Category Archives: The General Public

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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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

Smalltown girl

A big thanks to the members of Abingdon European Society who welcomed me so warmly to their meeting on Saturday. I was there at their request to talk about recent developments in the European Union. I had quite a moment when the chairwoman introduced me saying I would talk for “about an hour”, knowing that I had a very short slideshow and a tough challenge to make the EU an interesting topic for as long as it would take to show that, never mind an hour! I already felt I was on a losing wicket, being up against the final match of the Six Nations and a concert of Russian music in the nearby church. But it seemed to go very well. I kept the presentation very light – no-one’s looking for an in-depth exposé of the co-decision procedure on a Saturday night – and there was a good range of questions. A bit of a discussion got going on the whole issue of measuring the wealth and state of a nation: our shorthand is “Beyond GDP“. Maybe they should consider having a separate meeting on that, as it really is a fascinating issue. A lot of interest in the whole situation regarding language-learning in the UK and its knock-on effect on UK influence in the European institutions, as Brits are on the whole lacking the required language skills to get in. Several people said that Britons are at a disadvantage: they don’t need to learn foreign languages as so many people speak English. That argument is debatable: Cardiff Business School research suggests that the UK loses £9 billion of business a year due to our poor language skills. The other problem we face here is that people who speak languages tend to study languages – what we are lacking are the multilingual lawyers, scientists and administrators that come out of other countries’ education systems.

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You Oughta Know

Day 2 of the European Citizens Consultation. They’re all wandering around the room at the moment discussing the various ideas that have come out. What I find encouraging and at the same time dispiriting is the thirst for information and the lack of access to it. The people here are a cross-section of the UK public and even the ones that are most sceptical (in the true sense of the word) about the EU are open to knowing more. One of the proposals being worked on was a freephone number to give advice about the EU. I stepped in and told them that this already existed. They were all suprised. I then went onto the UK government’s website for the public direct.gov.uk – no mention of it or even the European Union. Went to the contacts page. I had links to pages of devolved government, local councils, central government departments – again, no mention of the European Union at all. How can British people be expected to engage with an organisation that their government doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge as part of governance?

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Ask

I’m at the London event of the European Citizens Consultation today, filling in at the last minute because one of their “experts” dropped out at the last minute. It’s been a great event. You have 100 randomly selected Brits in a room, talking about what they want the EU to do. You might expect a certain amount of cynicism about the process, or hostility to the EU doing anything at all. But that really isn’t the case. One of the early suggestions was “join the eruo”! The atmosphere has been really constructive, and my biggest hope is that the people to whom this is directed, the European Commission and Parliament, take the outcomes as seriously as the people producing them.

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Calling all bloggers

Are you writing about European issues, or interested in doing so? The European Journalism Centre is running a competition to get 3 bloggers from each EU Member State to write during the European election campaign. Each participant will post at least once a month (February 1 – June 9, 2009) on the TH!NK ABOUT IT Elections 2009 blogsite. In February and March, any European-related topic is welcome and from April-June the theme is the European Elections 2009 (issues, candidates, parties, EP, national views on the elections). The entries will be assessed for journalistic quality and prizes will be given at the end of the campaign. If you’re interested in taking part, you can register on the think about it site.

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Filed under European elections 2009, The General Public

I’ve got a brand-new combine harvester

and European rules don’t say anything about whether it can be used in the wet. You have the UK government to thank for the rules reported in the Yorkshire Post on 23 October that farmers are not allowed to use their combine harvesters in waterlogged fields. We leave those sort of decisions to Member States. Which makes sense if you think about it – wet fields must be a much bigger issue here than in southern Spain…unfortunately.

Not that we can complain about the weather at the moment, it’s my favourite – cold and sunny and crisp. Guess it’s all those years in Finland affecting me.

So glad it’s the weekend, though I did enjoy last night – it was the 120th anniversary of the Foreign Press Association and 40th anniversary of the Association of European Journalists, and they had a reception at the FPA’s headquarters in Carlton House Terrace, which used to be Gladstone’s house. I met some great people and was also able to say hello to Brian Hanrahan, who interviewed my parents last year. He remembered them well, and also how much he loved that part of the world. I just watched the interview again and it’s amazing to see how much the garden has changed in just a year.

Looking forward to seeing my brother over the weekend and maybe also catching up with my friend Hannah from Brussels. If you’re in town, come along to the Language Show, where I’ll be manning the stall for a spell on Saturday.

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Filed under Euromyths, Living in London, Media, Personal, The General Public