Guest blog: internships in the EU

Jenny Flynn is the Communications and Membership Manager for Dublin-based not-for-profit organisation, European Movement Ireland (EM Ireland).  As part of their work connecting Irish people with  Europe, EM Ireland run the Grad Jobs in Europe campaign, giving Irish students and graduates advice and guidance on finding jobs and internships in the EU.  


Applying for an internship in the EU can seem, at first, to be a hugely daunting prospect. Long application forms, varying eligibility requirements and a huge choice of internship positions can be so intimidating to the uninitiated that they give up at the first hurdle. At European Movement Ireland we know all too well what that is like and every day we chat to students and graduates who are struggling to pick their way through the EU internship maze. We also spend a lot of time talking to those who have done so successfully and who have reaped the professional and personal benefits that followed.

Getting an internship (or traineeship or stage, as they are known) in an EU Institution or Agency offers amazing work experience, networking opportunities, skills development and career prospects. It can open doors, boost your CV, help improve your languages, expose you to a multilingual, multicultural team environment and give you a continental social life!  And in many cases, you’ll even be paid for the privilege! So how do you get one? Here at EM Ireland we tend to divide EU internships into 3 broad categories:

Institutional Internships – internships with an official EU Institution

Most people are aware that the European Commission (EC) and European Parliament (EP) run large traineeship programmes, but the other EU Institutions do too. Places like the Council of the EU, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and the list goes on (with more acronyms than you could shake a stick at). The internship eligibility requirements vary slightly from institution to institution but generally speaking, you need to be a national of an EU country, with a third-level degree (in any discipline, not just politics or law or international relations which is often the perception people have) and knowledge of at least two EU languages to apply. That last point regarding language requirements is one that really puts people off applying but, again depending on the Institution you apply to, your mother tongue along with a decent Leaving Cert level of French or German (or any other official EU language) will often get you through. Learn more and apply online through the websites of the various institutions.

Agency Internships – Internships with a European Agency

The EU has 40 agencies spread out in cities across Europe. These agencies are separate from the institutions above and were set up to help the Institutions make and implement policies and manage EU programmes. The agencies work in a huge range of fields, from the Fundamental Rights Agency in Vienna, to the European Railway Agency in Valenciennes, to the European Medicines Agency in London, to the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions in Loughlinstown in Dublin. Regardless of your degree, you will certainly find an agency that specialises in an area of interest to you. The good news is that these agencies also run internship programmes.  Eligibility requirements vary depending on the agency you apply to but often times the application process is lot less arduous than the institutional positions. The agencies can also offer more flexibility with start and finish dates than the institutions, where there are set intern intakes.

Non-Institutional Internships – Internships outside of EU Institution, Agencies and Bodies

Brussels is chock full of trade groups, lobbyists, law firms, PR firms, NGOs, multi-nationals, private companies, media outlets… there is something for everyone there and so many of these organisations offer internship opportunities. Start searching the net and draw up a list of the ten places in Brussels you would love to work or intern.  Then see if these places offer internships. If not, there may still be no harm in sending in a prospective CV, outlining your availability for work.  Do bear in mind though that you are likely to go unpaid for your work experience in many of these more informal positions.

Three Tips

  • Be determined and diligent! Most of the Institutional internships will have online forms for you to fill in.  These can be long and demanding so make sure to dot all the i’s and cross the t’s. With such large volumes of applicants, intern recruiters are looking for reasons to discard applications, so don’t give them one by being sloppy!
  • Get organised early.  Deadlines for Institutional internships fall well in advance of the internships themselves (for example, the deadline for the October 2014 Commission traineeship was the 31 January 2014) so start looking early.
  • Throw your hat in the ring. Apply for lots of different internships to maximise your chances of being selected. But remember, if you spend longer than six weeks interning in any EU Institution, Delegation or Agency, you are then ineligible to do another EU internship.

Information about the eligibility requirements, application processes and deadlines for all the EU Institutional internship programmes, as well as the majority of the Agencies, are included in the EM Ireland Green Book – a guide for Irish students and graduates looking to intern, work and live in the EU. The Green Book also has a long list of non-institutional internship positions that might inspire your wish list.

Finally, as part of the Grad Jobs in Europe campaign, EM Ireland sends out a weekly update of jobs and internships in the EU. Even if you’re not looking for a position right now, it will give you a good idea of what’s out there, and it’s free to join-just email with ‘Jobs and Internships in Europe’ as the subject line and we’ll add your name to the list.

Learn more at or get in touch with Jenny and the team on

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