uncertainties in the application of those mechanisms.

Problems with control in the Common Foreign and Security Policy

Under provisions of draft agreement on accession, ECHR would be allowed to examine legal acts released in association with the Common Foreign and Security Policy (hereinafter: CFSP). Certainly, this examination would be conducted in the light of respecting fundamental rights. Since ECJ has no jurisdiction in certain matters related with CFSP, which results from EU law, after the accession to the Convention this jurisdiction will be granted to ECHR. ECJ emphasized that organ, which is not institution of EU, will be able to decide whether acts adopted in CFSP are in compliance with fundamental rights. In addition, it demonstrates that agreement does not follow the most important condition of accession, namely preserving the specific characteristics of the Union and Union law.

ECJ’s position – rationality or excessive precaution?

Undoubtedly we are witnesses of unprecedented event – as ECJ stated in opinion – ‘in which an international, supranational organisation — the EU — submits to the control of another international organisation — the Council of Europe — as regards compliance with basic standards of fundamental rights.’ Uniqueness lies in the fact that the EU is not a state but is pursuing to become the party to the Convention which is intended and formulated for states. Therefore there are various issues how to adjust legal mechanisms, suitable for states, for supranational organization. Opinion released by ECJ is very cautious. In certain aspects – too wary, for instance as regards of Protocol no 16. Draft agreement of accession does not contain provision concerning including this protocol in EU legal system – it would be possible in the future. Furthermore, Protocol no 16 has not even entered into force yet. However, general concern of ECJ about preserving features of the EU and its law is understandable. It is true that draft agreement on accession does not deal with all problems mentioned by ECJ. It seems that negative position of ECJ is intended to avoid confusion and uncertainty, which may occur after accession, if indicated issues will not be explained satisfactorily earlier. Problems with accession to the Convention, in the light of resistance against accession and duplication of similar systems of human rights protection, may provoke bold question – whether do we really need EU’s accession to the Convention?

[1]The full text of draft agreement is available on: http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/hrpolicy/Accession/Meeting_reports/47_1(2013)008rev2_EN.pdf
[2]The full text of opinion is available on: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=160929&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=145591
[3]Protocol No 8 Relating To Article 6(2) Of The Treaty On European Union On The Accession Of The Union To The European Convention On The Protection Of Human Rights And Fundamental Freedoms.

‘Right to be forgotten’ – Google case

Kamil Augustyniak

 

The Court of Justice of the European Union stated (Case C-131/12) that every EU Citizen has right to protect his/her private information that can be removed from search engine results if it is ‘inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant’.

Globalization, technological progress and flow of information are, surely, the major advantages of contemporary world. Everyone can search an information in the Internet and find private data about his/her neighbors. In numerous cases we do not mind the information about us is commonly available because we posted it by ourselves. Everything is good till we can control what others read about us. The difficulty starts when the information appears without our knowledge or offend us somehow.

In response to cyber-world

On 25th January 2012, Viviane Reding (the European Commission Vice-President responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship) proposed a new document – General Data Protection Regulation – that would be an amended EU Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC. In order to avoid breaching peoples’ privacy in cyberspace more efficiently than before, the document has to be transformed and catch up 21st century.That what distinguish a new suggested document will be a possibility to ask service providers to delete the personal data from a particular web-page or a list of results that is displayed following a search made on the basis of consumer’s name. When such request is reasonable, the links containing that information must be removed, unless applicant is a public person and the free access to a particular information is justified.

Personal data protection dispute: Google Spain v Mario Costeja González

In 2010 Mario Costeja González, a Spanish national, complaint against La Vanguardia Ediciones SL (the publisher of a daily newspaper with a large circulation in Spain) and Google Inc. The applicant found that after putting his name in search engine, the results display links to pages relating to La Vanguardia’s newspaper from 1998. The articles included an announcementabout real-estate auction for recovery of social security debts owed by Mr Costeja González. The two possible solutions of this dispute were proposed by applicant to each subject. The newspaper either removes or alters the page so that the applicant’s name will not appear anymore. Similarly with Google, personal details will be removed or covered in order to protect Mr Costeja González private interest. After all, the Spanish Data Protection Agency rejected the request against La Vanguardia because all these information has been published lawfully. However, the complaint against Google was upheld and requested to remove personal data from their index. As a result, the Google company appeal to Spanish National High Court which referred several questions to the Court of Justice of the EU that ruled that Mr Mario Costeja González has right to ask for such removal.

What Google says?goog

In view of Google company the decision is described as disappointing. People will tend to overuse this right to feel better. If they do not like the information, they will ask for removal and no legal oversight will be necessary to succeed. Failing to comply with the regulation will cause high fines.

Supranational effect

From the perspective of an ordinary citizen the changes are essential due to the fact that nobody in the Internet is anonymous so that faked information will disappear irretrievably. The EU legislation entered the higher level by readjusting problems of contemporary world. Since the judgment is officially approved, the new policy has to be transferred into all Member States’ laws, according to the rule of primacy of the EU law.

Read the judgment and official opinion:

http://curia.europa.eu/juris/documents.jsf?pro=&lgrec=pl&nat=or&oqp=&lg=&dates=&language=en&jur=C%2CT%2CF&cit=none%252CC%252CCJ%252CR%252C2008E%252C%252C%252C%252C%252C%252C%252C%252C%252C%252Ctrue%252Cfalse%252Cfalse&num=C-131%252F12&td=%3BALL&pcs=Oor&avg=&page=1&mat=or&jge=&for=&cid=726021#

Read more about the primacy of the EU law over the laws of the Member States: https://europensblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/roots-of-primacy-of-the-eu-law-over-the-laws-of-member-states/