Category Archives: EC in UK

Playing the simulation game

In September of this year, I attended a workshop organised by UACES/BACES on ‘Teaching and Learning with Impact’, looking at how European studies courses could be building in elements that enhance the employability of their students. Or put more simply, how will doing European studies help me get a job?

At the time I mentioned the Mock Council that we do every year with sixth formers and wondered aloud whether this might be an activity that could be adapted for universities. A little while later I got a call from John FitzGibbon who had attended the workshop, picking me up on the idea and suggesting trying it out at his university, Canterbury Christ Church.

So today I got up way earlier than usual to get a train to Canterbury. The first session was a briefing session for interested students taking part in the simulation, at which I was also invited to talk about about what it is like working for the EU. I then spoke to another group about the same thing. Then, after lunch in the staff canteen with John and his colleagues, it was into the simulation exercise.

John had decided to use the EU budget as the subject for the debate. It’s one that works well because it highlights just how many different opinions there are that have to be reconciled to reach an agreement, depending on whether you are a net recipient or contributor, how agricultural your economy is, how global your outlook, your domestic economic or political situation. And it’s decided under unanimity! The pre-event banter on Twitter had been very competitive, so I stressed that this wasn’t an exercise where there would be a winner, but that we were trying to find an agreement that we could all live with.

I was very impressed with the way the students flung themselves into it. They had clearly done the research about the countries they were allocated and played their roles with conviction. I dare to hope that it brought home to them in a concrete way the complexity of negotiations among 28 very different countries. Quite apart from providing a different perspective on their learning about the EU, I think it will also have allowed them to demonstrate some of the skills that employers will be looking for – negotiation, communication, problem-solving and the difficult art of compromising. Finland cannot go unmentioned for their ability to come in with a suggestion that moved the discussion forward every time it seemed to hit a stalemate! There was lots of tweeting going on, using the hashtag #eusimgame if you’re interested in taking a look. I’ll just give you a flavour…

 

 

So as a pilot, I think it went quite well, even though it couldn’t ever be totally satisfactory, in dealing with level of detail and of course preparation time and time for the exercise to take place. I’m looking forward to hearing what comes up in the feedback session next week. My first reaction, and I think that of John as well, was that this was a valuable practical exercise for the students. I hope this is something we can work on recreating in other European Studies departments.

A European tour of London

Someone has contacted our office and asked for some ideas of European-themed monuments etc to visit with his class when they come on a trip to London in February. I posted about it on Facebook and Twitter and got a few ideas. Luckily, just at that point our work servers crashed, so that gave me some time to do a bit of digging about and put the ideas together on a Google map.

So here it is and if you have any other suggestions, particularly quirky ones like the Savoy entry, then please leave a comment and I’ll update the map.

Is eBay a force for good?

I took part in the @EurVoice Twitter event yesterday, which was a most enjoyable and interesting experience. One question that came up was ‘is eBay a force for good’ and I replied that the answer to that was too complex for 140 characters, but that I would try to blog on it. So here we go.

We’re at a moment of major change at the moment. Our ways of working, communicating, interacting are changing almost on a daily basis. Even in the 6 years since I did the Eisenhower Fellowship, communication technologies have been revolutionised by smartphones and tablets. Traditional media is being disrupted by the ability of people to talk to each other directly. The upshot of this is that there is a lot of focus on tools and platforms, and moral values are ascribed to them.

My position is that these tools and platforms are morally neutral. They are only as good or bad as the people that use them and own them. Twitter may have a lot of people using it to be horrendously sexist and misogynist, but that’s because those people are those things. Twitter is also used by the victims to bring this behaviour into the daylight, rather than hiding in the shadows as it has done for years. This isn’t even about technology. A stick can be used to help an injured person walk, or to bash someone over the head. It’s about the user, not the tool.

This is of course a generalisation – there are some tools that are specifically designed to harm and should be dealt with in that light (guns, say, or spyware). And of course the people that run the tools and platforms have their own obligations – to be open with us about what they do with our information, to make sure that they put rules in place to limit abuses, to respect the laws that apply to normal behaviour on their platforms.

So is eBay a force for good? If used by good people to do good things, of course. Is it inherently a force for good? No. But neither is it inherently a force for bad.

Get it off your chest

I am currently working on an event to be held in February of next year called a Citizens’ Dialogue. Vice-President Reding will hold a ‘town-hall’ style debate, at which she will answer questions people have about EU action in three areas – responding to the economic crisis, your EU rights and the EU of the future. In order to make the process as inclusive as possible, we have launched an online dialogue, in association with Delib and Democratic Society, for people to submit concrete ideas. Two themes are live at the moment and the third will go live on 16 December.

This is a chance to make your voice heard. We can’t guarantee that everything suggested will happen. But this is a way of feeding ideas in that will be put in front of the people that are making the decisions.

How communicating on EU issues looks from my little corner of the world

I was in Brussels on 16 and 17 October as I had been asked to talk at a workshop on the reputation of the EU institutions at the annual EuroPCom conference, organised by the Committee of the Region. For once I didn’t do a presentation full of zooming and pictures, but just talked. Maybe I’ve been doing too many events with academics… Anyway, if you’re interested, here are my speaking notes.

The panel also had Simona Guerra of Leicester University, who researches Euroscepticism, Melanie McCluskey, a reputation expert, Sixtine Bougues of the European Commission’s DG for Communication and Sjerp Van der Vaart of the European Parliament’s Information Office in Belgium (latter two have not yet submitted their presentations/speaking notes for distribution.) The whole thing was expertly chaired by Rob Heirbaut of the Flemish broadcaster VRT.

In terms of the other workshops, I very much enjoyed watching Andy Williamson talk about online communication. All the videos and presentations that the organisers have collated so far are available on their website.

[Update, 25 November 2013]: The full proceedings are now available as a download: EuroPCom_Proceedings

How do I find out about the EU?

A point that I’ve heard since I started working at the Representation, and one that came up again today in the wake of #thespeech is along these lines:

I don’t know much about the EU and I don’t know where to go to find out.

 

So here’s my selection of EU Starters for Ten:

I would start with Helen Wallace’s run-down on the 40 years of membership in the Journal of Contemporary European Research. It has a useful timeline, rounds up the main areas of narrative and even includes a comparative table of public opinion since 1973.

I then suggest listening to Europe’s Choice, a short series by Allan Little and Jane Beresford on Radio 4 that looked at the elements contributing to the Euro’s current situation.

My next point of call would be the Charlemagne blog at the Economist, in all of his recent incarnations (he’s like Doctor Who, you know, and regenerates every few years). Certainly the EU specific articles are knowledgable and interesting, and those on other European countries can give useful context that is sometimes missing in the debate here.

Suggestions made by others included:

State of the Union by Anand Menon

Europe in 12 lessons (written by Pascal Fontaine and published by the European Union Publications Office)

I’d be interested to know what others would put forward as a good place for an interested newcomer to start finding out about the EU. If you have a suggestion, please leave a comment.

 

Back to reality

Wasn’t it wonderful? This great British summer of sport and culture and more? I played my own very small part in it, as a volunteer during the Olympics. I didn’t get to stand with a big pink foam hand – rather I was in the Athletes’ Village, helping with transport information.

But now it’s over and we have to get back to normality. We’ve got a lot coming up including the European Day of Languages, the Mock Council simulation day (and here’s an interesting paper on the value of simulations as a teaching aid) and Single Market Week, marking 20 years of the single market.

12-16 November is Internet Week Europe, a festival of digitalness around the Lovie awards which recognise the best of the web in English, French, Spanish, German and Italian. This isn’t organised by the Commission or EU, but obviously the idea of the multilingual web is interesting and so I thought it would be good to do European Multilingual Blogging Day 2012 in association with them. Hopefully it’ll be the biggest and best yet! If you’re interested in taking part, sign-up with the form, so that I can curate all the different entries. On 14 November, write your blog in a different language, or get a guest blogger in to do so. Write about whatever you want, though if you’re not sure where to start, maybe something about what languages mean to you might be a good place to start. I hope we’ll get lots of you taking part!

A good day

My friends will know that I’ve been having a bit of a hard time recently and am feeling quite unsettled about my life. Whether it’s chicken or egg, I don’t know, but this feeling of unease has also applied to my job. Maybe it’s unsurprising given I have worked for the Commission for 18 years. But then sometimes a day comes along that makes you think, my job rocks. Not only is it interesting and varied and intellectually challenging, but I am also part of something that is actually helping people and changing attitudes. And that day was yesterday.

It all started at Arsenal Emirates Stadium, where the kids involved in the Arsenal Double Club Olympic Song, Together in the Language of Sport, were putting together the video. The Double Club is a project that we have been involved in for several years, which uses football to help kids engage with foreign languages. Working with the Goethe Institut in particular, a song was written and schools were invited to take part in a competition where they wrote verses along the Olympic theme in 5 different languages (Spanish, French, Italian, German and Greek) and an English chorus. They recorded the song, and then yesterday 350 kids came to Arsenal to do the video. It was lovely seeing all these kids singing with great gusto in different languages. As a language junkie, I also loved learning the chorus in British Sign Language. Whenever I meet a deaf person now I’ll be able to have a great conversation, as long as it involves the phrases “there’s no losing, only winning” and “all together in the language of sport”. Here’s a brief taster of the video, which will be released officially on 18 July. Be warned – the song is a complete earworm that you’ll be humming for the rest of the day.

Then that evening I headed to the Royal Opera House for an event the like of which I’m sure that august venue has never seen. It was called With1voice and was a one-night festival with performers who are or have been homeless. There were two rooms, one more acoustic, with individual performers, poets, films and then a mainstage, with bands, choirs and theatre groups. It all came to a head with Streetwise Opera blasting out O Sole Mio. It was an astonishing evening, and really challenged my preconceptions of homelessness. It really made me realise that but for a few quirks of fate, that could be me, you, anyone. I think of all the acts I saw, the one that affected me most was Veteran Voices, based in Aldershot. Two of the former soldiers read poems they had written. They weren’t the greatest poetry ever written (and I know, because I write bad poetry myself), but these quite buttoned-up men, trained to be emotionless and direct, writing about what has happened to them in a very matter-of-fact way, but with the pain and hurt leaking out of the seams was so very moving. How has it come to this, that men who offered their lives to protect us are living in sheltered accommodation?

This was part of the London 2012 festival/Cultural Olympiad and the first time that homeless people have had a voice during the Olympics. There’s a petition to sign, if you’d like it to be a regular part. And an article in the Society Guardian to get another point of view of the night.

Some of the acts and films showcased:

Jason Hinchey

The Homeless World Cup

 

Erasmus at 25

Erasmus at 25

Celebrating 25 years of European student mobility

Storified by Antonia Mochan · Fri, May 18 2012 09:42:56

Almost exactly 20 eyars ago, I got on a ferry and headed off to the Netherlands to spend 4 months at the University of Leiden on an Erasmus exchange. I had classes there with Hungarians, Belgians, Spaniards, Danes, Americans and those are just the ones I can remember. Yesterday the British Council, the UK national agency for the Erasmus programme, held a birthday party to celebrate this landmark and highlight the importance of the programme.
25th-anniversary – british coucnil- erasmusNearly three million students from across Europe have benefited from a study period or work placement abroad since the creation of the Er…
Love the typo! We started with Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council, who highlighted the importance of global education for UK prosperity.
This is so true: "The Erasmus generation is the generation which will give us a competitive edge." Martin DavidsonLizzie Fane
He also gave us the numbers for the programme:
925 in first year, more than 12000 last year, 200k brits over life. better degrees, career prospects, lifetime earnings. #erasmus25Antonia Mochan
But it wasn’t all about dwelling on success, but looking to the future
davidson: challenge is building for the future. get business on board. help students understand the benefits. #erasmus25Antonia Mochan
Then David Willetts, the Universities Minister spoke and it was good to hear a government minister extolling the virtues of a European programme.
Willetts. #erasmus25 changing lives, opening minds. unis benefit from stronger links overseas. businesses value knowledge of other culturesAntonia Mochan
He also announced that it had been agreed to fund a 15% fee waiver for students studying abroad during their degree
BIS media information for journalists and the press – Press Releases – Report recommends measures to support and increase outward UK student mobility – BISThe report by Professor Colin Riordan, Chair of the UK HE International Unit, looks at the incentives and obstacles to students studying …
Then it was over to participants. Annette Strauss of the University of Surrey had been involved from early on and spoke a bit about the background, including the difficulties of multi-country partnerships in the days before email :) She also made a point that I think we need to pick up on in the representation
Strauss: UK could make more use of staff exchanges. #erasmus25Antonia Mochan
Any thoughts about how to do so are very welcome!

Next up was Lizzie Fane of Third Year Abroad.

Make the most of your time away with our latest info, help and advice for year abroad students… – Third Year AbroadThe complete resource for university students before, during and after their year abroad, including case studies, language help, Erasmus …
If anyone at the #erasmus25 event wants to read the graduate career case studies I mentioned, check out http://www.thirdyearabroad.com/graduates :)Lizzie Fane
Angela Pearce was an alumna from the very first year and talked about coach travel, phone cards and waiting for letter from home, which brought back some memories!

Julia Kennedy from Robert Gordon University spoke about the value of the staff exchanges, telling the story of an academic who told his students not to do Erasmus as it was bad for their degrees. Then he did a staff exchange and, like Saul on the road to Damascus, everything changed and now he is one of the biggest fans in the university.

Last of the alumni was Muhammed Abbas Abdulla from Queen Mary University
muhammed abbas abdulla, recent alum. split Germany & Spain. Don’t prepare, let it happen. live daily life, just somewhere else #erasmus25Antonia Mochan
Last up was Steven Beswick of Microsoft.
Beswick: intl experience vital to showing 6 core attributes microsoft looks for eg honesty, integrity, self-awareness, openness #erasmus25Antonia Mochan
He told the recent story of two candidates, one with a first from Oxford , the other with a 2:1 from non-Oxbridge. But the skills that the non-Oxbridge candidate had, enhanced by their Erasmus experience, swung them the job.

Speeches over, we then got on with the fun bit – eating the cake!

Oh wow – check out Erasmus’s 25th birthday cake!!! http://instagr.am/p/Kuq01MlLtR/Lizzie Fane

Completing the move. Almost.

So I now seem to have managed to do an almost complete import of the old blog onto this platform, which is great. Some images seem not to have made the move, but I’m not sure it’s worth fixing that until I need to on a case-by-case basis. So now it feels like the boxes are unpacked and I can enjoy the new place.

I was pleasantly surprised to be mentioned in Ron Patz’s post today about women Euro-bloggers, as I don’t write half as much as I a) used to and b) would like to. Some of a) is about the fact that I changed job, and also that we got better at a Rep level – the creation of the Euromyths blog on the Rep website replaced the subject that dominated my early posts. Twitter is a better place for bringing people’s attention to interesting links or items. And my focus is much less political these days – I’m dealing with schools and information networks and things like that, not the stories dominating the headlines. Which is not to say that what I do now is not important – on the contrary, I think it’s importance is undervalued (though I guess I would say that, wouldn’t I!). So I will continue to write about what I do when I can and hopefully that will be interesting to at least some of you out there.

So what am I doing? The next thing that I’m quite excited about is our Spring Online day next Friday. As part of the Digital Unite Spring Online campaign and taking into account this year’s focus on Active Ageing, we are going to host a digital clinic here in Europe House with about 50 older people from across London. Volunteers from this office and the Department of Work and Pensions will help them with their digital queries from sending a text message to setting up a skype account. We’ll have Kindles, iPads and Wiis to demonstrate. The whole thing should be useful and fun and I’m really looking forward to it!