Blog: Joining a traineeship in the European Parliament: the lessons and experience of a Ukrainian YEA
February 15, 2023

Blog: Joining a traineeship in the European Parliament: the lessons and experience of a Ukrainian YEA

The European Parliament (EP) is the directly elected legislative body of the European Union and one of the seven institutions of the EU. Its history goes back to 1952 when the General Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community was established. It was renamed as the European Parliamentary Assembly in 1958 and, finally became the European Parliament in 1962.

Today, the EP is made up of 705 Members of Parliament (MEPs) who are elected from the 27 Member States of the EU. But the EP is also about the thousands of staff who are involved in the EP Secretariat and the various secretariats of the parliament’s seven political groups. It is also about the offices of individual MEPs, which include accredited Parliamentary Assistants, advisers, and trainees.

The European Parliament has its headquarters in Belgium (Brussels), France (Strasbourg), and Luxembourg. The main plenary sessions take place in Strasbourg while partial sessions are also carried out in Brussels, which mainly serves as the place where political groups tend to meet and work, and where Parliament’s Committee work takes place.

The Ukrainian YEA Dmytro Mamaiev, a trainee at the European Parliament

How to become a trainee at the EP

There are different ways to get involved with the European Parliament. The most common is the so-called ‘Schuman Traineeship’, where the trainee has an opportunity to get an overall insight into the EP’s activities, its structure and the way in which decisions and legislation are adopted. Intakes are scheduled twice a year. The duration of the traineeship is five months. And all the trainees receive a monthly stipend regardless of their station of duty (Brussels, Strasbourg or Luxembourg).

Another option is a traineeship with the secretariat of one of the seven political groups present in the EP. This was my case. You need to be involved in civic-political activism in your country of origin to be eligible as a trainee, and your values should correspond to those of the political group. There are usually two intakes a year (it might depend on the political group) and traineeships last for five months. Trainees will have a monthly allowance and will be based in Brussels. Detailed information on how to apply can be found on the individual websites of each of the groups.

The last way to get on board as a trainee is to apply to the office of a particular MEP. This opportunity is mainly for EU citizens since all EU member states are represented in the Parliament. However, non-EU nationals still have a solid chance to apply and are selected to spend a certain period of time (to be agreed upon with the MEP) in the office of an MEP who works on topics that are of interest to the trainee, or who simply represents one’s country in the EP. Here, potential applicants should check and have a conversation with the staff of the MEP’s offices they would like to apply for.

Personal experience being a trainee in the EP

I had the opportunity to work as a trainee of the S&D Group Secretariat (the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament), focusing on matters at the AFET Committee (Foreign Affairs) and especially the Eastern Partnership region. Much of my time and effort was dedicated to Ukraine and I’m proud of the fact that I may have been useful for my country during Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified and illegal war of aggression. We have made tremendous efforts to keep the Ukrainian issue on the agenda of the political group and of the European Parliament overall.

Personally, I worked largely on the drafting of the political reports and assessments that fell under my area of responsibility (EaP region) and attended plenty of offline and online meetings where I had to report afterwards with debriefings. I also worked a lot on preliminary research, sifting through the relevant resources for the drafting of further resolutions. Other tasks you may face while working for the secretariat of a political group include participation in plenary sessions in Strasbourg, active involvement in the interaction with MEPs and their offices, and legislative work (handling plenary voting outcomes, for instance).

Generally speaking, a traineeship within a political group allows you to demonstrate your professional knowledge, analytical thinking, and awareness about the realities of certain areas and regions of the world, and to contribute to the work of various Committees in which the political group is active. The internship is also an excellent chance to interact with staff of the Secretariat that come from, literally, all 27 EU member states and who are all professionals in their field. These are colleagues who can provide you with advice, put you in the right direction, tell you how to act in a certain situation, and will often simply share a cup of coffee with a trainee to have a chat about out-of-work business.

A separate chapter of the traineeship in a political group is the interaction with the other trainees who come from various EU member states. We shared a lot of moments together, assisting one another, expanding our networking circles, participating in social and sports activities, etc. A traineeship will help you to expand your communication circles, but not only. It is also a way to find like-minded people who can ultimately become your friends.

The Ukrainian YEA Dmytro Mamaiev, a trainee at the European Parliament

The added value of the YEA experience

The European Parliament is about professionalism, the ability to apply soft skills, communication and the capacity to network. The number of people involved in the EP is extremely high. Therefore, it is important to remember the initial focus of the traineeship and the main tasks you want to commit yourself to when entering such an institution.

I entered the EP while also carrying the mandate of a Ukrainian YEA. And here I should admit that the professional network, knowledge and experience I have acquired with the YEAs have been very useful once I stepped into the corridors of the European Parliament. And while I was at the Parliament, I had the opportunity to join some additional networking opportunities along with EU and Ukrainian YEAs. Apart from that, being in Brussels allowed me to attend the European Migration Forum and Level-Up events in my capacity as a Young European Ambassador.

Coming to the end of the traineeship in the European Parliament in no way means that you are out of the EU business. The journey continues for everybody, in its various dimensions. And there are new peaks that await every young and progressive leader. The EP experience is definitely worth a try, and I strongly advise anyone who has the chance to seize such an opportunity.

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