Category Archives: EC in UK

A busy few weeks

Over the last few weeks I feel I have hardly had a chance to draw breath and though at various times I’ve thought “I’ll blog about that”, events always passed me by. I’ve got a bit of time now at the end of the last day before I head off on a couple of weeks leave, so I’ll try to remember some of the points I was going to make.

I was in Brussels for a few days at the start of what will be known as the March Marathon, and one of the reasons was to do a workshop (well, 2, but they were the same) on using social media for Europe Direct Information Centres. While they receive some funding from the Commission for their information activities, they are  individual organisations, and their form ranges from NGOs or Community interest companies, to library services or regional government. So their needs vary and their flexibility to act independently does too. I did a presentation, then asked Europe Direct Leeds to show what they do, then gave them some time to discuss in small groups, share their own experiences, then a few of those in the room showed what they were doing. It was interesting to see how differently they were using the same tools, but there were enough ideas to share, and I’ve already nicked one from Europe Direct Ulm, using the Timeline feature on Facebook to show EU milestones. I was a bit worried about the pedagogical side of running a workshop, but the feedback has been good, so I think I got away with it :)

I then headed back to the UK to do a careers talk at Leicester University. This was a repeat invite (always a compliment to be asked back) and this time instead of just the Modern Languages Department, it was advertised across the university. There were about 60 students there I think and after my presentation, there were lots of lively questions. I’m always slightly perplexed at these events by the weight of interest among the students on internships, rather than the full-time, long-term career prospects offered by applying for the concours. I wonder why that is. It could be that they aren’t interested in the EU as a long-term career, but see EU knowledge as important for other things. Or it could be that they are so fixated on internships as a route into work they miss the turning for the work itself. Frankly it feels a bit more like the latter, though I’d be happy to be corrected on that.

The next day was a Saturday and just to add to the madness of those few weeks, it was the second of my two Open University tutorials. I’ve enjoyed the creative writing course, but I don’t think you’ll be reading my name in the Booker Prize longlist any time soon…

Then on the Sunday it was off to Manchester for the Apeldoorn conference, which brings together Dutch and UK people from across business and society. The theme this time was Higher Education at the Heart of Growth and we had some excellent speakers, including the Universities Minister, David Willetts. Apeldoorn is really great for the people you meet, on your own “side” as much as from over the North Sea, with some really useful contacts made for the future. I also had a #technologywin: with the purchase of one little VGA adaptor I was able to present the conclusions of the workshop for which I was rapporteur direct from my iPad. Just a further example of how my iPad has become the kernel of a mobile office as far as I’m concerned.

The day after I got back from Manchester it was off to Birmingham for the Education Show. Our stall was pretty mobbed, with the Passport to the European Union and Languages Take You Further publications particularly popular. Thousands of people passed through our stall over the three days, and not one was critical or hostile in any way, in fact they were on the whole delighted with the support, particularly for the languages. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the introduction of languages in primary schools, it seems pretty clear that there are many teachers who feel a bit lost and are glad to have ideas of what to do. Obviously we provide pretty bland material, click the links to see them for yourself, and it’s completely up to teachers how they want to use them in their classrooms.

I’ve been back in London since then, but out at some really interesting events. I Storified the Westminster Media Forum event on press regulation. I chaired a fascinating afternoon linked to the European Year of Active Ageing, in which the Greater London Forum for Older People got about 120 of their members together to hear about the cooperation that Enfield over-50s Forum has been doing with twin towns in France and Germany. I was roped in the afternoon before to chair the event as the chair dropped out, and I’m very glad I did, as it was fascinating. One thing that came out very clearly was the strength of attachment to the Freedom Pass. Many older people see it as a lifeline, getting them out of the house and allowing them to have a social life, thereby keeping them healthy both physically and mentally. Mess with it at your peril, Mayor of London, whoever you end up being.

The final noteworthy events took place on the same day. I was representing the office at the British Academy event on the value of a year abroad, and you can read my tweets about it by searching the #yrabroad hashtag. There was a lot of talk about the usefulness of social media in getting students interested in a year abroad, but precious little social media going on at the event. Lizzie Fane at Third Year Abroad is an honourable exception in terms of her use of social media, but I have to admit that there was probably an age thing going on, which is as worrying in its own way. 100% of the students that took part in Lizzie’s graduate survey said their time spent abroad during their degree had been worth it, but the average age in the room of people talking about the policy aspects must have been pushing 50 plus.

While I was at the British Academy, and mainly during the lunch break, I took part in a Q&A on the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network about how charities can access EU funding. The Q&A is here and the best bits summed up here. The Guardian does these Q&As very well; I’ve previously done one on languages for careers and there was another on a similar theme this week.

Anyway, after all that and judging the UACES/ThomsonReuters Reporting Europe Prize, I think I’ve earned my two weeks away. So I’m off. Have a great Easter, everyone.

Inspirational youngsters

I was in Scotland last week, which is never a chore. I had been invited to chair the Annual Schools Debate hosted by the Europe Direct in Aberdeen. 8 teams of 13 and 14-year-olds debated whether the EU should make more use of social media to engage with young people and then the final was whether school mobility programmes should be compulsory. Congratulations to the team from Robert Gordon School who won, with a very impassioned performance. It was a competition, so someone won, but really it was about so much more. All the students displayed such poise and confidence in their debating, attributes I’m certain I didn’t possess in that quantity at their age. It was a real pleasure to be part of it. They were so polite, too: at least two teams came up afterwards to thank us for the event. So when people start going on about the youth of today, I have some really good examples to give.

After Aberdeen I went to Edinburgh, where I took part in a working group meeting of the Scottish European Resources Network. I was interested in what they do as I’m trying to think about how/whether to do something for the whole UK EU information scene. To please fill out/pass on the survey on this, if you haven’t already.

Reporting Europe 2012

Nominations are open for the UACES – Thomson Reuters Reporting Europe Prize 2012. There have been some interesting winners in the few years I’ve been going along. It’s very far from a hagiographic prize, as a brief glimpse at some of the former winners will show. I’m very honoured to have been invited to sit on the jury this year, so I won’t be doing any nominating this time. But in a year when we’ve seen European Union issues covered to an unprecedented extent, I’m sure there will be lots for the jury to get their teeth into.

Getting in the swing of the EU

I was quite busy on Friday and didn’t get the chance to blog about the Thursday event we organised with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and British Council. 58 (well 57 because 1 went astray) sixth formers came to Lancaster House to take part in a role-playing exercise based on the EU’s decision-making body the Council of Ministers. The schools all played a particular EU Member State, or the Commission or the Secretariat-General of the Council. They were sent briefing papers a few weeks before the event and came to Lancaster House on Thursday ready to debate the issues from the point of view of the country they were assigned. This time, for the first year, we had interpretation as well, giving a real sense of the multilingualism of the real Council. Not only did some of the speakers from the organisers speak in French and German, but quite a few of the students did too: the “French” representative in one of the working groups even taking verisimilitude so far she spoke French every time she took the floor!

There’s a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/EUMockCouncil and some videos on YouTube as well, with students and teachers talking about their experience.

Teachers talk about the day

The Netherlands talks about her day

It was a fabulous day. There was an incredible buzz from the beginning, and the students really got into their roles. I was following the working group on the Arab Spring and it got very passionate! There’s lots of talk about young people being disengaged from the Political process, but on the evidence of Thursday, that isn’t the case. Maybe it’s about them feeling involved. Quite apart from what they learn in terms of the EU decision-making process, several of the teachers mentioned how important it was for developing students’ confidence. Maybe none of them are looking for careers in politics or administration, but learning about engaging with people, defending a point of view and talking in front of people are all valuable skills for life.

The costs of regulation

Came across an interesting article in today’s NY Times on whether product regulation is a cost to business. Some choice excerpts:

Unfortunately, they ignore a vital point: health and safety agencies rarely impose new costs on society when we issue safety regulations. We simply re-allocate who pays the costs.

Anyone who insists that regulations necessarily impose new costs on society shouldn’t be taken seriously. The costs are already there, in the form of deaths and injuries — and are often as much of a drag on our economy as any safety rule. So the real issue is who should bear the costs.

Not all regulation is bad, nor is it always more costly. And one of the ways to ensure that our safety rules are cost-effective is to use thoughtful cost-benefit analysis.

HT to Stefano Soro for finding the article.

You can’t argue with these people

Our official office Twitter account has attracted some attention from people who don’t like the EU. Fair enough. However, I’m not going to engage with this level of debate:

@EUlondonrep I hate Barrosso! Who voted for the cunt? Answer:No one! How can we vote the cunt out? Answer: We can’t! EU = fascist state

@EUlondonrep = voice of the occupier. We will never surrender, never forgive and we will never forget. Fuck off, you’re not welcome here.

@EUlondonrep @derekvaughan we will never accept the occupation of Britain by EU SCUM.We will NEVER forgive, NEVER forget and NEVER surrender

@EUlondonrep we will never accept the occupation of Britain by EU SCUM. We will NEVER forgive, NEVER forget and we will NEVER surrender

Can’t help thinking someone needs a holiday…

The EU is not banning kids from blowing up balloons

Can I point out a few things?

1) The EU rules can regulate how things are put on the market, but not how they are used in the home. So they recommend supervision for use of balloons etc that children could choke on, but don’t ban children from using them.

2) 25000 British kids are taken to A&E every year after choking on something. I think doing something to try to reduce those numbers is to be commended.

3) The US has similar rules on toys that constitute a choking hazard.

4) There is no change in the rules – this requirement has existed since 1988.

Blogguer dans une autre langue

Notre jour du blogging multilingue est là, et comme je suis encore une fois en voyage, j’ai invité mon collègue traducteur John d’écrire quelque-chose cette année. Voilà sa contribution, et vous trouverez aussi des autres contributions dans les commentaires des postes anterieurs.

I ddathlu’r Diwrnod Ewropeaidd ar gyfer Ieithoedd, rydym yn gobeithio bydd pobol o bob cwr Ewrop a thu hwnt yn cymryd rhan heddiw mewn yr ail Diwrnod Blogio Amlieithog. Fel Cymro, rhaid i mi ddechrau fy mlog i yn y Gymraeg. Ond mae’n rhaid cyfaddef nid ydywf wedi ysgrifennu llawer yn y Gymraeg esr gadael ysgol – digon o siarad wrth gwrs on dim llawer o ysgrifennu, felly ymddiheuraf nawr am unrhyw camgymeridadau. Yn ystod y deunaw blynedd diwethaf, rydw i wedi cael y cyfle i ddysgu sawl iaith yn y prifysgol a trwy fy ngwaith i fel cyfieithydd (yn gwiethio mewn i Saesneg a nid Cymraeg), ond pan roeddwn i yn byw ar y cyfandir, doedd dim teimlad yn debyg i gyrraedd adre a slipio nol mewn i’r Gymraeg a clywed yr hen iaith yn cael ei siarad o amgylch y dre. Gyda’r Cymraeg a’r Cymry mae fy nghalon wedi bod erioed.

Yo diría que mi gran aventura con el castellano comenzó cuando llegué a España por primera vez como estudiante Erasmus en los años noventa y, lamentablemente, dejé atrás a mi primera lengua extranjera, el francés. La lengua francesa llegó a ser la amante desdeñada por la que sigo sintiendo algo pero no sé exactamente qué: una mezcla de vergüenza, culpa y añoranza, por lo que fue y por lo que podría haber sido. Además, a través de mi historia con la lengua de Cervantes, Neruda, Almodóvar y Shakira, he conocido, flirteado y lo he pasado bien con el catalán y el portugués, pero siempre permanecí fiel a la lengua española, una lengua encantadora, con su jota, su erre y su zeta, tan parecidas a los sonidos de las letras ‘ch’ ‘r’ y ‘th’ en galés, pero capaces de producir palabras como juerga, corazón y zorro.

Moja relacja z językiem polskim przypomina natomiast zaaranżowane małżeństwo. Kiedy zacząłem pracować jako tłumacz w Komisji Europejskiej w kwietniu 2005, było to krótko po rozszerzeniu UE na wschód i zachęcano wszystkich tłumaczy w departamencie angielskim do uczenia się języków „nowych” krajów. Co za różnica, czy to język polski, czeski, słoweński czy węgierski? Wydawało mi się, że wszystkie są bardzo trudne. Mimo że nie potrafiłem zliczyć do pięciu, kiedy moje polskie koleżanki próbowały nauczyć mnie liczyć do dziesięciu – wymowa polska była niewiarygodnie trudna w prównaniu z językami romańskimi – za namową polskich kolegów i koleżanek, czy może raczej swatów i swatek, wybrałem polski. Moja relacja z językiem polskim to walka. Przypadki i deklinacja? To z pewnością potencjalne przyczyny rozwodu! Teraz mogę powiedzieć, że to co czuję to prawie miłość, nie wiem jednak czy to uczucie jest odwzajemnione. Język polski, podobnie jak Polki, które znam, jest bardzo wymagający! Mogę przynajmniej powiedzieć, że moja relacja z językiem polskim jest prostsza niż moja relacja z językiem litewskim – ta ostatnia to prawdziwy tragiczny romans! Ale to temat innego blogu.

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?

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.