From 22 September to 14 November, I took part in the autumn edition of the ‘EU Study Days’ project for students. This is a project of the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine launched in 2013 and aimed at deepening the knowledge of young Ukrainians on the European Union (EU) and European integration.
It was of particular importance for me to participate in the project this year when Ukraine received the status of a candidate for EU membership. This status made it necessary to take a different look at the relations between Ukraine and the EU, not just as a partner country, but as a future member state. Moreover, as a Young European Ambassador, I always try to deepen my knowledge on the EU and the European integration of my country in order to convey it to my peers.
When I found out that I had been selected for the EU Study Days, I was really happy as the number of participants was limited. The selection process was conducted in two stages. First, the candidates were chosen according to their applications, and then we had to pass an online test to check our knowledge of European topics.
In 2022, the ‘EU Study Days’ were held in an online format. The project was opened by Mr Matti Maasikas, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine, who told us about the current state of EU relations with Ukraine, with particular attention on EU assistance to Ukraine, as the EU provides significant support to our country in the economic, military, and humanitarian spheres. Students also had the opportunity to ask the Ambassador about the implementation of reforms on Ukraine’s path to EU membership and EU assistance in the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine.
The project consisted of several thematic modules.
During the first module, “European institutions, law and values”, we discussed the functioning of EU institutions, the EU legal system as well as European values. The speakers were Oksana Holovko-Gavrysheva, Associate Professor of the Department of European Law at the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, and Yulia Tyshchenko, Head of the Board of the Ukrainian Centre for Independent Political Research, expert of the National Institute for Strategic Studies, and founder of the National Platform “For Peace and Secure Integration”. In addition, we had a meeting with Marek Balt, a Member of the European Parliament. He expressed his unwavering support for Ukraine and stressed that the war had also affected the EU, as Russia uses energy weapons against the European Union by restricting the export of energy resources.
Another module on “Economic and Trade Relations in the EU. Budget Policy” was also very useful, allowing me to deepen my knowledge of public procurement, the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, as well as the current state of economic relations between Ukraine and the EU, in particular in light of the EU’s decision to abolish tariffs on Ukrainian goods. This will help Ukrainian producers and exporters to overcome the impact of the war and strengthen their positions in the European market.
We also had a separate section on the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership, as well as a module on Ukraine’s European integration. It was interesting to hear more about these topics in the context of Ukraine’s new candidate status for EU membership and to learn about the experience of other countries in joining the EU. Speakers emphasised that the EU accession procedure is complex and takes a lot of time. For example, in 2001, the European Union and North Macedonia signed an Association Agreement. In 2004, the country applied for accession and became a candidate country the following year. However, the negotiations themselves started only in 2020. Nevertheless, the President of the European Commission and the President of Ukraine have now agreed on a “fast track” – an accelerated procedure that will be applied for the first time in the history of EU enlargement, although Ukraine must implement seven recommendations of the European Commission to start accession negotiations.
Natalia Voytovych, professor at the Faculty of Journalism of the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, and Victoria Romanyuk, deputy editor-in-chief of StopFake.org, delivered the module on the Digital Single Market and cybersecurity. The participants were told how to protect themselves from cyberattacks and take care of their safety on the Internet. For instance, it is important not to share confidential information online, not to communicate on the Internet on personal topics, and not to use pirated programs. In addition, we should have different passwords for different accounts, and not save these passwords in browsers.
In the context of information warfare, we learned from Victoria Romanyuk how to identify and refute disinformation, fakes, and manipulations in the media. In order not to fall for a fake, we need to check information from at least two sources, pay attention to the original source and not read information only by headlines. Among the other signals that indicate fakes are over-emotionality, lack of sources of information, unverified accounts, non-professional experts, etc.
During the module on “Migration and Border Management”, we discussed EU migration policy. It was of particular interest to learn more about the assistance that the EU provides to Ukrainian refugees and the special features of temporary protection status, invoked by the EU for the first time this year, which allows Ukrainians fleeing the war to have the same rights in all EU countries and to legally reside, work, study, receive social security and medical care.
At the end of the course, we met Kateryna Pryschepa, a graduate of the Master’s programme in European Studies at the College of Europe, who told us about her own experience of studying at the College. By the way, applications for Master’s programmes at the College of Europe for the 2023-2024 academic year are currently being accepted. You can apply for one of several Master’s programmes that will be held at one of the campuses: European Economic Studies, European Law, European Political and Governance Studies, or EU International Relations and Diplomacy
Finally, we had a module on communications. It was interesting to get acquainted with the basic principles of communication of the EU for its citizens and for the citizens of Ukraine. Viktoriia Davydova, Press and Information Adviser at the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine, stressed that the Delegation uses all available means to convey relevant information about the EU assistance and projects to the citizens of Ukraine.
In addition to lectures, we took online tests for each module on a special website. They helped to check and consolidate our knowledge, and allowed us to obtain a certificate of participation in the programme.
Some participants also had the opportunity to implement their mini-projects within the framework of the EU Study Days, in particular, on environmental, anti-discrimination topics, media literacy, as well as supporting temporarily displaced people.
I am majoring in international law, and I have followed a course on EU Law at university, but it was the ‘EU Study Days’ project that opened the EU and the relations between Ukraine and the European Union to me more broadly. I am convinced that the ‘EU Study Days’ project is one of the best opportunities for young people to attend lectures from diplomats, experts of the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine, leading European and Ukrainian experts, etc. That is why I urge everyone to follow its website https://www.eustudydays.in.ua and social media channels (Facebook, Instagram) and apply for participation next time.
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