Category Archives: EC in UK

Talking about Europe in the UK

Sat here at an event about the European Regional Development Fund in London, almost a month into the new job, and looking at my Twitter feed, it occurs to me that there are so many people in the UK who are working on letting people know about opportunities in Europe. Some are very local, some national, some sector specific, some very general. I wonder, though, whether they all know about each other. I had a call from someone in the European Movement the other day who wanted to find out what a Europe Direct Centre was. So I thought it could be an idea to get them all together in one place, get them to talk to each other, maybe develop new partnerships. Any thoughts?

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Filed under EC in UK, Europe Direct, Regions, The General Public

The intern experience

We sometimes have work experience interns working in the office here. I know there is a lot of talk about interns, but I think that the European Commission manages it quite well. Outside the graduate intern scheme, which is open to all and paid, we are allowed to take short-term unpaid interns. However, their time here is limited to 3 months and they have to be registered students who can demonstrate that the internship is going to help them in their studies. We have had several who worked just a few hours a week alongside their studies, but for them it was valuable workplace experience. Our latest was Cristina Leon Barbadillo , who has written a guest post on her experiences here over the last month:

Within all that the international aspects of law have to offer, especially after having studied EU Law, I knew that, despite the possible limitation of sticking to a particular area (the EU), it was of greater interest to me than any other. I believe in the EU, in how much it benefits its members and also helps other areas, of how unity is always a better option.

 We sometimes don’t understand the functioning of things, of institutions in this case or, even if we think we do, it’s not until we get to see them from the inside that we properly get to know how they work and how much they do. I certainly wanted to be, in whichever way possible, part of the EU’s institutions, and combining such participation with living in a city that makes me feel at home, seemed like the perfect chance.

 Shortly after enquiring about the possibility of doing an internship at the European Commission’s Representation in the UK and sending my CV, I received a positive reply, offering me to be a trainee at the office for five weeks. I felt (and still feel) incredibly lucky for the chance I was given. It was time to see the EU internally, to have some work experience and to help me have a clearer idea of where I wanted to take my future career.

 I arrived to London in mid-August, a city that I know well and which never disappoints me. My first day at the office was my initial contact with the European Commission: meeting new people, getting used to being in an office, understanding the dynamics of it, finding out where everything was… I hadn’t truly known what to expect, but it turned out to be a fantastic first day. Everyone made me feel welcome, and they would keep on doing so throughout my time here.

One of the things I’ve most appreciated and enjoyed has been the variety of activities I’ve been involved in, having worked with other departments besides Media. I prepared a presentation for the Head of Media, I followed the news closely every day, analysed meetings and current affairs situations, helped with the organisation for the Thames Festival and the upcoming European Day of Languages, as well as, of course, the more personal aspects of every day life at the office, meeting new colleagues, being with a ‘usual crowd’ at lunchtime.

 The Thames Festival took place this past weekend, on the 10th and 11th September. Being at this event for the first time, having the chance to participate with the EC Representation, was a wonderful opportunity. There were people challenging their friends and families to our EU knowledge quiz, others taking publications to truly inform themselves on the importance of the EU and, of course, many children who I’m sure had a fantastic time. Despite the supposed unpopularity of the EU in the UK, I was quite surprised by (and pleased to see) the number of people our stall attracted and the interest shown by our visitors.

Over the past few days, people have been asking me about my departure and whether I was looking forward to going back home and getting on with my course after five weeks here. As much as I do miss my family, my friends, my homeland after all, everyone at the European Commission office in London has made me feel like I fitted in, they have treated me incredibly well and have sent me really interesting tasks, leaving me with the sensation that I was being taken seriously despite just being a student about to go onto her third year at university.

I don’t know where my future will take me, whether I’ll be lucky enough to return to this office but, at least, I will have been grateful for my magnificent time here and for all that I have learned. What I am sure of, however, is that, somehow, I would very much like to contribute to the evolution of the EU. Whether it is within the EU institutions or not, I would highly recommend anyone to gain some work experience during their studies. If, however, you are interested in the European Union, the EC Representation in the UK office in London would be an excellent place to start and where you will definitely feel welcome at all times.

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Filed under EC in UK, EU Careers, Europe House, The General Public

Heading out to the country

I spent several days last week out of the office, which is going to be the great bit about the new job (getting out there and meeting real people, that is, rather than not being in the office…!)

I started in Durham, speaking at an event on Europe in My Region, hosted by the Europe Direct there. It was very interesting talking to people who are actually implementing programmes using EU funds, mainly from the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund, though also the Science and Research Framework Programme and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme. The problems seem to be (unsurprisingly) finding the match funding, especially as potential government programmes that could provide match funding have different entry criteria. One woman even raised a problem I had never heard – that big companies were having trouble accessing ERDF funds. In all the years I’ve worked with EU funding programmes, I have never heard any complaint about big companies!

The next day I was in Leeds visiting our Europe Direct Centre there, as I am now responsible for the overall management of the Europe Direct Centres in the UK. It was a real eye-opener. I have been in touch with them quite a bit as they’re very up on the whole social media thing. But I was really impressed with how integrated they are with the general Leeds Library Service and how they have managed to create a lot of demand for their services, through roadshows in branch libraries, connections with schools and getting out and about at public events. I also met the guy dealing with volunteering at the City Council and the head of the Volunteer Centre Leeds, as they have done loads of work around the European Year of Volunteering. It’s good news that they are hoping to be in London for the European Year of Volunteering Tour later in the year.

The final stop on my trip was Coventry, to speak at an event on Zero Waste. Do you have any idea how interesting waste policy is? And how important? The event went from the political/administrative, like Caroline Spelman and to a much lesser extent me, the people dealing with it, such as Biffa, EOn and Severn Trent Water and then zero waste campaigners. I went to the workshop on local authorities and it was impressive how passionate people get about their local waste policy. A real learning process – and I’ll be much more careful with my household waste as a result!

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Filed under EC in UK, Europe Direct, European Year of Volunteering, Regions

Goodbye media, hello communication

As of tomorrow, my role in this office will change. I will no longer be the head of media, dealing with the press, TV, radio, agencies and online journalists that I have dealt with in the last 3 and a bit years. Instead I will be responsible for our publications, websites and digitial media, relations with NGOs and the voluntary sector, foreign languages, information networks and parts of England outside London. I hope this new post will give me a bit more time (and, to be honest, some renewed enthusiasm) for this blog. Time will tell…

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Statement by EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard on UK’s long-term carbon target

 ”I welcome the ambitious goal announced by the United Kingdom’s government today to reduce emissions 50 per cent under 1990 levels by 2025. This is an outstanding example of strong willingness to act despite difficult economic times. It also confirms that clever climate policies are not only about climate alone; they are also about improving energy security, stimulating innovation, raising competitiveness, and creating economic growth and jobs. With this decision, the UK seizes a huge economic and innovation opportunity that will make its economy more competitive in the future”

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My take on social media in the Commission

I was asked to write an article for our intranet about the use of social media in London. Thought I would reprint it here, as I would be grateful for comments.

There’s no doubt that social media is the latest thing in communication terms. If I had an extra 10 minutes in the day for every unsolicited email I get marketing new ways to “optimise my social media presence” or “enhance my social media ROI” I’d be able to get a lot more done. But it’s not clear to everyone what social media is and how it can be used effectively. The London rep has built up some experience in the field that Well’Comm has asked me to share with you.

 1. What makes media social?

 The predominant principle of social media is that it’s two way. If you post on your Facebook page, people will comment, and will expect a response. If you have a Twitter account, you will get the most out of it if you follow and interact with other people. If you write a blog, you will need to respond to (sensible…) comments. Your success in these media will depend on how much you do so – broadcast only is not an option. This direct contact is why we in London started working with social media in the first place – it allows people to hear our side of the story, to question us about it and to get replies to their own questions, all of which helps breakdown our remote “ivory tower” image in this country.

 2. Who uses social media?

 Effective communication relies on getting the right medium for a particular message and audience. With social media, this is not only true, it is easy to measure. Platforms such as Hootsuite have integrated analytical tools that let you see how your tweets are being viewed and from where. New Twitter analysis tools such as Tweetreach and Twitalyzer are being developed all the time. Facebook insights give a demographic breakdown and show your most popular posts. Different groups use social media in different ways and on different platforms, so it’s really worth doing your research. Know who your audience are, choose the best tools to reach them and be clear about what you trying to say or do. Calls to action (“register here for…”, “send us your…” “tell us your…”) usually work better than general information messages Check out what your target community is doing and where they are talking to each other. Use the site analytics for your existing digital work to find out where they come from and what information they consume and use this to choose the best social media channel. Find examples in your field that you would like to emulate and work out what makes them successful and how you can translate that to your activity. 31 million people in the UK have internet, 89% have a mobile phone and 42% of those are smartphones. Therefore digital communication has to be a core element of our communication here at the London rep. Our Facebook insights show that our major demographic (65% of our users) is the 18-34 age-group, so we tend to orient what we do to this group. Our most popular items tend to be those focussing on careers and specific issues for students and young people.

 3. There’s more to social media than Twitter and Facebook

 All the talk at the moment is of Twitter and Facebook, but there’s more to social media than those two platforms, important though they are. Social media is at its heart about connecting people and this can be done in many ways. Having a Flickr account for your photos (preferably with a Creative Commons license so people can actually use them!) and YouTube/DailyMotion for your videos is one thing. You can make collaborative maps using Google Maps. You can highlight your expertise on a particular issue in Quora. You can make your presentations public and invite people to comment on them. You can use LinkedIn to find professionals interested in your issue. Of course all of these feed into and off each other – you can tweet your answers to Quora questions, repost your blog entry on Facebook and so on.

 So, if you want to stick your toe in the social media pond, you could do worse than consider Jim Benson’s 10 principles of social media. I’m off to tweet the link to his blogpost…!

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Filed under Digital/social media, EC in UK

The David and Maros show

One of the things we do a lot of in this office, and more so since the new government came into power, is talking to people about what they could expect from a career working for an EU organisation. I’ve written about some recent events such as the FCO’s launch event in October last year, our Q&A webchat on the Guardian site, the language careers event in June 2010, and a week of several events in March. Last week I was filmed for a site that the FCO are creating and will be launched in early February – I’ll blog about that when it goes live. Now Boris Johnson’s economics adviser, who I knew when he was a correspondent in Brussels, plows in to the debate with a piece in City AM. And then I come across this from the Europe Minister and European Commissioner Sefcovic, which I do like. 

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