Testimonies from previous interns at the European union are often very positive. They say that they felt stimulated by the responsibilities given to them and that they enjoyed the multicultural environment in which they were able to develop their skills. It would appear that working for the European union presents a fantastic career-launching opportunity, particularly for the erasmus student exchange programme generation, whose experiences abroad have prepared them for such international environments.
In the current economic climate, there has been a steady increase in the number of applicants to the internship programme. In the years preceding the financial crisis, the figures were relatively stable (between 5, 903 applicants in March 2008 and 8, 738 applicants in October 2006). The October session always attracts more applications than the March session, which is most likely due to the way the academic university calendar is organised; students generally look for employment from the start of the academic year following the end of their studies.
In 2013, five times as many Portuguese citizens tried their chances at an EU traineeship as in the previous year
Between October 2012 and October 2013, the number of applications doubled, rising from 9, 060 to 18, 690. Although this figure is impressive, it is interesting to note that while French or German applications have remained relatively stable, it is the number of Spanish (1, 059 to 2, 489) and Italian (1, 510 to 4, 177) applications which have doubled or even tripled. The most impressive increase concerns the Portuguese applicants; In 2013, five times as many Portuguese citizens (2, 490) tried their chances as in the previous year (494 in 2012).
Recession: good news at last?
So, how can this trend be explained? Since the EU has come to the rescue of countries deep in debt, it has become somewhat of a ray of hope for citizens who are struggling to find employment in their own countries. This is particularly true for younger generations who are both the worst affected by unemployment and the most sympathetic to the aims of the European union, because they travel and study abroad and speak several languages.
The sudden rise in this apparent ‘need’ for Europe is all the more surprising in those countries (Italy, Portugal, Spain) which are not the most historically invested in the aims of the European union. Nevertheless, it would seem that the EU is now seen as a solution. It is viewed as a serious, prestigious employer, and a first step towards a European career (within the institutions, but not only, a pathway into one of the commission services also valorised in the private sector) in an environment which has remained (almost) unaffected by the financial crisis. It has taken a major economic and social crisis for the EU to work its way into the hearts of the young people of southern Europe. Could something good have finally come out of the recession?