Euroregion Consulting was founded to act as a translator for businesses who are seeking European funds in Udine, Italy. A translator, as co-founder Mattia Anzit puts it, “for dummies”. The problem for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is that they are often engaged in such complex, technical work, that if they want to gain access to European regional funding, they are going to need a team capable of navigating a dense bureaucracy and translating high floating concepts into understandable plans. Mattia and his co-founder, Selina Rosset, are Udine’s solution to this problem.
The Italian founders of Euroregion Consulting, are an energetic team, bouncing back and forth off each other throughout the interview, finishing each other’s sentences and lending each other the odd English phrase or two. Having met during the Euroculture Master program, which they both studied in Udine and Strasbourg, Selina says that if it were not for the program, Euroregion Consulting would never have been founded. Despite the fact that the two of them have lived in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy all their lives, they had never met before. As Mattia explains, he is not from the capital, Udine, like Selina, but from a small town, which he insists that I have never heard of. Vibrant and chatty, the team joked about Italian bureaucracy, confused entrepreneurs and the problems facing young people and students in today’s economic climate. My interview with these two former students of European studies through Euroculture touched on life after graduation, entrepreneurship and European business in a Eurosceptic age. Continue reading “Meet the Erasmus Graduates whose business is bringing EU funding to Italy’s entrepreneurs: Life after European Studies Interview”→
Who will be the next president of the United States of America seems to be the big question of 2016, but in the European Parliament another game of thrones has begun.
At the last European Parliament elections in 2014, the conservative EPP and the social democratic S&D made a deal and signed a written agreement that meant that Martin Schulz, the S&D candidate, would become president for the first half of the legislative period and that the EPP would pick the president for the second half.
Now with the first half coming to an end in January 2017, the current president Martin Schulz does not seem to be willing to leave office, despite the EPP insisting on the instillation a new president from among their own ranks.
The face of EU policy
Schulz has been, with interruptions, president of the EP since 2012 and a Member of the EP (MEP) since 1994. He is often portrayed as a down to earth politician, ingrained and diligent. He is said to have strengthened the position of the European Parliament and even critics say he has made the EP more visible to the European public and the world.
He is considered to be the most influential president in the history of the European Parliament.
However his path to power and appreciation was rocky. The son of a police officer, he wanted to become a football player in his youth but a knee-injury made a professional career impossible. As a result this crushed dream Schulz became an alcoholic in the mid-70s which saw him lose his job and almost get thrown out of his own apartment.
However, despite this inauspicious start, Schulz eventually overcame his addiction with the help of his brother.
What followed is a remarkable career. After a career as a bookstore manager Schulz became mayor of his home town, Würselen, following his first engagement in the German Social Democratic Party. In 1994 he was elected member of the European Parliament and became its president in 2012. He reached a high point of his career when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize together with van Rompuy and Barroso on behalf of the European Union.
In 2014 Schulz wanted to become president of the EU Commission, but in the European elections the Conservatives became the largest party and their candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker became president of the Commission, a post he still holds to this day. Nevertheless, this setback did not stop Schulz from being re-elected as President of the EP.
Power play in the middle of the greatest crises in the existence of the EU
Schulz’s future, however, is unclear, as the first half of this legislative term comes to an end. According to the agreement, Schulz will be replaced by EPP member. However, for some, the agreement does not fit the new circumstances Europe finds itself in.
The S&D argues that with Juncker as President of the Commission and Tusk as President of the Council, already two of the key positions are held by EPP members; and to keep the balance between the largest EU parties, the presidency of the EP should stay with the S&D.
Even a prominent EPP politician and former competitor supports the idea of Schulz retaining the presidency after January 2017, with the simple reason:
“We need stability.”
Just recently Juncker spoke about the many challenges the EU faces in his ‘State of the Union’ address. Brexit, the refugee challenge, economic stagnation and youth-unemployment among many other things.
“Our European Union is, at least in part, in an existential crisis.” said Juncker.
To keep stability in these difficult times, Juncker would like to keep the leadership of the institutions as they are, namely, Schulz as president. It is no secret that Martin and Jean-Claude work closely together, Der Spiegel has even accused them of mutually securing each other’s posts. Juncker said:”The relationship between the Commission and the Parliament has probably never been as good as it is now”, so “Why change a reliable team?”
However the EPP has made it crystal clear that they will not have Schulz for the next half of the legislative period. Schulz has been heavily criticised for not sticking to the agreement and the same critics have claimed that he has made the representation of the European people a one-man-. These critics claim that “if Schulz gave the parliament a face, it is primarily his face”.
On the other hand, if Schulz id removed; whom is the EPP going to nominate? For an internal primary on 12 December candidates need to be found. However, they lack strong candidates:
So far the Italian Antonio Tajani, the French Alain Lamassoure and the Irish Mairead McGuinness have been mentioned as possible successors to Schulz. However Tajani is weakened by being close to former Italian PM Berlusconi, who has been disgraced by many scandals. Also as former commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship, he supposedly involved in the emission scandal and has already been summoned before the investigation committee. All of this means that he is seen as unenforceable in the parliament.
The other candidates have similar shortcomings. Lamassoure has the reputation of being uncontrollable and prideful, some say thinking of himself as the French president. McGuinness, as a woman, current EP vice-president and a representative of a small EU Member State, seems to have the best chances of getting a majority in the parliament. Nevertheless she is perceived as a rather plain Jane candidate and has not excited much attention.
Currently, Schulz is fighting to forge a coalition with Liberals, Greens and EPP renegades. Yet it seems to be unlikely that he will cobble together enough votes without the backing of the EPP.
So what is next for him? Luckily another throne, perhaps a greater one, is up for grabs. In Berlin, some people would like to see Schulz as chancellor- the candidate for the SPD in place of the unpopular Sigmar Gabriel, to challenge Angela Merkel in the elections for the German parliament 2017 Regardless, it looks like Schulz has only begun to play.
If someone asks me what my favourite part of working for Euroculture is, I get an emotional, teary look in my eyes and tell them: “the students”! Fresh faces every semester, eager beavers waiting to be filled with information. Students coming from all corners of the world, all sharing that Euroculture-gene of being triggered by intercultural affairs, with mouths that start foaming by hearing words like ‘Brexit’, ‘transnational’ or ‘identity discourse’. Being in charge of the general firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail account, I’m often the first person an interested student talks to. It’s my duty to talk them into entering that great programme of ours. But with great power comes great responsibility, mostly in the form of a never-ending cascade of e-mails from students who just write ‘I want scholarship please I need it can I start tomorrow?’ and then expect us to transfer huge sums of money into their accounts. No joke. This happens. A lot. Even worse are those students who have enough brains and punctuation skills to trick us into believing they are genuinely interested in a position in our programme, who ask us to guide them through the application procedure, upload reference letters for them, prepare invoices and insurance certificates, and spend valuable time into ensuring a smooth transition into Euroculture studenthood, but who back out at the last moment by saying ‘sorry I’m not coming anymore, I’m going to Laos instead on a spiritual journey to find myself’. It’s time-consuming and annoying, but my bitterness never lingers – partly due to the great coffee bar in the vicinity of the consortium headquarters, but mostly because of that sweet sweet sound of a fresh new student knocking on my door, asking where they can find accommodation or how to open up a bank account. “Try the mobility office”, I tell them smilingly.
Albert Meijer works with the Erasmus Mundus Master of Excellence in Euroculture: Society, Politics and Culture in a Global Context, one of the most successful Erasmus Mundus programs. To read more of Albert’s work, click here.
(Europe needs all its voices to weather the challenges faces it today. Equip yourself with the knowledge you need to stand up for your Europe. Join the FREE online course, ‘European Culture and Politics’ starting September 26.)
To find out more about the Euroculture program, visit their website here
Finding a place to live is probably going to be one of your biggest worries over the two years you will spend as a Euroculture student. You will soon be living out of one big fat suitcase, and you will master the art of bookings, security checking and visa applications.
What I recommend:
Use the university student accommodation system. It’s easy to use (Google Docs) and reliable.
Plus: avoid all the troubles of finding private accommodations while living and studying abroad and make new international friends. (Or not. No one forces you to.)
Minus: you most probably won’t get to live with locals, which could be a shame if you’re trying to learn or improve your Spanish! If this is the case, Facebook might be your best friend. Check out local groups for flatshare, or browse through some local websites. The process will take you longer, but it is worth it. (A friend of mine – an outsider to the Euroculture progamme – was living with three lovely Spanish guys, and it made his Erasmus experience unforgettable.)
Oh the weather! If you thought moving to Spain meant sea, sex and sun, well, it’s not exactly what you’re gonna get in Bilbao. The climate being oceanic on the Atlantic coast, I suggest you pack a pair of wellies. On the other hand, you should also get yourself a bathing suit and a pair of sunnies, because it does get better. (I started going for a swim around April in Bilbao. Not even lying!)
University life. I know that’s also one of the big question marks here. At the University of Deusto, typically, bachelor students have classes in the morning, and masters students in the afternoon. My schedule (you might not get the exact same one but something close to that) was roughly three hours of classes per day from Monday to Thursday, almost always in the afternoon (starting at 3pm). You might occasionally get a class on Friday morning, but you’ll get over it. Continue reading “Second-semester Experiences, 2015”→
When I began Euroculture, I was very determined to learn languages and integrate myself into the host country. Not to say I didn’t achieve this to some extent, but the reality is that due to our short semesters, we ended up hanging out with people from Euroculture instead of the country we live in, creating a bubble for ourselves as we float around Europe. Perhaps it is all part of the grand scheme for creating “European Identity”; however, I’ve yet to meet a “European” that would define themselves as such. We are supposed to learn to be inter-culturally competent, yet since we all live in this international bubble of culturally “open-minded” people, are we really adapting or just observers from our Euroculture bubble?
As my time in Euroculture nears its end, I have begun to reflect on some these unintended consequences of living in the Euroculture bubble. At first, it seemed like a great idea; the opportunity to live, study, work and/or travel in a different country every four months. The perfect way to learn new languages and gain knowledge about other cultures, but now I think it’s too much. We are human after all and need to feel at home with our group of friends, our shared history and inside jokes. It’s as if you don’t completely fit in anywhere. Sure you can get along and everyone will be impressed with your “interesting” life, but making true local friends is another story. It seems almost as if you can only relate to people with the same nomadic lifestyle as your own, but then just as you feel comfortable everyone leaves to start over again. Continue reading “The Euroculture Bubble”→
Udine is a small city situated in the northeast part of Italy, in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. It is close to Venice (2 hours by train) and very close to the Austrian and Slovenian borders. The region has two official languages: Italian and Friulian, a Rhaeto-Romanic language.
The city of Udine has several interesting historical monuments: on the Piazza Libertà, the most famous square of the city, stands the Loggia di San Giovanni (1533) and the Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower) in the Venetian-Gothic style (1527), resembling that of the Clock Tower of Piazza San Marco in Venice. On the other side of the Piazza Libertà stands the Loggia del Lionello (1448) in white and pink stone, another example of the Venetian-Gothic style. The city also has a castle, accessible from the square. The Duomo is another curiosity of the city, whose oldest part dates back to 1335. (Picture: Loggia di San Giovanni and Torre dell’Orologio)
The second semester in the University of Udine usually starts in February, which is the right time for Carnival. Udine and many cities around organise different events to celebrate Carnival. I spent the first weekend in Venice and I really enjoyed watching the beautiful Venetian carnival masks and processions on Piazza San Marco.
At the beginning of the semester there are many administrative procedures that need to be done: registration at the international office (only by appointment), at the city hall, at the library, etc. It can be a bit heavy, especially with the Italian working hours (many offices and shops are closed in the afternoon) and for the ones who don’t speak at least a little bit of Italian. But once this is done, you can totally enjoy the Mediterranean way of life in a ‘northern’ city; living and studying in Udine is really pleasant. I met several people, who have been living in Udine for several years and most of them told me the same: “Udine is a small city, but it has everything you need!”
In Udine you can walk everywhere, the city centre is not really big. The university buildings are spread all around the city so you won’t have all your classes in the same classroom. But don’t worry, the maximum you will have to walk is 25 minutes from one university building to another.
The Euroculture classes offered in Udine are mostly based on European history (Modern and Contemporary European history) and Human Rights. Since we were only six Euroculture students in Udine, we were often given the opportunity to work in groups during the class and work together on different projects.
It is not easy to find a place to live in Udine when you intend to stay only for a few months. During the semester I was living in one of the university residences with four other Euroculture students. The residence building is brand new, quite central and a good compromise for a short stay in Udine. Unfortunately it is also a bit expensive.
Udine can be considered a small city, with about 99,000 inhabitants, but it is close to several well-known big cities such as Trieste, Verona, Venice, Padova and Bologna. In the region you can also find many attractive places that are worth a visit such as Palmanova, a city built in the shape of a star; Alquileia with an interesting archaeological site; Grado and Lignano near the sea; L’Isola della Cona, a protected area close to Grado; Gemona del Friuli; Cividale; and many others. The big cities are easy to reach by train (you can travel to Venice in 2 hours for €10, although some trains are more expensive than others) but travelling by car is more convenient and sometimes less expensive if you are willing to visit the villages around or travel to Austria or Slovenia.
An advantage of living in a small city such as Udine is that it is easy to get to know people, especially Erasmus students. There is a great Erasmus association (Udine Babel) in the city, which organises many events such as international dinners or language exchange nights every week. There are many bars, restaurants and typical Italian trattorie that serve great food and wine. One of the most famous drinks in Udine is the Spritz aperol, which you will discover quite soon once you start living there!
One last thing that you should know is that many people in the region don’t speak English (or, if they do, just a little) and it is therefore useful to have some knowledge of Italian before you go to Udine or to take a language class while you are there (offered for free during the semester). Trust me: it makes your life easier if you are able to communicate with the local people in your everyday life. People are so much nicer when they see you trying to speak in Italian!
Emilie Lambiel, Udine Correspondent
Emilie is from Switzerland and holds a bachelor degree in communication sciences from the University of Lugano. She studied Euroculture in the University of Göttingen and the University of Udine, and she is currently doing an internship at the European Film Academy in Berlin. She is interested in cinema, literature, sustainable energies, media and communication. She also enjoys travelling even though she almost never arrives at the same destination as her suitcase. In her future profession, she hopes to find and fulfill a combination of communication, culture and European Studies.