Keeping your Eurocompetence project alive — United Citizens of Europe

Luca, Anton and Hannah are all part of the 2019-2021 cohort. Luca studied in Groningen in his first semester, Anton in Krakow and Hannah in Uppsala. They all three got to know each other during their second semester in Strasbourg. All three decided to pursue the professional track in their third semester, leaving them spread across the continent: Luca in Sofia, Hannah in Geneva and Anton in Berlin. They are all co-founders of United Citizens of Europe and each brings a different expertise to the project.

Euroculturer Magazine (EM): Hi Luca, Anton and Hannah. Tell us a bit more about how the United Citizens of Europe project came into being and what you are trying to accomplish.

United Citizens of Europe (UCoE): The original idea behind United Citizens of Europe was to have a MEU (Model European Union) on European Citizenship and golden visas. The pandemic forced us to change our format and our overall initial idea. In the end, we decided to carry out live interviews on Instagram, hosting guests with a relevant background in the European institutional and civil society sector. The original team was composed of five members; only two of us are still here. When contemplating whether or not to continue with the project, we knew we wanted Anton to join because of his creative mind and attention to detail.

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Behind the scenes: meet the Euroculture Staff – Ashanti Collavini

Interview conducted by Johanna Pieper & Paola Gosio

Ashanti Collavini is an Euroculture alumni part of the cohort 2017-2019. She spent her first and second semester respectively at the University of Udine, in Italy, her home country, and at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands. After her MA, she immediately started working for Euroculture as the new coordinator at the University of Udine, where she previously studied.

Euroculturer Magazine (EM): What were your expectations when you started your job position as professor or coordinator and does it match the reality?

Ashanti Collavini (AC): When I first decided to accept this position, I was honestly quite terrified by the responsibility I was going to take on with my role as Udine’s Euroculture coordinator! I knew the role would imply quite some challenges, and given the fact that I had never worked in the University system before, I needed to start learning completely from scratch. Luckily enough, I had an advantage: the fact that by the time I accepted this position, I was just freshly graduated as a Euroculture student, therefore I knew already a lot about the programme from the inside and from a student perspective. For instance, I knew what the thesis portfolio was and when it was due, which deadlines I would need to take into consideration when writing the thesis or the IP paper, what the IP was. Moreover, I was aware of the difficulties that international students could come across when studying and living abroad.  However, I can say that working for the programme and experiencing it from “ the other side” gave me a completely different insight on what Euroculture entails from behind the scenes, something that as a student I could not even imagine!

EM: Can you tell us about the job-searching path you went through before choosing and being selected for this job position?

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Behind the scenes: meet the Euroculture Staff – Maite Sagasti

Interview conducted by Johanna Pieper & Paola Gosio

Maite Sagasti

Maite Sagasti holds a BA in History and Cultural Heritage and an MA in Spanish Heritage Management. She is currently the Euroculture course-coordinator at the University of Deusto, where she started working in 2006 and became since then a point of reference for all the Euroculture students studying at Deusto. Next to Euroculture, Maite also coordinates other Erasmus Mundus graduate programmes at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Deusto.

Euroculturer Magazine (EM): What were your expectations when you started your job position as professor or coordinator and does it match the reality?

Maite Sagasti (MS): I started to work at the Euroculture master programme in 2006. At the beginning I knew very little about how university networks work. In my previous jobs, I had the chance to work in interdisciplinary teams but always in the same institution/organization. When I started the new position, I had to do the same (at the university level) but also in the consortium level (different work cultures, languages) and for me this has been challenging but also the best part of the job. It has been really interesting to learn how the European Higher Education Institutions work together, to face the challenges and find the solutions jointly, take part in the common project to improve the programme, to work in the European Accreditation System and last but not least, the relationship with the students. I must say that this latter point is for me one the pillars of this job. Moreover, I also learn from students, from their interests and needs, which push me to update my competencies and skills constantly.

Without any doubt, the job has far exceeded my expectations.

EM: What is your academic background and can you tell us about your previous job experience before starting to work for Euroculture?

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Behind the scenes: meet the Euroculture Staff – Lars Klein

Interview conducted by Johanna Pieper & Paola Gosio

Dr. Lars Klein has been part of the Euroculture staff since 2008. He is currently the Euroculture course-coordinator in Göttingen and his academic interests lie in (European) identity, belonging and participation, and foreign policy, amongst others. By participating in his teaching modules “Introduction to Euroculture”, “Cultural Construction of Europe” and “Europe in a Global Context”, Euroculture students in Göttingen have the opportunity to learn more about the aforementioned research fields. You can contact Lars via the following email: lklein@uni-goettingen.de.

Euroculturer Magazine ‘EM): What were your expectations when you started your job position as professor or coordinator and does it match the reality?

Lars Klein (LK): I started with Euroculture in April 2008. Some of my Ph.D. colleagues in the Graduate Programme (“DFG-Graduiertenkolleg”) I had pursued prior to that had done Euroculture while it was still a 60 ECTS programme, some of the academic staff were also contributing to Euroculture then. So I had an idea of what to expect, but Euroculture in Göttingen was in a transition at that time. Our Director, Martin Tamcke, had just taken over a few months earlier and started a completely new team with me and Marc Arwed Rutke, our coordinator. Having said that, I never would have expected to enter a job that would take on such a big part of my life and which I would still be working in 13 years later. And I certainly would not have imagined that the daily work with students and colleagues in the Consortium would be such a lively, fruitful and diverse endeavour.

EM: What is your academic background and can you tell us about your previous job experience before starting to work for Euroculture?

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SOS Eurocompetence II! Groningen, Uppsala, Göttingen & Strasbourg

By Bryan Trannin Bayne

Choosing, starting, and managing a project often are daunting tasks. The Euroculturer conducted a series of short interviews to showcase some of the many projects Euroculture students came up with in the Eurocompetence II course. These interviews were designed to give current and future students an idea of what has already been done and to learn from previous experience.

We asked each student the same three questions: What was your Eurocompetence II project? Did you put it into practice? How was your experience? Here are their testimonials:

Virginia Stuart-Taylor – Uppsala 2017 – War on Truth

Our class in Uppsala 2017 decided to plan, fund, and run the ‘War on Truth’ international conference on the topic of fake news, bringing students and locals into contact with leading figures from academia, think tanks, the media, and start-ups from across Sweden and the Netherlands. Held in May 2017, only months after Trump’s 2016 election, misinformation and fake news were crucial issues, making the conference well-attended and a big success. 

The hardest part of working together on the project was the ideation phase and picking a feasible, realistic, and sufficiently stretching project. We looked to examples of previous Eurocompetence II projects for inspiration and scope but also scoped out our own skills, interests, available resources, and pressing issues it would be worthwhile to address. Once we settled on running a conference, the division of roles within the team and execution of our individual responsibilities was easier, and regular meetings helped us make decisions, keep on track and manage the project. Overall it was satisfying to complete such a tangible project as a conference, with our post-conference report being a good physical outcome.

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SOS Eurocompetence II! Groningen, Olomouc, Strasbourg, Bilbao & Udine

By Bryan Trannin Bayne

Choosing, starting, and managing a project often are daunting tasks. The Euroculturer conducted a series of short interviews to showcase some of the many projects Euroculture students came up with in the Eurocompetence II course. These interviews were designed to give current and future students an idea of what has already been done and to learn from previous experience.

We asked each student the same three questions: What was your Eurocompetence II project? Did you put it into practice? How was your experience? Here are their testimonials:

Arianna Rizzi – Groningen – 2018 – EU4Groningen

My Eurocompetence II project was named EU4Groningen, an initiative aimed at spreading EU literacy and raising awareness on what the EU does for the residents of Groningen, with the final aim of motivating the locals to go and vote in the European Parliament’s elections of 2019.

The project, which received funding from Europe Direct, mainly consisted of a digital communication campaign – on Instagram and Facebook – and a physical event in the context of Groningen’s European Village during the Liberation Day Festival.

EU4Groningen was my first, true project management experience – little did I know that I would end up working in this domain! Anyways, from planning through implementation to evaluation, the teamwork experience I had within EU4Groningen taught me that negotiation is fundamental to make an idea come true in a reasonable (and feasible) way: project management is indeed a very democratic process.

Thinking back at Eurocompetence II at my second university, I am glad that our teachers invested so much time in detailing every step of how to kickstart, manage and evaluate a project. I have quite a lot of lessons-learned that I still bear in mind and try to apply in my job as a soon-to-be Project Manager. 

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#StandWithBelarus: Interview with a Belarusian Activist

This article is part of a project designed to raise awareness about what has been happening in Belarus since August 2020, at the occasion of the Day of Solidarity with Belarus launched by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. In order to understand the past and current events better, The Euroculturer Magazine organized a live interview with a belarusian Euroculture Alumni who kindly agreed to give us her insights on the situation. For the sake of this person, this interview will be anonymized.

Interview conducted by Leyre Castro & Hannah Bieber and transcripted by Bryan T. Bayne & Katarina Jarc

Euroculturer Magazine (EM): How do the events in Belarus affect you personally?

Of course the event affected all people in Belarus because the scale of the violence produced by the police in Minsk was so unpredictable and unproportional, especially August 2020. It produced collective trauma not only for people who participated in the protests, but also for those who couldn’t participate. People were tortured and killed and this was something nobody expected because a protest of this scale has never happened in Belarus. It was very hard for me because I am an activist in Belarus and I know a lot of people protesting. Most of my friends were protesting and many were detained. One was arrested on the very first day and he’s still in prison.

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SOS IP! Celia Onsurbe Castellanos (2018-20, Göttingen – Strasbourg)

Interview conducted by Johanna Pieper

Celia Onsurbe Castellanos (2018-2020) is from Tomelloso, Spain. She started Euroculture in Göttingen and spent the second semester in Strasbourg.  She has a background in Translation and Interpreting, holding a bachelor’s degree from the Autonomous University of Madrid (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid). After graduating, she applied for Euroculture because she wanted to do a Master programme in European Studies where she could also live and experience Europe in different countries. During the third semester she went to Mexico for the Research Track (UNAM) and was able to do an internship afterwards at the EU-LAC Foundation in Hamburg, Germany, before starting her 4th semester.

Euroculture Magazine: What were your expectations when starting the Euroculture MA? Did they match the reality? Continue reading “SOS IP! Celia Onsurbe Castellanos (2018-20, Göttingen – Strasbourg)”

Brussels from afar: Interview with Dr. Hardy Ostry from the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS)

Interview conducted by Hannah Rittmeyer from the “Becoming Bruxellois from Afar” project

This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by a group of Groningen students as part of their Eurocompetence II project. The interviewees all work in Brussels institutions and were asked questions related to the Euroculture’s 2020 IP topic: “A sustainability Europe? Society, politics and culture in the anthropocene”. Here, Hannah Rittmeyer asked Dr. Hardy Ostry of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) about his perspective on democratic sustainability, particularly about whether or not the EU faces has a democratic deficit and if the current crisis is a threat or a chance for democracy in the EU.

Hannah Rittmeyer: Could you please provide us with a short overview of your organization and its work in Brussels?

Hardy Ostry: With more than 200 projects in over 120 countries and its headquarters in Sankt Augustin near Bonn and Berlin, the KAS is a worldwide operating institution. 16 offices in Germany alone maintain various projects. The foundation has been named after the first Federal Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer. His principles are the guidelines for of our work. As a political foundation, we nationally and internationally campaign for freedom and justice through political education. Our main focus lies in on cooperation and development towards the promotion of European unification, the consolidation of democracy and the intensification of transatlantic relations. Furthermore, the foundation offers scholarships, not only to German Citizens and has a prestigious literary award. The European Office, located in Brussels, has a team of 11 people. As a consulting agency, we analyse political action and develop scientific reports. In particular, KAS Brussels is responsible for following and processing events at the European level. Our main work lies in organizing events to different (current) topics, networking, reporting, and serving as a melting point for visitor groups from all over the world.  Continue reading “Brussels from afar: Interview with Dr. Hardy Ostry from the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS)”

Brussels from afar: Interview with MEP Daniel Freund

Interview conducted by Michelle Wiesner from the “Becoming Bruxellois from Afar” project

This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by a group of Groningen students as part of their Eurocompetence II project. The interviewees all work in Brussels institutions and were asked questions related to the Euroculture’s 2020 IP topic: “A sustainability Europe? Society, politics and culture in the anthropocene”. Here, Michelle Wiesner asked Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Daniel Freund about his personal experience in Brussels and sustainability in politics, especially regarding corruption.

Michelle Wiesner: Could you please give us a short introduction about your work at the European Parliament, for example in which Committees you are working in? 

Daniel Freund: The two committees I focus on are the Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) and the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO). In the CONT committee, I fight corruption and fraud of EU money. In February, we went on a fact-finding mission to Prague, as Prime Minister Babis is suspected of having altered regulations on agricultural subsidies for his private profit. Corruption and fraud are deeply linked with the rule of law. Cronyism reinforces misappropriation of public money and autocratic structures might even be strengthened through EU money. Therefore, I advocate for a rule of law mechanism that conditions subsidies to democratic values. 

As part of the AFCO committee, I was involved in the assessment of the new commissioners’ integrity. In the end, we were able to prevent three candidates, which had severe conflicts of interest. In the long run; however, I fight for the creation of an independent EU ethics body whose purpose would be ensure the integrity of the EU institutions. Another topic that I continue to push in the AFCO committee is the improvement of the lobby register tool in order to make decision making more transparent. I am also in the TRAN committee where our goal is to make transport more sustainable. My favourite project is the expansion of the European night train grid.

MW: Why did you decide to run as a member of the European Parliament?  Continue reading “Brussels from afar: Interview with MEP Daniel Freund”