Conscription in the European Union

Barbara Zak

The mandatory military service may seem to be outdated since the majority of the Member States of the European Union (EU) base their military capacity on professional soldiers and volunteers, rather than conscripts. Nevertheless, with regards to the actual sensation of instability of security in Europe, it appears that having a competent army able to defend the nation may play a huge role at the international level in the long run.

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Soldiers from Sweden’s Skaraborg regiment patrol during a military manoeuvre in Visby, on the island of Gotland. Photograph: Soren Andersson/EPA

At the beginning of March 2017, the Swedish government has decided to re-activate conscription from January 1st 2018, a decision that has been backed by the country’s MPs (70% of the Parliament). This decision concerns 4,000 young men and women (because of gender neutrality) out of 13,000 young people born in 1999, who will serve for 12 months. Obviously, the voluntary recruitment to the Armed Forces is still maintained. The reason for this change given on the website of the Swedish government is that“the security environment in Europe and in Sweden’s vicinity has deteriorated and the all-volunteer recruitment hasn’t provided the Armed Forces with enough trained personnel. The re-activating of the conscription is needed for military readiness”. We can understand that this choice has been made following the security change in the Baltic region and the increased military activity by Russia (war in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea). We should note that conscription system was abolished in Sweden in 2010.

As the EU is defined as an economic free-trade area with a single market (that is to say that it is primarily an economic union), it does not have any EU army. Member States have their own army which serves in case of an attack against the nation. The national armies can be implied in national or international conflicts following the decision of the government or parliament. Laws concerning military conscription are then regulated by the national law-making bodies. Military service is mandatory in Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece and Lithuania. In the majority of cases, it is compulsory for all male adult citizens, while women have the choice of enrolling into the military service. They can choose between military or civilian service. Germany considered in 2016 to have conscription returned in case of national emergency, as provided by the constitution. Interesting fact, for instance, in 2013, Austria held a referendum which result was that Austrians, with around 60% of the voters, were in favour of retaining compulsory military service.

civilian and military.

Copyright : Matt Hinsa || Creative Commons

Austria being an original case, mandatory military service still suffers from a social lack of support. The youth clearly declares their preference of starting their careers and families, rather than spending months as a conscript. There is a risk of the acceleration of youth emigration, as it was the case in Lithuania when it reintroduce conscription. Some opinions state that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) could be considered as the best solution for the defence of European countries since its member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party. However, the majority of the states in which military service is mandatory are not part of NATO : Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Sweden. As a result, increasing the army troops by changing the voluntary recruitment into a mandatory military service does not seem an irrational decision.

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Sources :

http://www.government.se/articles/2017/03/re-activation-of-enrolment-and-the-conscription/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/28/sweden-bring-back-conscription-2018

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/02/sweden-reintroduce-conscription-amid-rising-baltic-tensions

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39140100

http://4liberty.eu/mandatory-military-service-a-solution-for-national-defence-in-eu-member-states/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/24/lithuania-reinstate-compulsory-military-service

https://themoscowtimes.com/news/lithuania-reintroduces-compulsory-military-service-to-counter-russian-threat-53376

http://www.baltictimes.com/lithuania_publishes_2016_conscription_lists/

http://en.delfi.lt/lithuania/defence/conscription-boosted-emigration-lithuanian-pm-says.d?id=70086058

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/23/germany-considers-plan-to-bring-back-conscription/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-21110431

http://www.css.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/gess/cis/center-for-securities-studies/pdfs/CSS-Analysen-75-FR.pdf

http://www.leparisien.fr/espace-premium/actu/interactif-service-militaire-qui-fait-quoi-en-europe-15-02-2016-5547853.php

Brexit: a summary of the situation (Part 2)

Barbara Zak

Brussels’ response : you can’t have your cake and eat it too

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) welcomes President of the European Council Donald Tusk (R) to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 08 September 2016. May and Tusk held talks on Britain's exit from the European Union. EPA/ANDY RAIN

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) welcomes President of the European Council Donald Tusk (R) to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 08 September 2016. May and Tusk held talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union. EPA/ANDY RAIN

Following the announcement of the results of the referendum on the membership of the United Kingdom (UK) to the European Union (EU), it was understood that the EU respected the change of heart of the majority of the UK citizens. EU leaders do not want to go back in time but agree on the UK leaving the EU as soon as possible. Brussels is simply waiting for the formal notification of the UK to trigger the article 50 of the TEU. Even Donald Tusk (the President of the European Council) told Theresa May “the ball is in your court”. However the EU refuses to negotiate with the UK until the government has triggered the article. The reason may be the fear of contagion of a “Brexit” in other EU member states – Brussels is afraid of the ripple effect. With the rise of nationalism and populism, we can expect from far-right ruling parties to hold a referendum about leaving the EU in their countries. Moreover, the current uncertainty around the economy of the UK can have repercussions on the EU’s trade. The decrease of investments in the UK can be contagious to the European continent. There is an economic and ideological cost to the delay of the withdrawal of the UK.

            The heads of the member states, without the head of state of the UK, met informally on the 16th of September 2016 in Slovakia in what is called the Bratislava summit. The aim of this meeting, which was already planned before the referendum, was to discuss the stability and security of the EU. The withdrawal of the UK was not on the agenda of this gathering. However, it was more a way to show the unity and thus the strength and solidarity of the EU. However, on the inside, the EU is at a crisis – it is only a matter of time before another member state reveals its intention to withdraw from the Union. For instance, a referendum on the EU relocation plan will be held in Hungary on the 2nd of October 2016, which goes against the EU refugee policies. This “EU Quotas Referendum” illustrates the fact that some members of the EU disagree with the policies of the EU – it may be the beginning of their rebellion. As a matter of fact, the heads of states of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia recently met several times as the Visegrád Group in order to discuss the issues related to the EU. As a consequence, the EU cannot be too soft towards the UK in order not to incite other member states to do the same. The argument of the economy is the strongest: the single market can be open to the UK only if they accept the free movement of people. Leaving the EU does not mean abandoning its drawbacks while still benefiting from its advantages.

The conundrum of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar

            Even though the “leave” won over the “remain” in the EU referendum, anti-Brexiters still cannot recover from the results, in particular in the parts of the UK where the “remain” was overwhelming: Scotland (62%), Northern Ireland (55.8%) and Gibraltar (95.9%).

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland (Photo: GETTY)

            Many Scots, right after the announcements of the results of the UK referendum, were asking for a second referendum on this topic. However May’s government declared that a second referendum will not be held. There are some possibilities about a second Scottish independence referendum though – but not before the article 50 of the TEU is triggered. Nevertheless, both Labour and Liberal Democratpoliticiansalongwiththe polls are against the will of the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon to have a second independence referendum. The “Reverse-Greenland” concept may be the solution for Scotland as they wish to stay in the UK and in the EU. Parts of the UK can maintain Britain’s membership of the EU. This means that Scotland does not need to apply to access the EU. The Greenland solution refers to the Greenland treaty which entered into force in 1985, following the Greenlandic referendum of 1982: Greenland, at that time part of Denmark, could leave the EU while Denmark was still a member state of the EU. In the case of Scotland, it is the opposite situation. Scotland would have an associate membership of the Union, namely the access to the single market, EU citizenship and free movement of goods/people/workers/students. They will pay membership dues. In a nutshell, they would take the seat of the UK in Brussels.

The case of Northern Ireland is a bit different from Scotland. Leaving the EU would mean too big economic consequences for Northern Ireland in comparison with Britain. There is the fear of losing the agricultural subsidies that are actually much needed and in demand by farmers. In addition, the transaction costs for trading in the EU (that did not exist before) would be overwhelming for Northern Ireland. Instability would resume Northern Ireland’s situation. Another problem, that is geographical this time, would be the border with Ireland, which is a member state of the EU. Irish people are afraid to turn back in time to the Troubles period (conflict in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century). Thus they aspire to keep the free movement and the customs union across the border – the trade between two states decreases the possibility of them being at war. However, everything is in the hands of May’s government and the EU’s willingness to be flexible during the future negotiations. Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s First Minister stays confident – May should not negotiate a Brexit that simply suits English interests. Yet the best option for Northern Ireland would be the same as Scotland: the Reverse-Greenland solution, that is to say to remain in the UK and in the EU.

Gibraltar was one of the territories where the “remain” vote was strong: nearly 100%. The main reason is the economy: Gibraltar imports exclusively from the EU. The transaction costs for trading with the EU would be utterly crushing Gibraltar. The Reverse-Greenland solution could be effective, only if there was no hiccup – more precisely, a Spanish hitch. In fact, Spain has a sovereign claim over Gibraltar due to its history. If the UK leaves the EU, Spain could isolate Gibraltar from Europe by building a wall alongside the border. Crossing the wall would mean paying border fees. In the case of applying the Reverse-Greenland solution, Gibraltarians are afraid that Spain would not accept it and veto it. The Spanish Government could veto the terms of any Brexit negotiation between the UK and the EU that sought to include Gibraltar. Indeed, Spain is fully entitled to do so: as soon as the UK activates the withdrawal process, the European Council must agree the broad terms of the withdrawal negotiation by unanimity. Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation José Manuel García-Margallo is resolute and says Spain will not leave the case until it receives at least the joint control of Gibraltar. As a result, Gibraltarians call for a second referendum explaining that the “leave” option was not clear enough – yet it is well understood that it is probably their last hope to stay in the EU.

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Sources:

Brussels’ response

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/08/donald-tusk-theresa-may-article-50-brexit-negotiations-eu

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/25/uk-faces-brexit-crisis

https://theconversation.com/brexit-et-dependances-61830

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/16/bratislava-summit-donald-tusk-urges-eu-leaders-not-to-waste-brexit-crisis

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/15/bratislava-summit-what-is-on-eu-27s-agenda—and-what-is-not—a/

http://www.france24.com/fr/20160916-sommet-bratislava-ue-relancer-apres-brexit

Scotland

http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/683056/Brexit-will-Scotland-leave-UK-Britain-second-Scottish-independence-referendum-break-up

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-scotland-nicola-sturgeon-eu-uk-theresa-may-scottish-veto-block-withdrawal-a7141231.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-3805290/Sturgeon-call-second-Scottish-independence-referendum-autumn-2017.html

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/17/nicola-sturgeon-would-consider-2017-scottish-independence-referendum-brexit

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/706467/Nicola-Sturgeon-humiliated-Scots-second-independence-referendum-vote-Brexit-EU

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/28/the-guardian-view-on-a-second-scottish-referendum-sturgeon-has-no-choice-but-caution

http://www.itv.com/news/2016-08-13/uk-could-do-a-reverse-greenland-to-allow-scotland-to-remain-in-the-eu/

Northern Ireland

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/10/northern-ireland-leaders-set-out-brexit-demands-to-theresa-may

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/25/theresa-may-hard-border-fears-northern-ireland-visit-brexit

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/07/brexit-beginning-end-northern-ireland

http://www.lemonde.fr/referendum-sur-le-brexit/article/2016/07/27/l-irlande-casse-tete-de-l-apres-brexit-pour-theresa-may_4975155_4872498.html

Gibraltar

http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/665033/EU-Referendum-2016-What-Brexit-Mean-for-Gibraltar-Rock-British-Territory-Spain

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/650355/Brexit-threat-Spain-will-control-Gibralter-soon-as-Britain-leaves-EU

http://chronicle.gi/2016/07/spain-could-veto-brexit-talks-margallo-says/

http://chronicle.gi/2016/03/britain-must-include-gibraltar-in-post-brexit-negotiations-report-says/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36618796

https://www.ft.com/content/bea8ecf4-452a-11e6-9b66-0712b3873ae1

Read more:

https://theconversation.com/the-eu-bratislava-summit-explained-65604

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/13/expel-hungary-from-eu-for-hostility-to-refugees-says-luxembourg

http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-scotland-greenland-idUKKCN0ZJ0A1

Brexit: a summary of the situation (Part 1)

Barbara Zak

Photo by Lucy Schiel / 24th January, 2016/ http://cravenhouse.net

Photo by Lucy Schiel / 24th January, 2016/ http://cravenhouse.net

On the 23rd of June 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) held a referendum on its membership to the European Union (EU). The turnout was the highest ever in the UK : 72%. Incredible, yet not surprising as it deals with the future of the country. The citizens of the UK had to choose between staying in or leaving the EU. With 51,9% of the votes, the “leave” won, especially in England and Wales while the votes for the “remain” took over Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. However, many highlight the fact that the referendum is not legally binding – yet it is definitely socially binding. As it was not a poll but rather the decision of the people, politicians cannot put aside its results. In order to start the process of leaving the EU, the Member State shall invoke the article 50 of the Treaty on the EU on the withdrawal of any Member State. However, the new Prime Minister Theresa May (who succeeded to David Cameron (who was in favour of remaining in the EU) after his resignation) predicted the date of the withdrawal of the UK not to occur before 2019.

Economy, immigration and sovereignty : the main issues of the IN vs OUT campaign

            The dispute between the parties of the “remain” and “leave” were based on three principal arguments. Both parties saw positively and negatively the effects of the UK’s membership to the EU on the national economy, on the growth of immigration since its accession and on its sovereignty.

            While the pro-Brexit people depicted the EU as an institution sucking endlessly a huge amount of pounds that could directly go into the public services, anti-Brexit people were persuaded that the EU added to the UK’s prosperity. EU countries are still the biggest buyers of English goods – being a member state of the EU gives the UK’s companies access to over 500 million consumers in a tariff-free trade area. In a nutshell, it is easier and cheaper to sell to the EU market. As a consequence, if the UK leaves the EU, it leaves this golden market. However, it was quite unexpected to see that the British economy was doing fine a few weeks after the announcement of the victory of the “leave”: the fact that the pound lost 10% of its value was counterbalanced with the increase of the number of tourists, especially from outside Europe. Against all odds, it seems that the UK’s economy could still manage its survival without having a direct access to this Eldorado that is the European single market. But it shall be noted that in the years to come, the uncertainty of the status of the UK in the EU could frighten investors. In addition, the trade barriers between the UK and the EU are likely to lead to job losses – at least three million of jobs in the UK are linked with the trade with the EU. The anti-Brexiters also tried to convince the population that the cost of living is lower with the UK being part of the EU (e.g. flights, roaming charges, healthcare in other EU countries). Nevertheless, in order to compensate for this eventual loss, pro-Brexiters believe in the possibility of the UK having its own trade deals with the EU, following the example of Norway in the European Free Trade Association (yet Norway is said to be against its attempt to rejoin the EFTA since the UK, as a big country in terms of population thus of power, would shift the balance). Regarding trade deals with other major economies, the idea of establishing a free trade area within the Commonwealth is a project close to the hearts of the parties that advocated leaving the EU. The UK was unable to negotiate its own free trade agreement while being a member state of the EU.

Ukip’s controversial poster campaign was launched in June 2016. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Ukip’s controversial poster campaign was launched in June 2016. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Concerning immigration, it was a piece of cake for pro-Brexiters: the best argument in order to incite the people to vote against the EU is to persuade them of its responsibility in the constant rise of the number of immigrants in the UK. It was a recurrent argument of Nigel Farage, the former leader of the eurosceptic UKIP (UK Independence Party).Yet the UK has been privileged among the Member States of the EU – it won exemption from several EU asylum rules. Moreover, the former Prime Minister David Cameron assured that the UK will not accept any quotas of refugees. Compared to other Members States of the EU, the UK does not directly suffer from the migration crisis. So far, only illegal immigration (coming especially from the Calais Jungle) can be considered as a problem – even so, Le Touquet treaty under which British border checks are carried out on French soil has been restated between France and the UK. The idea of completely controlling the borders can berelated to the sovereignty of a country. Another famous argument in favour of a Brexit that was long ago advocated by Eurosceptics is the loss of sovereignty. The implementation of the huge amount of EU regulations is seen by the population as a diktat from the EU, as well as a loss of money and time. For example, farmers blame the endless bureaucracy of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). The British wish to have more of its own laws. Being a member of the EU now means that it underminesits national sovereignty.

The arguments of those in favour of the UK remaining in the EU have not completely convinced the majority of the population. It appears that the increased opportunities given by the EU (for instance the right to live, work, study in another EU member state) are not the priorities anymore. Leaving the EU may jeopardise the national security as the UK will not have access to the European criminal database for instance. The UK will not be safer anymore without its membership to Europol. Nevertheless, these arguments were not sufficiently convincing in the eyes of the majority of the voters, unlike the arguments of pro-Brexiters. The pro-EU arguments are not popular anymore. Eventually, the ‚ultimate Eurosceptic fantasy’ became real.

 

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Sources :

http://www.bbc.com/news/politics/eu_referendum/results

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36788782

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/03/eu-referendum-vote-leaves-key-claims-about-brexit/?playlist=structure%3Anews

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/03/eu-referendum-key-claims-of-the-remain-campaign/?playlist=structure:news

http://forwardkeys.com/revenue-management/article/brexit.html

http://www.lefigaro.fr/conjoncture/2016/06/25/20002-20160625ARTFIG00015-sept-consequences-economiques-a-retenir-sur-le-brexit.php

http://www.lefigaro.fr/conjoncture/2016/08/09/20002-20160809ARTFIG00027-le-brexit-booste-le-tourisme-au-royaume-uni.php

http://www.lefigaro.fr/economie/le-scan-eco/decryptage/2016/08/22/29002-20160822ARTFIG00197-brexit-l-economie-britannique-dejoue-les-pronostics.php

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/30/uk-plays-down-calais-border-tensions-with-critical-ally-france

http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2015/05/13/quotas-refugies-europe-solution-qui-fache-royaume-uni-peut-refuser_n_7266868.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3705524/Finally-EU-offers-deal-immigration-Plan-offer-Britain-seven-year-emergency-brake-UK-access-Europe-s-single-market.html

https://www.ft.com/content/3282746e-11d8-11e6-839f-2922947098f0

https://realtruth.org/articles/160815-001.html

 

Read more :

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/06/uk-immigration-minister-confirms-work-will-begin-on-big-new-wall-in-calais

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-37387162

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/09/norway-may-block-uk-return-to-european-free-trade-association

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/18/theresa-may-to-tell-world-leaders-that-britain-has-a-right-to-pr/

A brief insight into Euromyths

Maria Moroniak

The European Union as a big, diverse community struggles with numerous stereotypes and myths. Have  you ever wondered if the case of straight bananas really matters? Or have you ever stopped to think if church bells ringing on Sunday break the law? Take a look at ten incredible myths about how the EU works:

Photo by Tomek Garczyński posted on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/wyb2011/5768734085/in/photolist-ogvw5A-gbpcsh-rep5XY-sAzAXv-sMMUrW-sVekii-6T1q5G-9MLgEv-9foCBS-nhx1Ah-91Gs4H-a29tRm-6bw2g1-9wbRy

Photo by Tomek Garczyński posted on Flickr

#10 Myth: Sweets and toys commercials are banned

Fact:  The ban of advertising products for under 12-s had already come into force in Sweden, that wanted to encourage the EU to extend it to the whole community during its presidency in 2001, but didn’t succeed.

#9 Myth: The EU silences Scottish bagpipers for their own good

Fact: The EU didn’t ban national Scottish musicians to play their instruments. However, special detailed regulations preventing harm caused by noise exposure exist, but were created by the UK, not the EU.

Scotsman (Photo by Christian Holmér, posted on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/crsan/5504029710/in/photolist-9onAgY-a7HCV3-aiV4ez-82zb5n-aiV24c-8Psm6a-poonk5-cautvu-brfh4L-6Uy8zX-9ouZw4-5j6uT-cbNSLo-amfaWe-4GEE1B-4hw91P-AbAnZ-6NTtqM-78aPXA-7VcBNT-5gBTCx-aBZkdQ-8dSmaA-5JPFqt-a8aAmS-njk9om-2Tp43-5F7fsT-6MH9H5-c7hTPs-4snYwG-8ruBXU-66gGFw-31ss3Q-6XRm78-pGj5w-6RxDj2-dmC75g-nimjr-6Lb1CJ-66gqDU-7DBpxL-a888qZ-9PgRF8-8x3Due-67LVTn-oRt9nt-8esdGD-aqSn8K-fsKCi4 )

Scotsman (Photo by Christian Holmér, posted on Flickr)

#8 Myth: Children are banned from blowing up balloons and using party whistles

Fact: The EU regulations make producers place a special notes on their products to warn parents against letting too young children use this kind of toys without parental advisory, trying to protect kids from swallowing small parts.

#7 Myth: The EU bans church bells ringing

Fact: Some eager vicar was concerned that people living nearby the chapel would mind the noise of church bells and sue him to the European Court of Human Rights. In fact church bells sound doesn’t break the European law.

#6 Myth: Shops cannot sell dozens or half-dozen boxes of eggs

Fact: In 2010 the EU brought new labelling rules saying that the product containers must have also weight of the product written on them, not only number of pieces inside. That means selling eggs in dozens is still allowed.

#5 Myth: Self-employed people’s houses must have fire doors

Fact: Numerous directives protecting workers in the EU don’t apply to self employed persons working from their homes.

#4 Myth: The EU hires aristocrats to make inquiries on wine labelling

Fact: In 1993 an Italian MEP wanted his idea to be used to create an official unit taking care about proper wine labelling. His idea has never been realized.

Wine selection (Photo by Greg Pye, on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/gregpye/3203516653/in/photolist-5T5RTK-qpjPLd-9V2bKU-bhkreF-qgH4JR-7CefQi-5AW8Tr-e9J1QW-5hBvae-q1fVFT-6irefx-cDMdZ5-q3GoHJ-dthhKD-8UFVHW-dbN7kZ-9yb2iM-cDMe7h-8tVWMy-aGZG3z-bc1Zy6-ccyFo3-bZe1wd-qDBfSN-erKgqN-9J6Ygj-7iFqtU-6PH9nT-arTPJJ-aqsshG-cETgNq-cc2FiU-bnWx7h-7P7tCk-7tW26R-3QFzJ2-aj2B8N-4pcA9Y-2kCCK7-9AwbHz-5FTf27-cTt9aw-9DJg8G-7gwT6b-7ZCeGG-bbbR3c-5nYjX6-9M54Fi-9J7fHQ-8XPuCL)

Wine selection (Photo by Greg Pye, on Flickr)

#3 Myth: The EU officials are not allowed to fly Ryanair

Fact: Ryanair company didn’t enable their customers to book tickets through industry booking systems. This is why all the officials willing to travel with Ryanair would have to book their tickets themselves, which is just less comfortable for them.

#2 Myth: All unwanted love cards received on Valentine’s day are sexual harassment

Fact: There is no regulation or directive defying that this way. Opinion and judgment should be based on common sense. However, the EU regulations on dignity of women and men at work do exist.

#1 Myth: Bananas being sold in the European shops ought to be straight

Fact: The EU indeed takes care about size and quality of imported products to make its international trade clearer. Let’s get this straight- bananas don’t have to be uncurved, their size and quality have to correspond with the EU standards.

I also encourage you to check out my sources and take a look at the whole list of euromyths  published by the European Comission here  or read the article on them.

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Working in the European Commission – an interview with Jindrich Kloub

Barbara Zak

 

Professor Jindrich Kloub, DG Competition, European Commission

Jindrich Kloub, DG Competition, European Commission

As a former student at the Catholic University of Lille, I had the opportunity to meet Mr Jindrich Kloub who was my teacher of “Competition policy in the EU”. However, he firstly works as an EU civil servant at the Directorate-General for Competition (DG for Competition). He kindly accepted my request for doing a short interview about his career which may be helpful for students who aspire to work in the EU.

1- Could you tell us about your studies and the internships you have done? Was it in accordance with your career in the European Commission?

I studied law at the Charles University in Prague. Following graduation I worked as a lawyer for the City of Prague and later as an associate at a Prague office of an international law firm. In both of these jobs I dealt with commercial and corporate law. In parallel, I volunteered as a pro bono attorney at a human rights NGO in Prague, dealing with cases of international child abduction. To make a long story short, my studies and career prior to me joining the European Commission were almost completely unrelated to EU law and institutions.

2- How did you apply for the DG for Competition ? What was the procedure to enter this institution?

In 2003, shortly after my graduation from law school I applied for the EPSO competition that was organized in connection with Czech Republic joining the EU. Having passed the competition, I was placed on a reserve list and eventually found a job at DG Competition.

3- What does your work consist in at the DG for Competition?

I handle investigations into major European and international cartels, focusing mainly on cartels in the financial sector. My daily work is varied and encompasses handling investigative steps such as organizing and conducting dawn-raids or drafting requests for information, as well as prosecutorial and adjudicative tasks such as analysing evidence, drafting Commission prohibition and fining decisions, calculating fines and so on. In addition to my work on cases, I work on several policy projects related to fines, private damage litigation and others. Thanks to this variety of different tasks I keep enjoying my work for more than 8 years now.

4- While working for the EU, you are also teaching competition at the Catholic University of Lille. Do you have any other involvement in other fields or associations?

Between my work at the Commission, teaching commitments at the Catholic University, occasional participation at conferences and publications I find very little time for other professional engagements.

5- What would you advise to students who aim to work in the EU institutions?

As I see on my own story and the stories of my colleagues, there are many paths to a job at the European Institutions. The one element they all have in common is a proficiency in a foreign language. That is an absolute must. Therefore, I would urge students to work on their language skills so as to be able to comfortably work in another language.

Also, a great way to find out whether the work of an EU civil servant is something that one really likes is a traineeship at one of the EU institutions. This is a unique opportunity to see the inner workings of the EU institutions, make new friends and grow professionally.

Finally, I would advise them to pursue their interest and don’t be afraid to try different internships and work engagements. That way they will see what they truly enjoy in practice and not only in the abstract. And if that leads them to the EU institutions, they will be all the more valued for their experience.

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European Youth Event 2016 #2

Kamil Augustyniak

 

Photo: Vako Karchava

Photo: Vako Karchava

European Youth Event was a great opportunity not only for young generation to meet and share already gained experience, but also for EU authorities to understand better what ideas, concerning European matters, are hidden in students’ and pupils’ heads. Great place, great forum, great discussion with great people – this is the essence of the mentioned event. Since all meetings were held in Strasbourg, everyone could see European Parliament from inside, try to vote, hear simultaneous translations and finally decide whether this place suits them or not. Personally I was absolutely excited about the work of interpreters. When observing how this profession is essential when talking about communication and fighting its barriers, I saw numerous advantages of being one of them in the future.

Photo: Vako Karchava

Photo: Vako Karchava

Two days of participation in discussions made me think about some matters in which my opinion was totally opposite. Before I came to Strasbourg I was convinced that Union should do all its best to guarantee payable apprenticeship at all steppingstones, no matter if someone is at the very beginning of its career or already has some professional experience. The issue concerning payments was raised by one of the participants who claimed that all internships should be paid in order to move to another country to intern and allow young generation to become independent. In response, experts said that such idealistic approach would have catastrophic consequences due to drastic decrease of trainings in Member States as well as in EU institutions. Such practice would scare off enterprises and it is not a point we all want to achieve. The solution was proposed by another clever participant who highlighted the necessity of cooperation among universities or even schools with companies, so that students could start their professional path in befriended firms. However, as long as this matter exceeds EU competences and concerns only MS’s internal management, the Union can only promote and encourage such cooperation. Though there were numerous panels to participate in, it was impossible to take part in every single one.

Photo: Vako Karchava

Photo: Vako Karchava

The last I have picked was about robotics and its purpose in real life. Various experts were talking about how the world is rapidly changing in the sphere of computers, robots and other electronic devices. Since the meeting was interactive, students were willing to ask different questions concerning near future scenarios. Final conclusion was that even if technological progress reduces employment in some occupations, surely it will create brand new professions we cannot currently even imagine.

Being the one who is interested in working in EU structures I appreciate the effort of European Youth Event 2016 organizers. Even if I know many issues concerning creating good CV and cover letter or the idea how Union works, the others’ opinions, points of view or their stories made distant career closer and more tangible.

Click HERE to read the first part of our coverage.

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European Youth Event 2016 #1

Emil Wojtaluk

GROUP_IN_PARLIAMENT_EDITED

On 20-21 of May 2016 representatives of the European Studies Student’s Scientific Association of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, including representatives of EUROpens BLOG visited European Parliament in Strasbourg on the occasion of the European Youth Event 2016. The theme of the second edition was the exchange of experiences and proposals with European decision-makers using the motto „Together we can make a change”. Young people from Europe had an occasion to write their proposals for solving crucial problems of the European Union, or electronically – through an online application. Moreover, during numerous sessions and workshops in the EP building there was a chance to comment and propose our own solutions, which were then discussed by experts and politicians. An official EYE report containing all gathered opinions will be distributed to Members of the European Parliament and discussed in parliamentary committees this autumn. European Youth Event was accompanied by many cultural events (concerts, games etc.). The interest in EYE this year was huge, the number of all registered participants reached over 7,500 people.

All activities concerned five main themes:

  • War and Peace: Perspectives for a Peaceful Planet;
  • Apathy or Participation: Agenda for a Vibrant Democracy;
  • Exclusion or Access: Crackdown on Youth Unemployment;
  • Stagnation or Innovation: Tomorrow’s World of Work;
  • Collapse or Success: New Ways for Sustainable Europe.

IMG_6966Due to the huge interest each participant could participate in chosen activities – our group participated in those activities connected with youth unemployment and innovation. The first panel, in which we took part was entitled „Skills gap: Bridge over troubled water” and concerned a gap which exists between job qualifications of young people and the expectations of today’s labor market. The meeting had an interactive form, during which participants could have their voice on important issues. Asked „Do you think you learned sufficient skills at school or third level to prepare you for the labor market?” –  most answered, that they learned some skills but most of them was acquired in practice, by having internships or regular jobs. Special role of increasing awareness of young people towards internships and volunteering projects was also stressed, even if unpaid, they build our CV and increase our chances on the labor market – not all of us seem to be aware of that. Although, in some EU countries employers still do not understand the value of volunteering experience, but this conviction disappears very quickly and can be barely seen on the Union level. One is clear, we need to provide more information in this area, both for young people and the employers – to make students aware, that studies just for studies are the waste of time, and employers, that being a volunteer is equal the regular job experience. Among other speakers Mrs. Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility was present there.

In the Plenary Chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg (Photo: Vako Karchava)

In the Plenary Chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg (Photo: Vako Karchava)

Another and the most important session for us also concerned youth unemployment. It was the most important not only because of the topic but also the venue, in which all activity took place – we had an unique opportunity to sit in the plenary chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, exactly on the same seats, on which Members of the European Parliament sits! The meeting was titled „Youth Unemployment: Down to zero?” – it was designed to find the solution for youth unemployment, the leading question was „how can we reduce youth unemployment to close to zero within 10 years?”. Young activists were present among experts, EU institutions were represented by Marianne Thyssen (mentioned above) and Andrey Novakov, Member of the European Parliament. We’ve started with the presentations of ideas delivered by all speakers, followed by proposals from the audience, which were later commented by the experts. However,  before the meeting started for good we were trained how the voting mechanism in the European Parliament works, having great occasion to take part in a voting simulation. The question put on voting was very clear: „whether or not European Union should give more support to young people entering the labor market?” – only a few voted “no”, pushing the red button.

IMG_7125

Photo: Vako Karchava

The last activity, in which we took part was named „Science or fiction: Will robots rise to power?” and was about the discussion on the future of robotics and super-computers. One of the most crucial questions raised at the very beginning was: „will robots threaten the future of humanity?”. The experts indicated, that we will always have everything under control, because it is up to people to first program those robots to work. Another interesting discussion arose on the question if robots as super-intelligent computers will take away our jobs. If we talk about workplaces implementing new technologies will certainly have an impact on disappearing of certain professions. However, as speakers indicated, technological change always entails such consequences. It doesn’t mean a catastrophe on the market. Well-known professions will be replaced by new ones, which cannot be described at the moment. The Meeting was attended by representatives of robotics companies, and among others Gianfranco Visentin, Head of Automation and Robotics Section from the European Space Agency.  

To sum up, taking part in European Youth Event 2016 was an unusual experience for us. We could observe how the European Parliament works from within, but among other things meet people from all over Europe and listen to their point of view. Surely, we learnt many new things. Coming to Strasburg made us even more aware, that working in EU institutions is not a fantasy, as some of you may imagine. It is certainly worth studying European Studies for acquiring such precious experiences!

We would like to thank Vice Rectors of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin: Professor Urszula Paprocka-Piotrowska and Professor Krzysztof Narecki, without whom it wouldn’t be possible to achieve.

This coverage is also available in Polish on the website of our Scientific Association: http://www.kul.pl/european-youth-event-2016-relacja,art_68086.html

See the full photo gallery HERE – photos by Vako Karchava.

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EU-China friendship

Paulina Matwiej

 

Some skeptical people try to convince that the European Union is closed for cooperation with third countries. Looking close into the history of European Union’s external relations this statement can be easily abolished. European External Action Service and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have been established to effectively carry out foreign and international policies. EEAS works inter alia through the Partnership Instrument, which helps to cooperate with partners from around the world and to advance Union’s strategic goals. Relations with China are the example of EU openness to international dialogue.

Chinese primeminister Zhou Enlai and vice-president of the European Econominc Community Commission Christopher Soames, May 1975 (establishment of diplomatic relations between EU and China) Source: eeas.europa.eu

Chinese primeminister Zhou Enlai and vice-president of the European Econominc Community Commission Christopher Soames, May 1975 (establishment of diplomatic relations between EU and China) Source: eeas.europa.eu

Development of mutual friendship

In May 1975 Christopher Soames as a first Commissioner in EU history visited China. This meeting was crucial for further diplomatic relationship as well as expressed mutual interest in closer cooperation. Great significance had an agreement from 1985 called ‘EC-China Trade and Co-operation Agreement’. Until 2002 it was the main framework for relations with this country. The Agreement established common objectives on the economic sphere. The document states precisely areas of cooperation as follow: industry and mining; agriculture; science and technology; energy; transport and communication; environmental protection; cooperation in third countries. Year after that ‘EU-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ was created and has deepened cooperation in a wide range of areas. A Year 2009 brought consolidation of previous agreements, since then cooperation has been gradually  transforming to three pillars structure. The first pillar is ‘High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue’, the second one (‘High Level Strategic Dialogue’)  enhanced political dialogue on bilateral and global issues. Last pillar emerged in 2012 with the official name ‘EU-China High Level People-to-people Dialogue’. Untill 2015 over 60 high level, senior level dialogues and working groups have been established, 3 years ago three new EU-China dialogues on innovation, international development and sustainable tourism were launched.

EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation 

The EU-China summit meeting from November 2013 was seen as a significant not only because of substantive character but also due to the fact that it was the first summit between EU leaders and the new, fifth generation of leaders in China. The most important outcome of this summit was the document named ‘EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda, summit established also investment agreement between both sides. After introduction of this document mutual cooperation became more institutionalized and developed, more and more areas of interest were added. The EU-China Strategic Agenda for Cooperation provides a list of key initiatives which should be achieved. Consultations on Africa, Central Asia and neighbors of the UE and China have to be enhanced. Both sides decided to reinforce dialogue on nuclear security to combat with problem of smuggling of nuclear material. Staying in the area of security, sides that they should work through EU-China Cyber Taskforce platform for peaceful, secure and open cyber space. The document mentions about common fight against piracy, that is why China decided to take an active part in Atlanta Operation (counter-piracy initiative of the EU ). The parties agreed that they should deepen the learning of Chinese and EU languages in the education system of EU and China. Strategic Agenda covers every possible aspect of cooperation: human rights, trade, oceans security, agriculture, space and aerospace and many other areas. (Check the full agenda here)

Jose Manuel Barroso (l) Herman Van Rompuy (r) and Chinese President Xi Jinping, 31 march 2014 ( President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China visited the European Union in Brussels) Source: eeas.europa.eu

Jose Manuel Barroso (l) Herman Van Rompuy (r) and Chinese President Xi Jinping, 31 march 2014 ( President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China visited the European Union in Brussels) Source: eeas.europa.eu

Besides the fact that European Union as a unity of chosen states works hard to keep close contact and dialogue with the states  from behind it. Relations with China are so tight that in this case cannot be said that EU is insulate itself from the rest of the world.

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EU and the Turkish case

Agnieszka S.

Illegal immigration became one of the hottest topics in European countries in the last few months. Some people stopped being sincere, helpful and open-minded as they were at the beginning when flow of the newcomers started. Now we can observe that citizens started to worry about the existence of immigrants in their countries. They feel that this situation, if won’t be resolved soon, might create internal chaos in many countries. This is a big chance for European Union to show its power in resolving international problems – will it succeed?

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EU Council family photo [by Georgina Coupe (Photo: Crown Copyright) by-nc-nd 2.0 at flickr.com

What to do with such a big number of human beings that are unemployed, living in bad conditions in refugee camps getting more angry on their life situation? “Maybe we will send some of them to Turkey?” So now European Union tries to persuade Turkey to take immigrants to their country. But as we all know nothing is for free in our lives. Since 14th April 1987, the date of its Membership application, Turkey has hoped that someday it would became a part of the EU. However, Turkey is not fulfilling Copenhagen Criteria (1993) because they are violating basic human rights like for example freedom of speech, but it seems that due to the fact that European Union needs their help so much they are closing one eye on some things, and after so many years they speak again about Turkeys accession to the Union. On the opposite, here we can recall a quote from the President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker from 23 April 2014, words he also recently repeated[1]:

“…under my Presidency…no further enlargement will take place over the next five years. As regards Turkey, the country is clearly far away from EU membership. A government that blocks Twitter is certainly not ready for accession.[2]

On 7th of March 2016, European Union heads of state or government had a meeting with Turkey on which it reaffirmed its commitment to the bilateral Greek-Turkish readmission agreement stating, that Turkey would take immigrants that are not in need of protection by the international organs. EU will cover the costs of returning some of the irregular migrants that travelled from Greek isles back to the Turkish territory. By the end of June 2016 new resolution for visas should be introduced for Turkish citizens that want to travel to EU countries. Union along with Turkey agreed to work on improvement of the humanitarian conditions inside Syria, helping local people to live in the safer environment. The most crucial point for Turkey seems to be opening a new chapter in preparations to accession negotiations.

Lots of hopes and ideas are spreading from Brussels to Ankara. The only thing that everyone seems to know is the fact that we have to do something quickly. We can’t let refugees – people in real need that were running away from hell – to live in inhumane conditions. Is the deal with Turkey a good thing or should we come up with a better plan?

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More information:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2016/03/07-eu-turkey-meeting-statement/

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/international-summit/2016/03/07

[1] Vince Chadwick, Jean Claude Juncker: Turkey’s not ready for EU membership [in:] Politico: http://www.politico.eu/article/jean-claude-juncker-turkeys-not-ready-for-eu-membership/

[2] Foreign Policy Objectives of Jean Claude Juncker (April 2014): http://juncker.epp.eu/sites/default/files/attachments/nodes/en_03_fp.pdf

Multilingual Europe

Kamil Augustyniak

In the very beginning, the European Union was established in order to challenge the politics and economy, to give Europeans a field to cooperate and to unify their nations even on grounds of culture. Through all these years various mechanisms were implemented to clarify and stabilize the situation, no matter what background it had. Surely, Europe experienced a lot of conflicts but thanks to that it learned how to react in certain situations and to what focus its attention the most. Although, currently, the EU is struggling with migrants and the presence of United Kingdom within the Union is questioned, there are some issues which are not being discussed almost at all but seem to be crucial when talking about European integration.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

Multilingual Europe

Europe of multitude of languages is both advantage and disadvantage. International arena is a place where not only political and economic interests intersect each other but is also a background highlighting cultural differences, especially languages. Hence international communication is difficult on any grounds, dealing with multilingualism is a first challenge of all international organizations gathering entities which speak in different languages. This is why, in order to ensure good communication within its structures, some languages are established to be official and to which all the documents, declarations or agreements are being translated. The bigger the organization is, the demand for smooth communication increases.

EU likes every language

Although the European Union does not outstand by its size among the organizations all over the world, its multilingualism policy is much more complex than any other. Along with expansion of the Communities (later the European Union) specific regulation was amended by adding a new official languages of the member states joining the Union. Starting from one official language (French), the list of them expanded to reach 24 in 2013 after last accession of Croatia. The language system of the European Union has very deep foundations based on principle preserving national identity of all member states. One of the most important act concerning this issue is EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – art. 22:

“The Union shall respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity.”

European Union law…Droit de l’Union européenne…Europarecht…Prawo Unii Europejskiej

Source: artelis.pl

Source: artelis.pl

Since the complexity of the rule mentioned above is crucial to preserve proper European integration, the most important goal to protect linguistic diversity is to ensure the availability of EU law to all citizens. For this reason, each EU institution has created departments dealing with language translations and 24 sections consisting of interpreters translating acts of the European Union. All official versions of documents are considered to be equivalent and authentic. What is more, every EU citizen has the right to send petitions, to address the institutions and bodies and even to obtain a reply in their own language. This right is guaranteed under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – art. 20:

Citizens of the Union shall enjoy the rights and be subject to the duties provided for in the Treaties. They shall have, inter alia: (…) (d) the right to petition the European Parliament, to apply to the European Ombudsman, and to address the institutions and advisory bodies of the Union in any of the Treaty languages and to obtain a reply in the same language. (…).

At this point the EU successes since it united in diversity. However, with so many languages and texts, it is easy to notice the danger which the EU has to face with when implementing its innovative linguistic pluralism policy. Multiple translations rise a further risk of not presenting the correct content of the message (sometimes it is a translation of a translation). Therefore, it causes some logistic and financial issues and then all these infringements can have serious consequences, e.g. conflict between member states or inconsistent application of EU law.

For what?

The Union seeks to facilitate crossing language barriers for delegates and representatives of member states, barriers that could limit full and comprehensive participation in the work of EU institutions. This is achieved by simultaneous translations which are especially important during plenary sessions of the Parliament, during which there are 800-1000 interpreters translating the text from original language into their natives. However, taking into account constraints of time and money, translation of all documents to all working languages is impossible. Therefore, the most commonly used are English, French and German.

To sum up, linguistic diversity is one of the factors that undoubtedly distinguishes the European Union but also brings many difficulties when speaking about its practical use. Since there are more than 500 language combinations within the EU working languages and all of these translations have to be done, sometimes the translated versions are not completely identical and, consequently, bring many legal issues in the process of further implementation.

Check out interesting case-law related to linguistic diversity in the European Union:

Case T‑185/05: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=68778&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=936026

 

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