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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Learning about the EU from the inside: Interviews with EU trainees #1

Barbara Zak

With the aim of getting more knowledge about the functioning of the European Union (EU), I have conducted several interviews with EU interns who agreed to share their experience about their traineeship in different EU institutions. This article is the first one of a series. I would like to thank all EU trainees for their participation and their time.

Here you can find more information about the traineeships offered by the EU: traineeships for students + traineeships for graduates.

Here you can find part 2.

Dorota – from Poland – European Parliament (EP) – trainee from the European Parliament Liaison Office in Warsaw

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© Dorota Kowalska

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

I have a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in European Studies from the Catholic University of Lublin in Poland. I spent an Erasmus exchange in Nicosia in Cyprus. As of my work experience, I did a 1-month internship in the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London and a 1-month internship in the office of Jarosław Kalinowski (Polish MEP) in Brussels.

 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 online: you have to fill in an application that is available on the website of the European Parliament. The traineeship is called “Schuman traineeship” (5 months). When you fill in the application, it is important to do it only once. You can’t save it and come back to it. You have to devote 1 hour to do it. Make sure that the internet is well-working.

  • You have to fill in personal data, academic background, work experience, languages among others;
  • There is no need to provide any evidence of language but don’t lie because they may call you in order to check it;
  • You have to write a short text showing your motivation (they pay the biggest attention to the motivation: why you chose the EP, how the EP will benefit from your traineeship);
  • Your CV is not required;
  • No health certificate saying that you are fit to work is necessary;
  • You have to provide a certificate of non-criminal record when you have been accepted (make sure to have it before applying because it may be difficult for you to get it, especially if you are abroad during your application!).

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

© Dorota Kowalska

© Dorota Kowalska

I believe that I experienced a specific EU internship in the European Parliament Liaison Office in Warsaw (Poland) as it was in Warsaw, in a rather small office with 7-8 people and 4 trainees (all Polish citizens because Polish language knowledge is required). I shared the office with a worker involved in the program entitled “European Parliament Ambassadors’ School”. This program was devoted to pupils of secondary schools. I was involved in managing this program: sharing knowledge about the EU to pupils, organising contests on EU knowledge, distributing materials to schools and students.

As I worked in the information office, we had a lot of press conferences and meetings with Polish MEPs to organise in Warsaw. I was involved in working with the Regional Discussion Forum: we were preparing events in Szczecin and in Płock in Poland. For this type of events, we created workshops for students from secondary schools about the EU institutions and held meetings with MEPs that came from this specific region.

It was challenging because I had to prepare an event in a different location, invite people, journalists to participate in a meeting with MEPs, for instance with the MEP Roża Thun.

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

I liked doing this internship because it gives the opportunity to act and put your effort in the name of the EP, to not only learn about the institutions but being part of it. You work in a European/international environment; you are meeting people from other countries. I went to Strasbourg for the plenary session of the EP in December 2017 as an observer. We were around 20 trainees from the information offices from all the Member States.

My advice is: don’t be afraid to apply! It really takes a long time to get an answer but this experience can change your life, you will meet a lot wonderful people and it can shape your future career.

 ***

Barbara – from Poland –  European Commission – trainee from the DG SCIC (DG for Interpretation) in Brussels

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

I have a Master’s Degree in political science with journalism at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and finished Master’s studies in knowledge of culture, specialising in audiovisual culture and film analysis, at the University of Warsaw. My main professional experience though is in photography – I do fashion, event and product photography professionally since 2011. I am also experienced in graphics and journalism, and my main academic background is communication.

After graduating, I started working for Polish media, then I worked as a photographer and for the Press Office member in Congress of Women (Kongres Kobiet).  My next step was few years in the UK, where I mostly worked as a photographer and retoucher, then back in Warsaw as a journalist in the PTWP group.

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

It took me quite a few sessions to apply, as I always missed the deadline. Last August I was back in Poland from the UK for 3 months, unemployed, tired and desperate to improve my career path and move abroad again, then I realised that I can apply. And honestly, I didn’t believe I could be accepted, as my background was mostly related to photography and I struggled with finding any job. I filled the online application, which is very complex, you obviously need to show your academic and professional background, skills and mostly motivation. It also requires applicants to show their areas of interests, what will be later on prioritising the DG’s choices of candidates (but not always).

The next step is the document verification – whatever information was given in the application form, it needs to be confirmed with documents like diplomas, recommendation letters from workplaces or language certificates. It all has to be uploaded in electronical version.

Later on candidates are put into the Blue Book, to be reviewed by DGs. That’s when the choices are being made – if a DG is interested, an advisor calls the candidate. In my case Lieke was my advisor and I remember having a great talk during the phone call and I did very well on impression. I already knew that although it was not confirmed yet, I am high on the list in my DG. The official decision came by the end of January.

Like I mentioned, I was rather sceptical about my chances and I made it. I was very precise with filling my application and during the interview I was myself, showing my engagement and interest in getting the traineeship. I would advise to be natural, be yourself – in my case I ended up in a great Unit, which fitted my skills and interests allowing me to develop, so I guess there is a place for anyone in the Commission after all.

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© Barbara Pawlik

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

I was assigned into the DG SCIC (DG for Interpretation), Unit C1 – Corporate Conference Organisers.

My main duties were complex: 1. Graphic design, 2. Photography on the events, 3. Working during the events, helping on organising and managing conferences, 4. Additional help on surveys, conference correspondents network, research.

During my traineeship I created some visual materials for my Unit, presentations on Green Events and how to prepare the event. I also created a graphic material on Sli.do tool and how to use it which was spread throughout the Commission and other DGs. I attended many conferences while taking photos and organising events.

I was also very active in projects related to trainees activities (outside of my work as a trainee). I was an official photographer of the Trainees Committee and I photographed events for trainees such as meetings with M. Barnier, M. Vestager, D. Tusk, E. Bienkowska. I was also photographing a Job Fair for trainees and Euroball, the biggest party of the traineeship and activities of subcommittees: strategic simulation in EPSC, visit in Google Digital Atelier, conference on diversity with EP members, football tournament between EP and EC trainees. I helped prepare, set up and document the Farewell Conference, during which I was also an official photographer. I was a judge and creator of a photo contest for trainees and member of a Yearbook team, creating, designing and making the biggest memory of the traineeship – printed Yearbook.  As a coordinator of the Film Subcommittee, I provided and organised weekly screenings of European movies for trainees.

I also started my photography project “Project Europeans” by taking portrait photos to show the diversity and beauty of European people.

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

First of all, I was called a Unicorn in the Commission, as I am a creative artist.

My traineeship was 5 months of special memories, the best time in my life full of the most wonderful people, moments and a huge chance to discover who I am, how to continue my career path. It was a time when I developed and grew as a person and professionally, it boosted my self-esteem, confidence – it’s been amazing, especially in terms of people I’ve met.

My first and biggest great moment was shaking hands with president Macron on a conference while I was hunting for a good picture. I also met president Tusk and commissioners Vestager, Bienkowska, Navracics, Katainen, Oettinger. My traineeship highlights were: countless lunches with different trainees, fries and long talks in the park with my friend Vladiana, meeting trainees from 10 different countries on coffee and realising we all speak different languages but we love our company, watching World Cup internationally, Euroball talk with few trainees saying they all have some Polish roots, the best night to morning walk home after Euroball ending with having Portuguese tea at 7AM, spending days and nights with my best friends Vera and Dainius, watching all trainees playing one team in football game with pure joy. And most of all, meeting people, making new friends, seeing joy in their eyes to see me and missing those who left. Feeling accepted, feeling European, feeling moved on the Farewell Conference and knowing that whenever I go in Europe, I will meet friendly faces.

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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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“The world does not end only at what we see”: an interview with Prof. Bogusław Marek

Maria Moroniak
Emil Wojtaluk

Winters in Humla (Nepal) tend to be very cold (© Prof. Bogusław Marek)

In our unusual interview we would like to introduce our readers and followers to a very extraordinary person – Professor Bogusław Marek, OBE. Professor Marek is the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) Rector’s Plenipotentiary for Disabled Students, the founder of Center for Adaptation of Teaching Materials for the Blind and the inventor of  ‘English for the blind’ program.

For Professor his work of more than twenty years is both a mission and a passion. He has invented numerous educational toys which are used by him on daily basis as tools to explain difficult concepts based on visual experience. In 2002 he was honored with The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the Queen Elisabeth II for his devotion to his educational effort.

We hope the following interview is going to encourage you to get yourselves familiar with the Professor Marek’s activity and maybe even support his initiatives.

Emil Wojtaluk: You are the father of ‘English for the blind’ program and the founder of the Center for Adaptation of Teaching Materials for the blind at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. Could you please outline the Center’s activity?

Real objects and models support computer based English language lessons with blind children at KUL (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: Due to the fact that the blind are recognized as a group with so called special educational needs, our activity is all about helping them with functioning like they weren’t blind. For instance, when someone sighted needs a book – he goes to the library, borrows a book and reads it. This is impossible for a blind student unless there is a copy of the book in a Braille or digital format. The blind students remain disabled persons but we try to take their disability away. Sometimes, at meetings and conferences, I surprise people saying that here at the University our policy is not to have any disabled students. I can always hear a murmur of outrage: “how come, at KUL”? All I mean is every disabled person is welcome here, but we do our best to make sure that they can function as regular students. If a student in a wheelchair is able to use a lift to get to the classroom – he is not a disabled student anymore. This also applies to blind students – if they have their books and tests adapted for them, they are no longer disabled students. This is what the Center’s activity is about and I have to say we have a lot of work. As of today, there are 15 blind students enrolled at the University. Let’s say each of them attends 8 classes and there are 10 books needed to be read to prepare for them – it makes 80 books for one person. This is a tremendous amount of work. Last year our Center transformed 70K pages of regular text into Braille or digital format. Plus texts written in Braille take approximately 3 – 4 times more space than the regular font. Our students are equipped with personal digital appliances, Braille notebooks with a small screen. Our specialty is also converting graphics: graphs, diagrams, charts or maps. We are ready to prepare boards and plans in a tactile version.

Maria Moroniak: Do you remember the specific moment in the past when the project was born? Was there any milestone, which you remember as a propulsion of the initiative? Or was it all about arduous, day-by-day work?

Bethany Centre for blind children in Meghalaya, India (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: I think I need to mention a couple of milestones here. First of all – you two are probably too young to understand that – a middle-age crisis. When you are a guy in your forties, you have made your PhD and your habilitation, thoughts like “can I achieve anything more at this university?” cross your mind. I have always been afraid of a vision that I could end up like someone I met years ago during my studies at the University of Warsaw. The gentleman I am talking about was apparently tired with his life and his students and all he was doing was reading out loud boring lectures from yellowed pages of his notes. I didn’t want this kind of academic death to happen to me. I needed a shot in the arm. I wasn’t frustrated yet. I just could have felt I needed more. Then it happened that I was staying in London with my students and once noticed a poster of a charity working for the blind. There was a girl holding a model of Tower Bridge in her hands and the sentence “Amy will never see the sights of London” written below. It made me think: “hold on… if Amy has been blind since she was born, she’s got to have very good hearing, memory and concentration. And these skills are extremely useful in interpreting or teaching languages. The only thing Amy may be missing is a foreign language”. And then I thought I could offer English to the blind kids in Poland. So said, so done. I visited this foundation the same day and two weeks later I was a tutor on a camp for blind kids. This was supposed to let me know if I could handle this kind of work.After coming back to Poland I went to Laski (a special school for blind children). I would teach English to kids and kids would teach me about being a blind person. After two years of working in Laski I got a scholarship and went to England to do a specialist course in visual impairment. It was before Poland’s accession to the European Union but they already had some preparatory programs for the members-to-be and I was one of the first beneficiaries of the “Tempus” program, which let me complete my visual impairment studies at the University College London. After coming back to Poland I found out that my new British qualifications were not valid in Poland but it didn’t put me off. I started a “pirate” unit here at KUL, thanks to a green light from the authorities of the University. And this was when, in 1995 the Unit of Typhlodidactics of English was established which later included Alternative Comuniation. We started with training teachers, later on first blind students appeared, so did the need of preparing materials for them. In the beginning it was more like outwork – we only had a tiny Braille printer. And then we got invited to participate in a program “Per linguas mundi ad laborem” co-organized by the University of Warsaw and the Maria Grzegorzewska University (Academy of Special Needs Education). The project was planned on a large scale, including creating centers for adaptation of materials at KUL and the University of Warsaw (UW). We split the roles up – Warsaw focused on converting regular text into Braille format and we, due to my personal experience, focused on graphics, obtaining new, very expensive devices for creating high-class, long lasting tactile graphics. That project was my second milestone.

Group photo on the last day of a tactile graphics workshop in Apia, Samoa (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

I think I need to mention the third one too. It happened during my studies in England, which were supposed to last two years, though I completed them within one year since I didn’t have other responsibilities. I was asked to give a speech during the inauguration of the academic year. Back in that time KUL was known as the only independent university from Western Berlin to Tokyo, so every embassy sent a high-ranking representative, even ambassadors themselves, in a gesture of support. I was given an opportunity to speak in front of such a noble audience, so I had been working on my twenty-minute speech for three months. I was honored with applause, but the most glamorizing part was talking to all these guests in person. There was a line of ambassadors asking me how they could support my initiative. Thanks to that morning we got equipment sponsored by the Canadian Embassy and I could go on a very important course of tactile graphics organized in Australia and funded by the British Embassy. Thankfully I was quick enough to react by saying “Your Excellency, the course is useless unless I have funds to buy the equipment for producing tactile graphics” – so we got money to buy that too. When it comes to embassies, there was also another interesting situation. Once I was parking my Polish car in a London street and saw two couples with their children walking by. When they saw the number plates they approached me and started a conversation, talking about my work with blind kids. Soon they turned out to be members of the Polish Embassy willing to donate some spare money to charity. The next day I visited the Consulate in London and left it with a cheque for 26K pounds. The money was spent on equipment which was soon sent from England to our Center in Poland. There was also the fourth milestone – thanks to a project “Równy Start” – “Equal Chance” we got enough money to buy more devices for students with various disabilities.

Emil Wojtaluk: You have traveled a lot to work in so many different places. Have you noticed any differences in conceptions of helping the blind? Do you think there is an awareness gap between Poland and other countries?

Reasearchers from India Institute of Technology are getting acquainted with new technologies for producing tactile graphics (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: In the beginning of the nineties English parliament enacted very significant regulations – a kind of a manual for every institution interested in helping the blind. Thanks to these guidelines everyone knows what one is supposed to be doing – for example a school headmaster knows what his duties are and what source of funding he can use. They leave no space for latitude of interpretation, there are no situations when people keep saying that would be good to do this or that, but no one knows where and how to start and in the end no one feel responsible. I would say that their system works better. But there are inequalities too. Some parents of blind children decide to sell their house and move to another, richer county, where they can get better support from the government.  When it comes to attitude of a society to a blind person, I have never experienced hostility, even in such exotic countries as Nepal or India where being blind is often associated with being punished for sins. I have also seen exaggeration – in the United Arab Emirates local kids get top world-class support, for instance, once I met a boy who didn’t even know how to use his electronic devices. I suppose that was because his father would buy him every latest appliance available on the market so his son never took time to get familiar with using it in a proper way. So in fact the boy had all this equipment stored without the knowledge of how to use it. On the other hand, the vast majority of blind kids living in the UAE are the kids of immigrants working there and they receive no support from the government, they can only count on international organizations.

Maria Moroniak: Your program dedicated for the blind makes entering the job market much easier for them. Do you know what happens to your students after they graduate, do you often hear from them?

Teachers from the North of India are learning about innovative educational resources for blind learners (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: We don’t run any records, but maybe we should. We keep in touch mostly because we are on friendly terms. Almost every graduate gets a job after completing the studies – sometimes they teach English or earn some extra money offering private lessons. Due to their strong interest in electronics, they also work as other blind people’s consultants helping them to learn how to work with devices for the blind. There is an interpreter. And there is also a person who undertook English studies to learn the language so she can start her dream studies – Psychology. She became a clinical psychologist and even has been awarded by the British National Health Service for her work. One of our students, owner of a deep, warm voice unfortunately doesn’t work for any radio station, but works successfully at the telephone customer service. Professional path chosen by our students depends on their determination. There are also passive people for whom enrolling on a course is enough or people who choose to study just to be entitled to get a certain type of help.

Emil Wojtaluk: I’d like to refer to the previous question. As far as you are concerned, how important on the labor market for the blind is their education? How many of them work in their educated profession?

Kick-sled – winter sport accessible to both sighted and blind persons (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: Unfortunately, it does not look good. According to the data presented by the Polish Association of the Blind, only 10 – 15 % of the blind work and the situation isn’t any better in other countries. We should encourage employers to employ the blind showing them how they can benefit. Unfortunately there are misuses because of concessions the blind bring to companies, so some entrepreneur give a blind person a job just to make him or her a ghost-worker with a benefit for the company. The blind’s ability to fit in the labor market isn’t just based on their education but also on their attitude and interpersonal skills. Let me give a fantastic example by quoting our current English Studies student. When one day at the class she noticed that someone didn’t want to learn how a tactile map works, she asked her friend: “How do you want to know how to reach your destinations then? Every time you ride a trolleybus  you are just going to count the shakes it gives you and then you’d know that you’re supposed to get off?!”. One day she came to our office asking if she could print something. It turned out she had made stickers to put on a windscreen warning drivers that if they keep parking their cars in wrong places, they will have their cars scratched by a blind person’s white canes. This girl is cheerful, always smiling, sociable. But there are also grumpy students for whom being a blind person seems to be an eternal excuse for anything. These people are going to have issues with finding a job no matter how educated they are. From the start they arose aversion or pity and that leads them nowhere.

Maria Moroniak: Has any of your students ever joined your initiative working along with you?

Professor Bogusław Marek: Of course! We had a wonderful PhD student who has temporarily moved to the US. She used to encourage and motivate our students, organize courses, theme meetings, trips, body language workshops. Each one of our graduates knows how to work with blind kids and if someone chooses to work with them he or she is definitely well prepared for that. Some of our students organize workshops in their communities.

Maria Moroniak: so your idea is being continued.

Professor Marek: If someone tries this kind of work once and it turns out well, one definitely gets hooked, there is no turning back. Once some lady teacher told me “Oh, I admire you, I am so soft at heart that I couldn’t be working with blind children.” I responded jokingly “My heart is a stone, so I can work with them with ease.”. It’s not about pity, you need a reasonable attitude. One needs to contain emotions.

This eight-year-old boy (looking four) turned out to be a very bright student (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Maria Moroniak: so is the job mentally overwhelming?

Professor Bogusław Marek: I would say this job is invigorating. It takes creativity to face the challenges and figure things out fast. I say challenges, not problems, because problems bring you down and challenges cheer you up. I constantly feel a need to create something new and I believe that’s the reason I am still in a good shape. It happens that I have to do the homework. One day a blind boy told me that that day he had learned a new English word: transparent. I was wondering how I could explain this word to him… Later on I was working on figuring it out at home. And the best moment was when next time we met he left the class and told his mom “Mom, I already know what this word means”.

Emil Wojtaluk: The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire – the supreme honour available for a non-British. Could you tell us the story behind it?

Authors of the interview: Maria Moroniak (left) and Emil Wojtaluk (right) with Professor Bogusław Marek (© EUROpens BLOG).

Professor Bogusław Marek: First I have to mention again that KUL was very important institution on the world stage back in that time. A lot of embassy officers, even ambassadors, were sent here to learn Polish language. And there is a tradition that when an ambassador takes his position in a country he is sent to, he takes a trip around the country to explore it. One of them came to Lublin to recollect his Polish language course at our university which he had attended years before. He also visited our workshop and he liked it. After a while I got a call from some high officer who invited me for a lunch here, in Lublin. During the lunch with the Diplomatic Secretary of the British Embassy I was asked a lot of questions about our program “English for the Blind”: about its beginnings and about its future. And that was it. After a while I got another phone call from the British Embassy. That time I was asked “If the Queen wanted to honor you with a medal, would you accept it?”. I can remember that I was in a rush because I had to go to a lecture, so I responded playfully “How could I say no to Her Royal Highness?” I hung up thinking “Medal? What medal?”.

The Order of the British Empire received by Professor Marek (© EUROpens BLOG).

In a couple of weeks I received another message – that the Queen awarded me with the Order of the British Empire. I was asked to send in a list of guests I wanted to invite for the ceremony of decoration. I could choose between the British Embassy in Warsaw or Lublin City Hall, since there was a British Week scheduled then and all of the Embassy workers were going to come here anyway. I really wanted to invite my blind pupils – after all I was awarded thanks to them and, most of all, for them. The ceremony was held in Lublin City Hall. An officer of the army was holding my medal resting on a cushion. All of then-rectors of our University arrived, there were speeches, a bugle call, congratulations, a grandiose ceremony. I remember someone told me “You got an extremely important medal, use it wisely”. But I can also remember that there was hardly any information in the Polish media. Only a  line and a half in the local newspaper. I am not saying I felt sorry, but later on when David Beckham got the Order I could see a huge difference – everyone was talking and writing about that everywhere! I have O.B.E. written on my business card and people sometimes ask me which Christian monastery’s acronym is this? In Anglo-Saxon countries such as England, New Zealand, Australia or Canada this status is really recognizable. This doesn’t mean they prepare a red carpet every time I arrive, although I have to admit it helped me a lot when it comes to contacts with western organizations. And also every year the British Embassy invites me for the Queen’s birthday party.

Maria Moroniak: What are the Center’s plans for future? Are you going to take up any major initiatives worth exposing?

Lessons a HEAD Nepal are organized in a multi-purpose room (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: Of course, some huge ones! I have already mentioned the project “Równy start” within which we are going to arrange a Center for Motivating the Disabled – I called it “KUL CAN”. Our team will be wearing T-shirts with the slogan “KUL CAN = You Can!” printed on them. We want to expand our activity and serve other universities and schools with our skills and well-equipped workshop, which is the best equipped one in Poland, even better that the one at the Maria Grzegorzewska (University Academy of Special Needs Education) in Warsaw . We also have signed a contract with Fund for the Blind of Laski to support their charges in starting studies, not only at KUL, but wherever they wish. We want to help them out with enrolling at their dream studies. I hope one day we could create a typhlodidactics unit at the University. We already have surdopedagogy (pedagogy of the deaf).

Maria Moroniak: You have wide experience in working with the blind, how do you think, what can we learn from the blind?

Humla is known as a hidden gem of Nepal (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Prof. Bogusław Marek: I would say they teach us that the world does not end only at what we see. There are a lot of things hidden from our sight. We take shortcuts too often. We take a gaze at something and assume that we already know everything about the case. We firmly rely on our sight and that makes us unable to notice how this world manifests itself in so complex way. Let me give you an example of how a blind person describes rain. Once I met a man who told me that he feels very lonely when the weather is fine. He compared himself to a man drawn in the middle of a plain sheet of paper. And when it starts to rain, the sheet starts to fill up with other objects, because he can finally hear the objects he is surrounded by thanks to raindrops pattering on surface. He can hear a roof, a path, a dog leap stairway, the bushes – notice the tree-dimensionality of the world. I think that a contact with the blind sensitizes us to the world, makes us feel we can live more, absorb impressions we are surrounded by using other senses, not only our sight. The world does not end at what we can see.

If you think you can offer any kind of support to Professor Marek’s initiative, feel free to contact with the Center for Adaptation of Teaching Materials:

centrum.niewidomi[at]kul.pl

phone numbers:

+48 81 445 4331 – the Center’s workshop

+48 81 445 4332 – the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) Rector’s Plenipotentiary for Disabled Students, Professor Bogusław Marek

Poland vs European Union

Paulina Matwiej

            We are all aware what happened on 13th of November in France. Series of attacks caused great chaos and terror inside of France, but also influenced discussion inside European countries. How European Union should behave when thousands of immigrants are coming to Europe due to the war?

Polish strong objection

            Few days after terrorist attacks in Paris new Polish minister of European Affairs, Konrad Szymański, strongly presented future plans toward refugees. After changes in Polish government we were supposed to receive 6,5 thousands of them. The Minister admitted that he cannot see possibilities to fulfill quota system imposed by EU, according to which refugees would be divided among EU Member States. On the other hand, Witold Waszczykowski (present Chief of Diplomacy) tried to smooth things over and added that Poland will accept refugees quota system, only if a special safety standards on our borders will be introduced. Such objection can bring significant consequences and legal proceedings or, consequently, charge could be brought to the European Court of Justice. Austrian chancellor proposed that countries which resigned from acceptance of immigrants should be deprived of structural funds and special sanctions should be imposed. However, the European Union has not responded to this statement.

Polish Minister of European Affairs (Photo: Łukasz Cynalewski/ Agencja Gazeta)

Polish Minister of European Affairs (Photo: Łukasz Cynalewski/ Agencja Gazeta)

 

Criticism of Polish policy

            The strongest criticism toward this attitude came from President of European Parliament. Martin Schulz in ARD television, stated that Polish approach is at least unfair – when Poland feels threatened by Russia it asks for more funds and army, in such a case Europe is supportive. When Poland needs more funds from the European Union it gets them. In September (2015) special meeting of the Polish Parliament was held, during which Jarosław Kaczyński stated that German policy created great magnet on immigrants and this problem concerns only them. Response of EP President appeared immediately. In such situation the statement that problem of immigrants is only German concern should never appear. Solidarity is not a matter of looking for what is convenient.

Martin Schulz said:

But then you can’t come and say that the refugee problem is a German problem and we have nothing to do with it. Solidarity is a key question and (not subject to) cherry picking.

Strong answer of M. Błaszczak (present Minister of Interior and Administration of Poland):

(President) Schulz’s words are an example of German arrogance ,We’re talking in Warsaw, which was destroyed by Germans. In (Warsaw’s) Wola (district) 50,000 men, women and children were murdered by officers of the German state.

                        The President of the European Parliament in an interview for German television carried the statement that if Europe of nationalists wins, the Europe will be in their hands, not only in the matter of migration. Europe needs morale of solidarity, if it is necessary it will be imposed by using force. Does this statement shows that EU is desperate and has to impose solidarity of Member States?

Source: omon.pl

Immigration policy has been existing since the very beginning, but this time opposition has been strongly expressed by new Polish government. On the other hand new Polish Prime Minister, Beata Szydło, agreed to welcome 7,000 of immigrants. This step can slightly remove bad attitude of EU institutions toward Poland. Is it end of political differences between Polish government and authorities of the EU? We will find out in the near future.

Innovations: a lesson from South Africa

Adrianna Brzozowska and Emil Wojtaluk talk with South African Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Derek Hanekom at the European Innovation Convention 2014.

Emil Wojtaluk: What are the ways of encouraging young people to be more active and what do you think of EU policies for entrepreneurs? 

Derek Hanekom: Let me start from the second part of the question. I can’t really comment on European policy but I do know that one of their priorities is to encourage young entrepreneurs to come forward. I wouldn’t be able to speak with authority on what their instruments are and how they are trying to encourage it. I speak for my own country.

Derek Hanekom, South African Minister of Science and Technology ©EC/CE

Derek Hanekom, South African Minister of Science and Technology ©EC/CE

The short answer is that we are not doing enough in our own country, we need to do more but I’ll tell you some of the things that we’re starting to do. Firstly, doing it often with private sector is to create opportunity for good ideas to be brought to the table. So we have our big electricity supplier for example, we work with them and organize an annual event, and it’s an expanding annual event where schools across the country came with the school projects. They are giving awards in the variety of categories and they are able to show case of their project in Johannesburg but it’s all done regionally first. I must say it’s quite a lengthy process but at the end of the day interested people see their projects. So you may have a group of kids that designed energy efficient home or designed a solution to having affordable clean water in your house, better filtration unit or better waste management. They come up with the most amazing ideas!

What we can do institutionally and should be doing more of, is to create opportunities not to set schools but beyond schools, where you want to start a very developing entrepreneurship that people have the central point to take the ideas too. Those ideas, no matter crazy they might seem are being observed. If they are really nothing special, people will get back to them and say “this is why we think your idea is not gonna make it”- because not all ideas are good ideas. The principle of people generating ideas – that’s a good thing, doesn’t matter what. Amongst them, when you see some potential in an idea, we have state institution which we have recently put in place that will give the support that it needs to develop its next stage. It’s a fairly high risk. You get to the next stage where you might approach a venture capital provider, which could be a state-run institution or private sector venture capital provider. That’s very first stage when you are not likely to get anyone because the risk is very high – so we have an institution in South Africa called Technology Innovation Agency. It gets some annual budget, we’ve accepted that it goes in the early stage of innovation and is prepared to face risk. We are not going to take actions against entrepreneurs because there is a high failure of it. Because we know that out of 20 presented ideas 19 can go nowhere, but one can be the really winning idea.

Adrianna Brzozowska: So how this agency(Technology Innovation Agency) distinguish good project from other bad projects?

DH: At the end of the day a judgment should be made. People knowledgeable in the particular area have to make the judgment. The product may have to be tested so we do have a kind of a bureau of standards if it reaches that stage. The idea must contain some kind of scientific merit, if it’s something that is being tried and tested and there is kind of a doubt – all I’m trying to do is to put my name on it and then I say “you can do it but you have to do it on your own”. Because there is nothing novel and so on. You can’t put state money into anything and everything, you cannot. If there is genuinely different, more energy efficient housing design, for as an example. Or there is genuinely interesting idea on the development of a new application. There have to be some judgment and some research done. In fact there’s a surplus of such applications anyway. But the people looking at it will have to say “it’s very interesting”, we are very satisfied that there is a kind of market niche. It can give commuters an information in Cape Town when the next bus is going to arrive, after research we can find that there is no such application in that city. Then we say “excellent, we think that you have a good opportunity, we can fund you to take it to the next stage”.

EW: The last question is about innovation because this convention is about innovations and innovators. So what is your own definition of innovation, how could you describe it?

DH: I would agree with somebody because I keep reading definitions of innovation but I would say – the starting point is true but it goes beyond. Critical feature for innovation is underlying information and knowledge. But it’s taking existing knowledge and attaching to it creative thinking and creative ideas which will result in new, novel, useful product or service. I would like to go bit beyond that to say – innovation could be simply smarter ways of addressing problems, better ways of doing things, that’s innovation as well.

EW: Thank you very much.

DH: Thank you and good bye.

Incredible Young Scientists

Emil Wojtaluk talks with the winners of European Union Contest for Young Scientists 2013 (EUCYS): Sophie Healy-Thow, Emer Hickey and Ciara Judge. They were awarded for using natural bacteria to speed up the germination and subsequent growth of cereal crops.

wyw

Emil Wojtaluk: How did it start that you won this award?

Emer Hickey: We started when we entered a national competition which is called BT Young Scientists. So there are three of us: Sophie, Ciara and myself. We just wanted to go to the competition which is held in Dublin and what we did we used a natural occurring bacteria called Rhizobium and we applied it to wheat seeds, and we made them germinate faster. Then we won a national competition and we got the opportunity to represent Ireland in the European Union contest. Because of that we did a lot of work in the summer to improve the project for that…and you know, we went there and we won first place.

EW: It’s very specific area of work and takes a lot of effort. So who helped you to reach the goal? Because you need some funding, you need some scholarships, how does it work?

EH: The competition is well known in Ireland so we went to the University that is near of us and we asked them to show us how to grow bacteria, and how to work with bacteria so they showed us that. Then our science teacher helped us, he told us about the competition and then we just did it ourselves.

EW: And no help from non-governmental organizations or something like this?

Ciara Judge: We did get sponsorship of equipment from certain companies within Ireland because the competition(EUCYS) has a very good reputation. So when they found out we are doing a project for this competition, they were very happy to sponsor us. That was more material support so for example we were allowed to use the machines of one pharmaceutical company and we also got some lab equipment from another.

EW: Thank you very much and wish you a good luck.

Girls: Thank you!  

Coming back to the European Parliament #2

Ewa Krakowska and Emil Wojtaluk talk with Professor Zbigniew Zaleski, Polish psychologist and Member of the European Parliament in years 2004- 2009.

Ewa Krakowska: Before the adventure in Brussels, you were successful scholar and lecturer at the Catholic University of Lublin (the job that you currently continue). Which occupation do you find more fulfilling?

Zbigniew Zaleski: Tough question. With the first one I feel stronger connection. I worked hard and I did all I could in this field. But it was pleasure, because I met many people posing questions. The essence of science is asking questions, those that are most basic and valid- they are still deep if we look at my profession, psychology. It interests me, I would not change my job. Throughout five years of working in European Parliament I slightly gave up my academic work, although I managed to write a book called: „Psychology of support for New Europe”.

Answering the question, what I value more I would say that science is deep, rich and also occupies our minds. Many generations add something to its development, especially in psychology. For many years it was my way and identity. I identify myself with work at the University, with students. It keeps me still so alive. I highly value this way of life.

It’s not bad to be politician. You became so called VIP, it’s really comfortable. This occupation is easier than being a scholar. You may fail. In the world of science you must confirm your talent and knowledge. Political world functions other way. But I remember the times when I took advantage of being Professor in European Parliament where there are many other professors. I got along with them. As the scholar I was asked to share my opinion on issues like: abortion, circumcision of girls or adoption by homosexual marriages. As we can see my academic formation was not abandoned at that time. Sometimes I could even gain something because of it.

Emil Wojtaluk: Do you observe the work of Polish representatives in the European Parliament Mr Professor? If yes, how you can assess it?

ZZ: If you are inside you live it. After the loss I have been replaced by Professor Kolarska-Bobińska. I do not know what duty she fulfilled there, I must just see it. When I will enter there, I will quickly learn what is the status quo and I will participate in this Parliament as before. For the moment I observe it from outside like every citizen through the lens of hits: “What will happen?”, “important voting, speech”. I am interested in speeches of people that I know, for example the President Shultz – is he still a tough guy. I noticed that the role of Nigel Farage – critic of the Union, has grown up. His presence is necessary, because he sharpens the feeling in the others. And because I was there, I feel the spirit of time, I know what values are important and who is with who. Recently I was delighted with the news how much money we will get from EU budget for our Polish affairs. It was a satisfaction, thanks to this support we can develop continually. For now, I cannot imagine ourselves not to be in the European Union, even though I know the Union is not easy. It is good that we are there and we have our say.

EK: Are you going to continue the work of Professor Lena Kolarska-Bobińska or to propose your own initiatives?

ZZ: I am going to find out what she has done in our region. Good practices I will eagerly continue. For me, as a scholar, especially appealing is activity connected with youth. It’s not my desire to overwhelm them with EU, but just showing how to exploit all the possibilities they have in offer from the institution. I want to promote communication, direct contacts, languages. Previously I organised the project „Englishman in the family”. Somebody from Great Britain was going to Poland and was living with the family, so the kids could pick up some language skills. Then such a person was like Polish ambassador in homeland. So I guess I will think of the activities I like, in which I have the experience and some successes.

Coming back to the European Parliament #1

Ewa Krakowska and Emil Wojtaluk talk with Professor Zbigniew Zaleski, Polish psychologist and Member of the European Parliament in years 2004- 2009.

Emil Wojtaluk: According to the latest news we know that you will replace Mrs Lena Kolarska-Bobińska, MEP from this region. Is it confirmed fact?

Zbigniew Zaleski: There are some formal procedures connected with this. Either Mrs Kolarska-Bobińska will renounce her mandate or The European Parliament will make such decision. Then it goes to the Electoral Commission that confirms who is next from the last election results. Afterwards it goes through the Marshal of the Sejm. The procedure will last some time, approximately one month. Probably it can start to function from January. It may happen, that the candidate will reject the proposition, I agreed on this stage.

Ewa Krakowska: The situation is rather unexpected. Did you think about such coming back?

ZZ: I didn’t have that attitude. Five years of mandate is not long time. We could expect that Mrs Kolarska-Bobińska will finish normally her tenure.

And in time I became lukewarm towards the institution that once I had very strong connection. The emotions are less intense. Now I know how things work there. For somebody who is there for the first time it must be a significant experience. This time I will find my place in European Parliament quickly, because I know to which party I will join.

EW: There are several months left till the next European Parliament election, have you ever contemplated to be a candidate Mr Professor?

ZZ: No, I did not have such thoughts especially. I was there already, I was happy to function inside this body for a five years, to get to know Europe and the possibilities of the European Union. According to my own assessment I was working intensively. But now it does not depends only on me but on Party chiefs, because they are decision-makers, they are deciding who will be put up to run for election, who deserves it. I do not have expectations to bet on me, not particularly. The future will show.

EW: You have been chosen the MEP during the first election to the European Parliament conducted in Poland – new Member State of the EU at that time. What you remember the best from that experience?

ZZ: It was essential for me that we are in the Union and we are entering as the Members of the European Parliament. There were different MEP’s in the first “toss”. From that time some attitudes has changed, healthy Euro-criticism appears.

The first thing that I remember concerns languages, that people did not speak any foreign language but they claimed that they do. They stayed only in their groups. It was sad for me. Maybe they could create something new if they could communicate with the others. The situation was that nobody knew them, let alone they did not know anyone. If I could decide on appointing such person for the office, I would do a test, to assess if a particular person communicates in any foreign language. It is very important.

The next issue has historical character, for I read Norman Davies’ book White Eagle, Red Star about Polish-Soviet War 1919-1920. In 2005 fell the anniversary of Katyń massacre, being the fresh MEP I tried along with deputy Prof. Wojciech Roszkowski from PIS to commemorate that fact by the minute of silence during the session. We arranged copies of the letter containing death sentence for Polish officers – signed by Stalin by his famous blue pencil. To my surprise, the President Josep Borrell decided that there will be no commemorating. This decision came to me earlier. I regarded this as a fiasco. However people made a fuss of it – in a positive sense that journalists from France and Germany started to question me about this. I explained that to them and many articles were published. It became quite famous case in Europe, in some circles. I cared about it so that the other people, elites in the West could find out about this.

The other experience is connected with South America. I have been frequently asked to fly on a missions, the electoral mission for example. Maybe because I did not need any translator. Once on such visit, “I did cost” almost 10 million. In Bogota, during the break of working as an observer I went for a walk, to talk with the local people. It turned out later on that in existing conditions it was risky, it is very easy to kidnap anyone. It is how the people earns money there. One of our guards terrified after that event, followed me around until I went on a plane back to Europe. As I found out later, in the case of kidnapping I would cost 10 million dollars. Maybe I was ill-advised that I did not tell I am going out. The fact that I could jeopardize the European Parliament really moved me.   

(To be continued…)