What is it like to be a Trainee at the European Parliament?

by Evgenia Chamilou, Warwick Law Graduate (2020)


My background

My name is Evgenia Chamilou, I studied LLB (Bachelor of Laws) at the University of Warwick (2017-2020), and I recently completed a European Parliament Schuman traineeship, at the European Parliament Office in Cyprus. Prior to the traineeship, I completed a LLM (Master of Laws) with specialism in Public International Law at The London School of Economics and Political Science (2020-2021).

How my career interests developed during my studies

Whilst a law degree is a gateway to a career as a solicitor or a barrister, it is, in my view, a compass that leads to a variety of career paths, beyond legal practice.  Prior to enrolling to Law School, I developed a strong interest in diplomacy and international affairs.  I chose to pursue a law degree due to the highly desirable transferrable skills that a Law degree offers, which would place me at the top of most employers’ wish lists, both in and outside the legal sector. These include a deep understanding of the decisions made by others, how to view problems from other perspectives, take a neutral standpoint, and cultivate ability to resolve conflicts fairly and quickly. It includes developing negotiation competencies, verbal negotiation and written communication skills as part of assignments and projects. These abilities are crucial and well appreciated in many job positions.

At the Weiss building of the European Parliament, in Strasburg

About the European Parliament

The European Parliament is the legislative branch of the European Union (“EU”) and one of its seven institutions. Together with the European Commission and the Council of the EU, it exercises the tripartite legislative function of the EU. The Parliament is composed of 705 members (“MEPs”), for 2019-2024. Since 1979, it has been directly elected every five years by EU citizens, using universal suffrage. 

Although the European Parliament has legislative power, as does the Council, it does not formally possess legislative initiative (which is the prerogative of the European Commission), as most national parliaments of EU member States do. The Parliament is the “first institution” of the EU (mentioned first in the treaties, having ceremonial precedence over all authority at European level), and shares equal legislative and budgetary powers with the Council (except in a few areas where the special legislative procedures apply). It has equal control over the EU budget. Finally, the European Commission, the executive body of the EU (it exercises executive powers, but no legislative ones other than legislative initiative), is accountable to the Parliament. In particular, the Parliament can decide whether to approve the European Council’s nominee for the President of the Commission, and it is further tasked with approving (or rejecting) the appointment of the Commission as a whole.

How I pursued my role as a Trainee at the European Parliament

The Schuman traineeships, named after Robert Schuman, one of the main architects of the European integration project, can be undertaken at one of the European Parliament’s official places of work – Brussels, Luxembourg, and Strasbourg – or in its Liaison Offices in the member States. I undertook the traineeship at the Liaison Office in my home country, Cyprus. Every member State has a so-called EU House where the Representations of the European Commission and the Liaison Offices of the European Parliament are usually based. These offices and representations, act as “embassies” of the institutions, though they are not characterised as such given that they are based in the member States. EU “embassies”, known as EU Delegations, Missions or Operations are essentially diplomatic representations of the EU in third countries, such as the Delegation of the EU to New Zealand. These are managed by the European External Action Service (“EEAS”) which is the EU’s diplomatic service, carrying out the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy to promote peace, prosperity, security, and the interests of Europeans across the world.

As a national of an EU member State, aged over 18, holding a full university degree of at least three years of study and with a thorough knowledge of at least one of the official languages of the EU, I was eligible to apply. Before submitting my application, I contacted people who previously worked as Schuman Trainees, to obtain insights into how to apply, as well as understanding what the job entails. For instance, I was informed that the Office in Cyprus fell under the scope of the Directorate-General for Communications, thus I was aware that any experience in dealing with press issues and being involved with civil society would offer me a competitive advantage.

Hints and tips for students interested in pursuing a traineeship at an EU institution

Relevant studies, knowledge of foreign languages, especially French, and intercultural competence, are some of the key skills that are often required. Beyond the skills themselves, it is important to be proactive, utilise your networks and ask questions to tailor your applications as well as knowing what to expect from the job. There are opportunities which pave the way for a career in international organisations and institutions, including the EU. For instance, POLITICO organises an “EU Studies & Careers” fair each year to enable organisations to connect with thousands of top international youngsters looking for a future in EU Affairs, International Relations, Political Sciences, Business, Economics, Public Policy, Public Affairs and Law.  It takes place online via an interactive platform and constitutes the largest recruiting event in EU affairs in Europe. Finally, many UK universities, such as LSE offer similar opportunities (Careers in International Organisations (lse.ac.uk)).

I recently moved to Strasbourg for another traineeship – this time at the European Court of Human Rights, working as an assistant to a Judge of the Court which is expected to finish in July. After that, I would be interested in taking the Ministry of Foreign Affairs examinations to get into the diplomatic service (which has always been my goal) and possibly do the Cyprus bar to become a qualified lawyer as well. If you are interested in finding out more or have any queries, feel free to reach out at evgenia.chamilou@gmail.com.

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