Working in the EU – why aren’t more Irish people applying for positions?

The European Parliament in Strasbourg

Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton, speaking at the gradireland Graduate Careers Fair in the RDS on 10 October, noted how there were fewer people in Ireland applying for European Union stage (the French word for traineeship) positions than in other countries.

One of the theories she put forward was that Irish people were put off by not having second languages.

‘It’s for that reason you see so many people emigrating to Australia and Canada right now,’ she said, ‘and it’s a shame because Brussels is so much closer to home than Toronto and Vancouver, or Sydney and Melbourne.’

While many EU positions do require you to be fluent in two languages, others require only satisfactory ability in a second language. And English, it is noted, is something of a lingua franca in the EU institutions and agencies, so native speakers have an advantage in that regard.

People also shouldn’t be put off because they do not have a law or politics degree. As the editor of The Green Book, Lucy Moylan, points out in her preface, ‘institutions are looking for people with a wide variety of skills. They need scientists, librarians, IT experts, journalists and plenty of others.’

The Green Book, published by the European Movement Ireland, is a guide for prospective Irish interns on how to go about getting a stage, advice on moving to and living in Brussels, and advice on how one would go about ‘moving up the ladder’. Lucinda Creighton, who was at the RDS to launch its sixth volume, herself worked for a time as a stagiaire (trainee).

EU stages/internships usually last for a period of between three and six months, and are seen as ‘rites of passage’ for people who wish to pursue a career as a public servant in Europe. Most trainees are paid around €1,000 a month (some as much as €3,000 if you include accommodation allowances).  While the majority of stages are in Brussels, there are also opportunities for internships in places such as Luxembourg, Torino, Barcelona, Strasbourg or even Dublin.

The first chapter in The Green Book is entitled ‘Getting there’ and lists the various places you can apply directly to. These include European institutions such as the European Commission, the European Union External Action Service and the European Court of Justice. It also lists European agencies, such as the European Railway Agency, and non-institutional stages such as ones with The Amnesty International European Institutions Office.

There is information on the eligibility requirements for applying (including academic and language requirements) and how to complete the Europass (documents you need to complete to apply for positions). The next chapter gives advice on living in Brussels – finding accommodation, shopping, setting up a bank account, restaurants and nightlife.

There are also profiles of people who worked as stagiaires (trainees) and tips on how to turn a stage into a full-time job.

While competition for places is high, it is noted in the book that two of the five people to have held the post of chief civil servant in the European Commission have been Irish (David O’Sullivan and Catherine Day), and that Ireland will hold the Presidency of the European Union for the first six months of 2013.

Further information on how to get a copy of The Green Book is available at the European Movement Ireland website, while has useful links for people looking to apply for a position in Europe. For more advice on working abroad see

2 Comments on “Working in the EU – why aren’t more Irish people applying for positions?”

  1. John says:

    Good article, but that’s the European Parliament in Strasbourg in the photo.

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