Wednesday, 30 November 2011

How to work for the EU institutions? A guide to the selection process of EU officials

Are you considering participating in the concourse at the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) but you feel like you need a map? How to become an official? When to apply? How to prepare? And what are your options? This week, Lucia Mrazova talked to Diana Van Altena, Communication officer at the EPSO, to make all of this clear for you.

European Personnel Selection Office organises a wide range of open competitions every year. What is its role in the selection process?

We run open competitions, selection processes for contractor staff, and we publish information on temporary vacancies (specific profiles for agencies), which have their own selection procedure. EPSO's main task is to organise open competitions. The European institutions select officials through open competition to ensure that only the very best are recruited. The competitions measure competencies through a series of tests and assessment exercises. For applicants it all starts when the Notice of Competition is published in the Official Journal of the European Union, and from that day you can start your online application. Find it on the EPSO's website.

The Notice of Competition contains full details of the profile, eligibility criteria, selection criteria and the procedure. It is based on the personnel planning and needs of the Institutions. EPSO is in charge of organising the complete selection procedure and delivering the 'reserve list': a database of successful candidates fitting the profiles described in the notice. The EU institutions then go to that list and recruit people when needed.

People used to study really hard to prepare for the EPSO exams. Is that still the case? Did anything change?

You still can prepare for the tests and exercises, but you don't have to study the EU facts any more. Since 2010 EPSO's competitions are based on competency rather than hard facts on the EU. I will give you an example of what the selection procedure for a Graduate profile (AD5, bachelor diploma, no professional experience required) that fits a trainee profile in general: All competitions contain two stages. In the first stage, after submitting your online application, you will be invited to book a slot for a series of computer-based multiple-choice tests to assess your reasoning and situational judgment skills. These tests will be held in a testing centre in a city of your choice, depending on your availability.

Your reasoning skills - verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning – will be tested in your first language. Your situational judgment skills will be tested in your second language (English, French or German). Candidates who obtain the highest marks in these tests and satisfy the eligibility conditions are invited to the 2nd stage of the selection procedure: A day at our assessment centre in Brussels. We invite three times the number of successful candidates needed for a field. The competencies are tested by means of a group exercise, a structured interview, presentation, and a case study in your second language.

The top-scoring candidates in the Assessment Phase will be added to a database of successful candidates, the reserve list.

There are several ways to become an EU official. Could you explain the main differences in the selection process, and how to distinguish between open competitions, contractual agents and temporary jobs?

An open competition selects personnel for permanent contracts. The contractual agent selection procedure has similarities to the 'open competition' structure. You have has to pass both a reasoning tests in your first language (verbal, numerical and abstract) and a competency test (multiple choice) in your second language. The tests assess your specific knowledge for a profile and the level of the function group applicable. There is no assessment centre involved. Contractual staff selection procedures involve different types of contracts.

A Third type, the selection of temporary agents, is for a fixed term contract. This type really depends on what an institution or an agency is looking for, which is most often a very specific profile. Within this process, the application is addressed directly to the organisation involved.

The rumour has it that if you do not study for exams for several months, you might as well forget it. Are they that difficult? How much time do you need to prepare and what is the best way to prepare for it? 

On our website we have several sample tests that will give you an idea of the level of difficulty. Try for example the interactive test for the administrators profile. The most important is to practice on your timing. It is hard to say if and how much time you need to prepare, it is very individual. You have to make yourself familiar with the types of questions that we ask, practice them, time them and not get stressed about it.

If you don't practice the mathematical questions for example, you could end up just staring at a question and go blank. You might have had the same type of question at university or even in high school but you have simply forgotten how to answer it. That would be a pitty.

Abstract reasoning, numerical and verbal tests, are very common in selection procedures; you can find examples of these online. On our website you can also find links to permanent representations offering training courses.

Do you think that stagiaires have an advantage when it comes to the selection procedure by EPSO? 

No, I don't think so. Everybody is equal in the testing of competences. 

What are the best options for trainees right now? Is there any competition trainees can apply for?

The best thing you can do today is to join EU Careers on Facebook. It’s the easiest way to keep up to date with all the open competitions and contractual staff selection procedures published.

In March 2012 we will have the Generalist AD 5/7 competition that is very likely the best fit for trainees. You might think that it still a bit far away, but it’s not. Rather it gives you the opportunity to start practicing now. Another opportunity is to bookmark the page of temporary vacancies - you never know if there is something that might fit your profile.

Current open competitions on EPSO's website are a competition for secretaries (AST1) with certain languages preferences and an AST 3 competition for Finance & Accounting, Communication and Project, programme and contract management. I would advise you only to apply to these competitions if you really meet the eligibility criteria for these profiles.

By Lucia Mrázová

Useful links:

MEP Awards 2011: The night when we almost forgot

In a time of crisis the MEP Awards 2011 creates the perfect atmosphere to let loose and enjoy; yet no one has forgotten the challenges that lurk just beneath the surface.

One of the latest popular radio tunes blasts out of the loud speakers and the audience cheers as the Polish MEP Róża Thun gets up to accept her award. She received it in the Internal Market and Consumer Affairs category. She seems genuinely happy and surprised to win: "I'm wondering why you gave me this award?" she asks the audience – most of them MEP's who have all voted online for the candidate they thought best deserves to win. "If you wanted to give me more energy," Mrs. Thun says "this really gives me a kick."
No crisis at the MEP Awards 2011 - at least not at first glance

The Polish MEP is just one out of 16 MEPs who will be announced as the winners of an MEP Award 2011 within the next few hours. On this Tuesday evening in late November some 300 people have gathered in a hotel in Brussels, not far from the European Parliament, to hail a number of MEPs for their extraordinary work in 2011.

It's the seventh time the MEP Award is organised and it seems like an appreciated opportunity for the MEPs to get together and have a good night. The atmosphere is relaxed, the guests are enjoying a drink with friends and colleagues, and the day to day challenges seem to be happily out of sight and therefore out of mind; for a while. It doesn't take much, though, to realise that these people are perfectly aware that Europe is currently facing its biggest challenges yet: The euro zone is in deep crisis, widespread EU scepticism is flourishing in some member states, and unemployment levels are still on the rise – not least among the young Europeans. All these things are far from forgotten this evening.

"In the Employment Committee there is not one single meeting where we don't address the issue of job creation, especially for young people. We cannot accept to have a wasted generation, especially not when you look at the challenges the EU's facing. We need the strength and the cleverness of young people," said the MEP Award winner in the category of Employment and Social Affairs, MEP Pervenche Berès (S&D), to ESJ after the Award show.

Berés urges, just like Annemarie Bruggink did on this blog a few weeks back, all the stagiaires in the European Commission to take full advantage of their stage and make use of their network to take the next step into working life.

"The fact that you have a stage is something, but it's not the end of the story," Berés underlines.

On that note, and on an evening where the challenges in the EU were out of sight but definitely not out of mind, the ESJ is off. The MEP Awards 2011 were good and they almost gave the impression that everything is fine in the Union of Europe.

by Mads Stampe Hansen

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Chris Mackin, PR of the Stage Committee: "We are working incredibly hard to make the experience special for every stagiaire."

While introducing the new Stage Committee members, this time we will present you Chris MACKIN. Chris (24) is from Northern Ireland, studied French, Spanish and EU studies in Edinburgh and a few weeks ago he became the new PR man of the Stage Committee. Besides his traineeship at the DG Education, Audiovisual & Culture Executive Agency, as a member of the Stage Committee he has been dealing with sponsorship, events publicity and web presence, and European Stagiaires Journal will introduce him and explain, why he thinks that stagiaires at the Commission are a fantastic investment of sponsor's resources.

Chris Mackin,
playing the PR tunes at the Stage Committee
Why did you decide to stand as a candidate for the Stage Committee position? Did you have any specific or special intentions?

There were a few reasons for why I decided to stand for the Stage Committee. When I first arrived in Brussels I met a friend who had done the stage last year. I was asking her for advice on how to get the most out of the experience and she recommended standing for the Stage Committee. She warned me that it would drive me mad, but that it was worth it in the end. It was the first time I had heard of the Stage Committee and I really had no idea what it was about. I looked into it a little and thought to myself that it was not just something I could do, but something I would enjoy.

I've always enjoyed meeting new people and being at the heart of the action, which led me to believe that PR coordinator would be the position for me. I said on the day I stood for election that I wanted to try and maximise the sponsorship potential of the Stage as a whole, and that remains my intention. My main mission for the next few months is to try and show potential sponsors why stagiaires at the Commission are a fantastic investment of their resources.

It has only been a few weeks since the Stage Committee began its work, but what are the main plans in general as well as in the PR area?

I've briefly mentioned some of the issues for PR, but aside from that I am also working on revamping the website (which is fun as I've never done it before), designing posters and helping subcommittees with sponsorship opportunities.

The Stage Committee as a whole wants to make the social side of the stage something that all stagiaires will remember in years to come. We have a wide range of subcommittees and a group of dedicated people working incredibly hard to make this experience unforgettable. The SC is run by stagiaires, for stagiaires, and we want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable coming to us to ask questions as well as giving us constructive feedback if things aren't working out quite as they'd hoped.

How do you feel in your role as the PR guy, what has your work looked like so far?

It's been incredibly busy. I knew I would be spending a lot of time on SC work, but for the past two weeks I've averaged about 12-13 hours of work a day. One day two weeks ago three members of the SC didn't get out of the office until 00.30 am. In spite of this, the work is challenging and incredibly interesting. However, I do find that my work in the executive agency is being sacrificed by working on issues related to the SC. I'd say half my time in a day is spent on work in the agency and the other half on the Stage Committee.

There are times when I get frustrated with it, but that is inevitable. If I really need a break, I cut myself off and delve into a book or a TV series (I'm currently addicted to the Wire), and I always find that that refreshes me enough to get into SC work again. One disadvantage of PR is that with it being highly web-based (Facebook, website, forum etc.) it isn't the type of function that can be left at the office. Nevertheless, I really do enjoy it and hope that it continues like this for the next few months of the stage.

What about the Stage Committee team, what were your first impressions of them?

Ha! We're a bit of a Motley crew, aren't we? I have to admit that when I first met everyone I thought to myself 'Why the hell am I doing this?'. I worried that it would be very difficult for us to get on and work together, and I had strong opinions on some of the people in the team. My first impressions changed slightly when we had our first meeting, in which we had to decide our roles. Luckily for me there were no arguments to be held as nobody else wanted the role I had stated an interest in. But the meeting was very tough. I find that if you throw a group of people who don't know each other into a room and get them to debate something straight away, you are asking for trouble. We didn't have the chance to say 'Hey, let's have a beer before we have to make any decisions', so the inevitable outcome was tension, some strong words, strops and annoyance. Luckily, things picked up after that and I can honestly say that I really enjoy the company of everyone in the committee (most of the time). We still have arguments and get annoyed with each other, but when you have five completely different personalities working together you are not going to agree all the time. At least in this way we have wildly varying opinions on issues that can then help us make better decisions overall.

Let's talk about your personal attachment to the European Commission. What were your main reasons for applying for a traineeship, and so far, how do you like your traineeship?

Between 2004 and 2009 I was heavily involved in the 'European Youth Parliament', which is an NGO that has the aim of actively involving young people from Europe in debates about European policy. Even though I studied EU studies, I learned much more about how the EU works through my involvement with EYP. In 2007 I did my Erasmus in Brussels and lived with an EYP friend who was doing the traineeship. He seemed to be constantly socialising, meeting lots of new people, and having a great time. I decided that I wanted to do the same.

My feelings about the traineeship itself are quite positive. I enjoy the work in my unit, find the social side to be very interesting, and enjoy the fact that there is always something to do. However, I had quite high expectations of the period, which realistically are never going to be met. Therefore I can't help but feel a little disappointed that things aren't as fast paced or challenging as I expected.

I believe the whole Stage Committee has some expectations of your future work for trainees. What are your plans for the new Stage Committee? Why will your committee be better than any other in past?

My hope is that we'll be able to make the social side of the stage appealing to all stagiaires. We don't want to just focus on parties or trips abroad, we also want stagiaires to receive more from the stage on a professional level. We have some fantastic subcommittees that are working very hard on their events and we look forward to having our job fair, some conferences, discussions and visits to other institutions. As Debbie said in her interview, we want to be much more organised than the liaison committee while maintaining an approachable and relaxed atmosphere so that everyone feels they can come and talk to us if they are not happy with something. I can't say that our SC will definitely be better than all those in the past, but what I can say is that we are working incredibly hard to make the experience special for every stagiaire.

by Lucia Mrazova

UN Climate Conference: Game over for Kyoto?

International commitments for GHG emission reductions pass off with 2012. Debates at this week's UN Climate Change Conference in Durban will center around a renewal of the Kyoto Protocol. As pretty much a sole fighter, the EU will try to convince other parties of committing anew.

In 2012, the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol will expire. The Protocol, created in 1997, legally bound 37 industrialized countries and countries in transition to cut down on 5% of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during the past five years. As decided by the contracting parties at the Climate Summit in Bali 2007, the follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol (KP2) should have been put into place in Copenhagen in 2009. However, until now, the parties have still not come to an agreement on the principal controversial issues of a KP2: the level of GHG reductions, the involvement of the developing countries and the extent of financial transactions. This week, the international community will again meet together at the 17th UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. Time is pressing for decisions, which is why this summit could be the match point for the future of the Kyoto Protocol.
"We must do as much as we can to push others forward."
Connie Hedegaard, Commissioner for Climate Action

According to figures of the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the EU is the world's third-highest emitter of CO² emissions, following China, and the US as first and second respectively. The United States has never ratified the Kyoto Protocol nor cut down its GHG emissions. China is not a legally bound party to the Protocol and its CO² emissions have increased by 206% since 1990. The other important industrialized parties to the treaty, Japan and Canada, have completely failed to meet their reduction targets and have already refused to renew their commitments. Also Russia, which has shown brilliant reduction results, has pulled out again.
On the contrary, the EU-15 has proven to be a credible precursor of the Protocol, as it is predicted to meet its reduction target of 8% by 2012. According to a recently voted resolution by the European Parliament, the EU will take on leadership at the UN Climate Conference and push for a second commitment period.

Out with the (ec)hoes...

Dear readers,

Due to unforeseen circumstances, unfortunate connotations and higher EU powers, we've had to change our name from Stage Echoes back to the old name European Stagiaires Journal.

You can now find us HERE!

Any questions, comments, suggestions, love letters and hate mail should be sent to:

With love,

Team ESJ

Sunday, 27 November 2011

OUT & ABOUT - Week 48

Ice skating rink at St-Catherine

There is something for everyone this weekend: Wear a hat to the Funky Hat Party at Havana Club. Stroll around the city center to get in the Christmas mood. Dance the night away to Balkan music. Or watch a geeky film about the universe at the Planeterium.

Say no to Christmas Parties and join the Funky Hat Party, where you can express all your creativity and drink champagne with your best friends. On Friday, those arriving at Havana Club before midnight with a hat on their head receive a free glass of champagne. Havana Club is open until 6 AM.

In case you haven't been downtown this week: the heart of Brussels has been transformed into a true Winter Wonderland. All things Christmas (pinetrees, glühwein, puffed chestnuts, christmas decorations) can be found around Grand Place, Bourse and Place St. Catherine. There is even an ice rink! For €6,00 you can show off your iceskating skills. On Saturday evening, Electrabel Nights presents a living snow Globe: Two acrobats perform in a giant, inflatable snow ball.

It's time to shake it - Balkan style - at the DG Enlargement stagiaires' BalkaNite at Barrio Café! Get together, meet people interested in culture and music from the Balkans and dance all night long to the beats of DJ Gaetano Fabri and violin wizard Renaud Crols. Date: 2 December 2011 23:00 - 5:00 . €5.00 presale, €7.00 at the door.

This Thursday at the Planetarium, visitors can surround themselves by a 360-degree video projection of the film Violent Universe. Prepare to be blown away by exploding stars, colliding solar systems and destructive asteroids. The screening is part of the Nocturnes late night openings. Also open on Thursday evening are the BELvue Museum, Antoine Wiertz Museum,  Clockarium and the Museum of Natural Sciences.

Europe: What fate for the beleaguered euro?

In recent months, the crisis in the euro zone has spread rapidly from peripheral members, such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland to some of the biggest economies in the European Union, namely Spain and Italy. This week the contagion continued, as interest rates on Belgian and French 10-year government bonds increased, and Germany only managed to sell €3.6 billion of the €6 billion-worth of 10-year Bunds available at an auction on Wednesday.

The European Commission’s index of consumer confidence fell for the fifth month in a row this November, signalling to a likely return to recession in the euro zone. The growing financial pressure in this area is increasing the likelihood of government defaults which may trigger the break-up of the euro zone.

In the not so distant past, to question the stability and solvency of the European single currency would have been thought sacrilegious. Upon the entry into circulation of euro coins and banknotes on 1 January 2002, the euro was widely regarded as a legitimate trading alternative to the US dollar. Confidence in the success of the euro was so strong that no provision for the exit of member states from the single currency was ever written into EU legislation.

The once unthought-of possibility of euro-zone disintegration is fast becoming a reality. Last week Germany’s conservative Christian Democratic Union party passed a resolution calling for changes to the Lisbon Treaty to allow euro-zone members to voluntarily exit the monetary union without giving up membership to the broader European Union.

Memos from Member States

Belgium: Political stalemate to end?
Moves were made to put an end to the political stalemate in Belgium this week, with Elio di Rupo as the likely candidate to become the next prime minister after the King asked the French speaking socialist leader to form a new government.

The move comes after the political parties reached a deal on the 2012 budget in which Belgium commits to reduce its deficit to 2.8 per cent of GDP. The agreement symbolises an important step towards to the formation of a new government more than 18 months after elections were held.

Pressure was building on Belgium to act after Standard and Poors downgraded the country’s credit rating stating the government’s inability to respond to economic pressures as one of the principal factors contributing to the downgrade.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

OUT & ABOUT - Week 47

Tutankhamun exhibition at Brussels Expo until November 27

The Stage Committee invites you to join them for a cosy funky night with DJ Mattia behind the decks. DJ Mattia will be paying a tribute to Freddy Mercury, who died on the 24th of November 20 years ago. € 2,00 for AC holders, € 3,00 for non-AC holders. Beer and soft drinks for € 2,00.

The European Parliament's Stagiaire Association want to show us that the trainees of the European Commission aren't the only ones who know how to party hard! On November 26, EPSA organizes its first party, the EPSA Welcome Party. The event takes place at the Coco Bar on Place Lux. Presale € 3,00, at the door € 5,00.

This weekend will be your last chance to see Tutankhamun's tomb and treasures. Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered in 1922 by British archeologist Howard Carter and has now been recreated at Brussels Expo. Until November 27th you can admire more than 1,000 fascinating replica artefacts spread out over 4,000 m². Tickets: €15,50 - €17,50.

Get your electronic groove on at Bozar on Friday night. This edition of BOZAR night includes live concerts and top DJs will serve up a stirring sound tapestry of danceable fun and funky grooves. Performances by Théâtre de la Liberté, Guy de Bièvre and Coco Ralado. Presale € 7,00, at the door € 10,00.

Winter is officially here! On Friday, Brussels will transform into a true winter wonderland, complete with Christmas trees, decorations, food stalls and even an ice rink! For €6,00 you can show off your iceskating skills for an hour. On Saturday evening, Electrabel Nights kicks off with a light performance including luminous and surprising light tricks.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

I love techno: fête d'une foule folle de la musique électronique

la foule dansante:
 I Love Techno a attiré 35.000 spectateurs
Samedi passé, des trains quelques peu particuliers sont arrivés à la jolie petite gare de Gand en Flandre: ils étaient chargés d’une foule de party people assis partout dans les couloirs, couverts de couleurs fluos, des gobelets de vodka dans les mains. Le genre de gens que les vieilles dames appellent « ces jeunes d'aujourd'hui » en secouant leur tête avec dénigrement et les sourcils froncés. D'autant plus surprenant que cette foule festive n'était pas composée principalement de jeunes rebels, mais d'étudiants sages, de jeunes salariés, de stagiaires européens…et tous n'avaient qu'une passion en tête: la passion de la techno.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Interested in international experiences? The Youth in Action Programme gets you there

Have you ever heard about the wonderful opportunity to meet people from another country, travel and visit them abroad, discuss certain – for you – interesting topics over the course of several weeks? Or even to spend up to one year abroad, working in an organization, while not even being a student or an organization member – and all this with the financial support from the EU? If not, do not worry, you are in between two thirds of those unlucky people who have never heard about the Youth in Action programme offered by the European Commission. Stage Echoes is here to right that wrong, inform you about the programme and give you a chance to participate on it.

Find out more about Youth in Action possibilities here.

To gain a bigger overview on the programme, Lucia Mrazova interviewed Mr. Pascal Lejeune. He has been working for the European Commission since 1986 and currently, he is the head of the Unit in charge of Youth in Action that deals with the ambitious programme for all young people in Europe.  

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Memos from Member States

Spain:Centre-right predicted to win general elections

Voters in Spain headedto the polls on Sunday in an election expected to bring an end to over 7 years of socialist party rule. Opinion polls conductedin November predict that the centre-right Partido Popular, led by Mariano RajoyBrey, will win more than 45 per cent of the vote, some 15 per cent aheadof the Socialists.

The election wascalled by current prime minister, Jose Luis RodriguezZapatero, amid concerns over the economy. With slow growth, the highest unemploymentrates in Europe, and borrowing rates that passed 6 per cent this week, theeconomy has been at the centre of the election campaign.

The Partido Popularhas gained support due to its proposed policies to fix the country's economicproblems and reduce unemployment. The PartidoSocialista Obrero Español has been critical of these policies however, accusingMr Rajoy of planning to make severe cuts to health and education.

The voting boxesopened at 9am Sunday morning, and as this article went live, votes were stillbeing counted.

Europe: Technocracy or democracy?

George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister andSilvio Berlusconi, his Italian counterpart, have been in a political fiddle forsome time now. Mr Berlusconi has been heavily criticised for his monopoly overthe Italian media and his premiership has been plagued by sex scandals. MrPapandreou’s austerity programme led to a wave of nationwide strikes and created divisions in even the upper-most echelons of government.

Nevertheless, their recent resignations were nodoubt triggered by the ultimatum put to them by euro-zone leaders at the G20summit in Cannes: either reform your economies or clear your desks. MrPapandreou was told to approve the latest European bail-out deal or lose hisloans, while Mr Berlusconi was instructed to allow IMF supervision of hisreforms.

Although the European Union (EU) has longinfluenced domestic policy, the intrusion of euro leaders into the internalpolitics of Italy and Greece is unprecedented in terms of the scale and urgencyof demands. The age-old debate over whether the EU is an intergovernmental orsupranational organisation has resurfaced.

As decisions are increasingly migrated toBrussels, many voters feel distanced from, and powerless before, those draftinglegislation to which, as citizens, they must abide. But, if the increasedpowers afforded to Brussels under the Lisbon treaty weren’t enough, the veryfabric with which Western nations have sewn their political structures, namelydemocracy, is under siege.  

Youth in Action: The gate to mobility and intercultural experience

Youth in Action (YiA) is the EU programme supporting informal education (meaning no school and teaching, no tourism, no festivals and similar official and profitable actions) of all youth – with the main purpose to get to know new people from other EU/EEA/Neighboring countries. Stage ECHOES will present to you the different types of actions for which you can easily apply.

You do not need to have an official non-governmental organization (but NGOs can participate as well), nor do you need to be a student or youth worker. You just need to find some friends who are as enthusiastic as you are and are between 13 to 30 years old – a group of a minimum of four people will be called “informal group“. The EU grants to cover all expenses on activities, accommodation and 70% of travelling expenses. But maybe you just wish to help others abroad, but you need a hint as well as financial support. YiA supports individual volunteers that wish to spend one year abroad, working on a particular project in some organization – this action is called European Voluntary Service. The EU covers all expenses and you only need to find a sending and receiving organization.Or maybe you already work as a youth worker at your national level? You can also receive financial support for your own idea. One example from Slovakia: A group of four friends – journalism students, submitted a project to support visibility of the voluntary program and traveled abroad to make short documentaries about three Slovak volunteers working in three different countries. Films were presented all over Slovakia in schools and youth centers to promote this fantastic opportunity of the Youth in Action program.

There are several ways to get involved. This time we will present you the so called Youth Exchanges, probably the easiest way to gain support for your international project.
1. To create your own project on a certain topic (can really be anything, from Capoeira, theatre, music, culture and youth policy to sports, helping disables, anything you wish to discuss and you seek an opinion of another culture), you need to find a foreign partner(-s) (you may use either several FB databases, your friends from abroad, or simply google them…), further to discuss the program together with partner group(-s) and finally submit the project – meaning, to fill in a simple form (about 20 pages) and send it to the National Agency (every EU and partner country has its own agency).
2. The easiest way to get involved is to send a one page form (called Part III) to the group of people or organization that organizes this projects and search for foreign groups (there are also databases on the internet, for instance FB groups such as Youth Media Team or EU Projects Partners Finding group). When the project is approved, you can go!

How simple?
You will find more information at the website of EACEA website, where you can find out more about your options and ways to get involved in the Youth in Action projects.

By Lucia Mrázová

Thursday, 17 November 2011

OUT & ABOUT - Week 46

Sarah Kazemy in Circumstance (2011), screens Thursday at the Pink Screens Film Festival
Plenty of things to do this weekend! Go back in time at the Oldies Party of the new Stage Committee, become a better musician at the 10th edition of Musician's Day or immerse yourself in Art Nouveau at the BELvue museum.

The Oldies Party is the first party of the new Stage Committee and will celebrate classics from the 80s and 90s. Dress up as you favorite oldies star, whether that's Madonna, Freddy Mercury or John Travolta. Dress to impress your fellow stagiaires and you could be voted King or Queen of the night. The winner gets a great prize. At Cafe Bota, near Botanique.

November 19 is musician's day at the AB (Ancienne Belgique). The tenth edition is expecting to be visited by thousands of young musicians from across Belgium. They can participate in workshops, take master classes, and receive feedback from industry professionals. Flemish singer Lady Linn is one of the experts present Musician's Day to give advice to the younger generation.

For lovers of Art Nouveau, the exhibition Victor Horta Revisited is a must-see. Horta was a Belgian designer and Art Nouveau architect. The exhibition focuses on shopping in stores and warehouses designed by Horta and the atmosphere of shopping at the turn of the century in 1900 in Brussels and Europe. Horta's work can be admired until December 4th, 2011 at te BELvue museum.

Genres d’à côté celebrates gender diversity and sexual minorities at the Pink Screens Film Festival. The 10th edition, which is held from November 10 to 19, includes more than 80 films on gay, lesbian, queer, trans, feminist and gender themes. Films on the progam: Circumstance by Maryam Kershavarz, Auf der Suche by Jan Kruger, The Advocate For Fagdom by Angélique Bosio, For 80 Days by José María Goenaga/Jon Garano and Whip It wich features Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore. The festival closes with the Pink Party at Bruxelles-Congrès, near Metro Rogier. Tickets: € 5, students € 3.50.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

“My guys are great - all four of them!” says Deborah Walker, the General Coordinator of the new Stage Committee, about her team

What does Deborah (26) - Scottish graduate of Edinburgh Napier University in Business Entrepreneurship, decent kick boxer and lover of dancing, motorbikes and scooters - think about her new fellows and why does she refuse to label trainees of this term stage miserable? She talked about the new Stage Committee and her plans for it.

The Stage Committee seems to be a nice place to meet many trainees and all of them will get to know you very soon. But why did you decide to run for a position there, did you have any specific intentions?
I love challenges, and I knew this would be one. I also like meeting a lot of different people, and this position definitely allows you to do that. I’m usually ridiculously organized and I knew this would be a skill I could use as general coordinator. More than any other stage position, the general coordinator requires efficient, timely and accurate problem solving skills and using these skills both excites me and allows me to do something I’m good at. Plus, who wouldn't want to be on call 20 hours a day, 7 days a week for 650 trainees!?!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Europe: Apocalypse now?

Concerns over Europe's ability to manage its sovereign debt crisis intensified this week, as political turmoil in Rome and Athens, and the stark possibility of a double dip recession, provoked panic on world markets.

The announcement that Silvio Berlusconi would step down as Italy’s prime minister once austerity measures were pushed through parliament, did not prevent a collapse of investor confidence. Rather, Italian 10-year bond yields passed the 7 per cent mark on Wednesday; a level that previously drove Portugal, Greece and Ireland to seek European bailouts. The European Central Bank (ECB) was forced to intervene and bought limited quantities of the country’s debt, which enabled bonds to rebound from previous lows.

Political chaos also characterised Athens this week, as talks to appoint a prime minister to succeed George Papandreou temporarily stalled. Greek party leaders ultimately agreed to name Lucas Papademos, a former ECB vice-president, as prime minister of a new interim government until early elections determine a permanent replacement in the first quarter of next year.

In response to Europe’s sovereign debt crisis and the domestic political tensions of particular member states, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, issued a call for closer political integration within the eurozone. This assertion was echoed by José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, who called for the EU to "unite or face irrelevance".

In the midst of this political and financial turmoil, reports emerging from Brussels on Wednesday said that France and Germany had begun preliminary talks on the possibility of one or more member states leaving the eurozone. The remaining countries would push toward deeper economic integration, including on tax and fiscal policy. Further integration may prove difficult for some countries to swallow, necessitating EU Treaty changes, and by extension, referendums in at least four member states.

The renewed economic anxiety in the eurozone is provoking speculation on the possibility of a return to recession in Europe, with the European Commission cutting its euro-region growth forecast for next year to 0.5 per cent from its previous estimate of 1.8 per cent. “The forecast is in fact the last wake-up call,” Olli Rehn, the EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner, told reporters in Brussels on Thursday. “The recovery has now come to a standstill and there’s the risk of a new recession unless determined action is taken.”

By Sonia Jordan

Greece: Back to Interbellum?

For two years, Greece's economy has been in a constant downswing. This does not only lead to an internal breakdown of the Greek welfare state, but furthermore plants powerful seeds for nationalistic ideas amongst EU citizens.

Nowadays, Greece finds itself in the eye of the cyclone of the worst financial crisis since the end of the Civil War in 1949, which followed the destruction suffered during the Second World War. After the fall of the military junta of 1967-1974, a period of relatively regular parliamentarian democracy commenced. The entry of Greece in the European Communities was greeted as a substantial step to European integration. In 2000, Greece was considered to meet the convergence criteria and was admitted as the 12th member of the Eurozone. On 1 January 2002 drachma (δραχμή) belonged to the past, replaced by the single currency. At that time, almost ten years ago, nobody could foresee the financial crisis that hit Europe in 2008.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Memos from Member States...

The United Kingdom: Support grows for Occupy London protest
War veterans are the latest in a long line of recruits joining the Occupy protests outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Such is the scale of the protest that, in a break with tradition lasting more than 800 years, the new Lord Mayor of the City of London was this week anointed at the cathedral’s south entrance rather than the building’s front steps.

The peaceful protest against economic inequality, social injustice and corporate greed began on 15 October 2011 in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York. The protestors occupy two encampments in central London in St Paul's Cathedral and Finsbury Square.

As protestors attended Remembrance Day services at St Paul's Cathedral, they were joined by former service personnel with their own list of grievances against the government. At least 15 military veterans have joined the camp in protest over their post-conflict treatment.

Their presence serves to illustrate the increasingly diverse support base of the anti-capitalist Occupy movement, which, just weeks after the protests led to the resignation of three of the cathedral's leading clerics, has now been endorsed by a canon in residence at St Paul's.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Esperanto – a common language for Europe?

Esperanto was created for the purpose of international communication. Throughout its history, it has been used by different social groups. However, political ideologies behind it may have hindered it to become a common European language.

At the end of the 19th century, Ludwig Zamenhof realized that language barriers were the origin of the fighting amongst his Polish, German, Yewish and Belarusian fellow citizens in his hometown Bialystok. In 1887, he therefore published the book "Unua Libro" describing basic grammatical rules and vocabulary of Esperanto: a language that should not mirror any ethnical or national belonging and thus enable a fair international communication.

And in fact, Esperanto has since then been spoken by many different kinds of social groups. In between the two World Wars, for example, Esperanto was a language widely spoken amongst French labourers. At approximately the same time, German and French Esperanto speaking members of the European Rotary Club – a beneficial club with a industrialist tradition– created a group to develop and practice the language. In 1922, Zamenhof – had he still been alive – would have cried with joy: the League of Nations considered introducing Esperanto as a worldwide official language that should be taught everywhere as a first foreign language. However, France opposed and the project failed. Considered as a minority and revolutionary language, Esperanto was soon after completely forbidden under both Hitler and Stalin. Zamenhof' s project became a distant dream again.

Annemarie Bruggink: “Go for work, go for contacts. And if it does not work, come and see us!”

Annemarie Bruggink has been the head of the Traineeship Office for six years. Even if she loves the program - unfortunately, she has never had an opportunity to become a trainee herself. However, she has been working for the Commission already during her last year of university. She started in the Commission in 1977, first in Translation, later in Operational Services where she managed the Citizenship Program. She greeted you all on your first day at the Commission and now she will tell us also some snippets of what she sees from her office at 24th floor at MADO.
Photo by Greg Smith

Stage Echoes: The European Commission Traineeship program is generally perceived as a prestigious type of internship. Thousands of young people apply every year to get this opportunity. But what are the main objectives from the side of the Commission?

Bruggink: I believe it is always useful to give a real historical overview. The aim of the Traineeship Program is to give an opportunity to young university graduates to learn about how Europe works. Either they decide to stay or not, all of them have a very concrete experience. This very idea already started in 1960, so right after institutions have been created. The first scheme started with three trainees, which, compared to the total number of staff, was already quite important. This basic idea of introducing people to things that we are doing and why we are doing them is still there. The program has expanded over years and since the mid-90s we have had about 600 trainees twice a year. Also, the number of applicants has increased, since in the mid-90s there was increase from four to six thousand applications per period. Now, due to the crisis, there are about ten thousands of them for each period.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

OUT & ABOUT - Week 45

Dinner's Served! From Field to Plate, art exhibition on food production and distribution

Brussels never sleeps! Well, sometimes it does... but not this weekend! The sun is still shining and we've found a number of great events to check out, so no reason to stay in. You can learn all about food at the Dinner's Served exhibition, watch a movie at the Pink Screens Film Festival or listen to electronic tunes at Zukunft. If you prefer to get out of town, drive west and visit the medieval town of Ghent.

On Saturday, the SC will take you to Ghent for only €12 (€10 with Action Card). The trip includes the train ticket and a guided visit to the famous S.M.A.K. The plan is to explore the Ghent nightlife on Saturday night and then take the first train back at 5:24 AM on Sunday morning. You can sign up for the trip at Madou.

Looking to satisfy your appetite? Then head to Tour & Taxis for the exhibition Dinner's Served! From Field to Plate. The project examines issues of food production and distribution through art. Expect to see installations, visual art, photographs, interactive screens and more. From November, 11, 2011 to June, 3, 2012. Admission: €12.

Tour & Taxis is also the setting for Zukunft at Magic Mirrors. On November 12, Zukunft will present the British duo Loose Fit. Daniel Willis and Johnny Smith will heat up the Belgian winter breeze and provide you with sweet memories to help you cope with the last 41 days of the year.

If you decided to join the Stage Committee on the trip to Ghent, you may end up at the I LOVE TECHNO festival. The line-up includes established DJs as well as up-and-coming talent, including Boys Noize, The Subs, Steve Aoki, Paul Kalkbrenner and Fake Blood. Tickets: € 50.00.

If you haven't been to Madame Moustache yet, this is the weekend to go. Friday you can watch Trotsky Tulsky play and on Saturday there is a 50's Jamboree by Mr Slick & Gamma GT. Mr Slick specialises in rockabilly, surf and garage and his sets may, or may not include tracks by Link Wray, Ronnie Dawson, The Sting-Rays, The Rondells, Carl Perkins and The Atlantics. On Sunday the party starts early, Cuir as Folk begins at 8PM. Cuir as Folk is for Boys and Girls and their friendly friends with Drag kings, Drag Queens and Live performances on stage.

Genres d’à côté celebrates gender diversity and sexual minorities at the Pink Screens Film Festival. The 10th edition, which is held from November 10 to 19, includes more than 80 films on gay, lesbian, queer, trans, feminist and gender themes. On Thursday, Pink Screens kicks off with a screening of Romeos (Germany, 2011) and Circumstance (Iran, 2011), followed by the Let’s Sheherazade! Persian Pussies Party. In 10 days, Pink Screens will treat you to an abundance of films, exhibitions and parties including the not-to-be-missed Pink Night closing party. Tickets: € 5, students € 3.50.