This was an interesting morning – we arrived at the European Union Commission Offices at 10am and after proceeding through the airlock, we were ushered into the EU Parliament Room. We met with Pedro Pereira, Publications & Information Officer, who gave us a brief history of and an introduction to the European Commission and answered questions from the students about his pathway to working at the EC in Ireland. Students also asked about the elections going on right now, and we watched a short video on Ireland and the European Union. The work of the Commission includes policies and legislation issues, public contracts and funding questions, and life, work and travel concerns in the EU.
There were a large number of publications available and student were especially interested to learn about the Lifelong Learning program ERASMUS which “provides students and staff of higher education institutions with an opportunity to advance their knowledge and enhance their career prospects by spending a mobility period in one of 33 other participating countries”. The role of the EC is to provide information on European affairs to the general public and the media – initiatives include outreach, education, services, and a consumer centre.
A great little publication I found, Europe in 12 Lessons by Pascal Fontaine (former assistant to Jean Monnet and Professor at the Institut d’Études Politiques, Paris) discusses who the EU serves, why and how it was set up, how it works, what it has already achieved for its citizens, and new challenges. The EU is comprised of 28 countries – all with their own languages, cultures, and histories. Although they are all sovereign, independent countries, they have pooled some of the ‘sovereignty’ in order to gain strength and the benefits of size. Pooling sovereignty means, in practice, that the Member States delegate some of their decision-making powers to the shared institutions they have created, so that decisions on specific matters of joint interest can be made democratically at the European level. The EU this sits between the fully federal system found in the US and the loose, intergovernmental cooperation system seen in the United Nations.
We learned about the EU Commission Representation in Ireland and the European Parliament Information Office in Ireland, and we learned about an EU ethos re: size, responsibilities, military and civil power, decision-making, voting procedures, the euro, and jobs.
There were pamphlets on Europe’s growth strategy, living and working in Ireland, Ireland’s economic crisis, Ireland’s recovering economy and an EU perspective, managing stress and psychological risks at work, sustainability, Europe for women, and a snapshot of EU achievements.