Wednesday

8th Feb 2023

EU foreign service should pay its interns, EU watchdog says

  • The EU's foreign service should be available to as broad a range of people as possible," said EU ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly. (Photo: European Parliament)

EU ombudsman Emily O'Reilly has told the European External Action Service (EEAS) to pay all its interns to open the door to people from poor backgrounds.

The EU watchdog presented her report on Friday (17 February), following an investigation into a complaint brought to her by a young Austrian woman who had worked as an unpaid intern in an EU delegation in Asia.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The EEAS has almost 800 trainees in its delegations around the world, who work there full time for free.

The ombudsman heard both the former intern and the EU foreign service before making her recommendation.

“Traineeships in ... the EU’s foreign service can be a significant stepping stone in young people’s careers and should be available to as broad a range of people as possible,” O’Reilly said in a statement.

But the costs of housing, insurance and travel could bar some people from applying for unpaid internships.

"This may, eventually, lead to fewer future job opportunities for the less privileged, initiating a vicious circle where privilege follows privilege", the ombudsman added.

She recalled that equality is a founding value of the European Union and that discrimination is strictly forbidden.

She pointed out that the EU Council, representing member states, in its 2014 recommendation on a quality framework for traineeships, acknowledged that unpaid traineeships can limit career opportunities for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and be a form of unpaid labour.

She recommended the EU foreign service to pay an "appropriate allowance", which could reflect the cost of living in the country where the delegation is located.

"While the nature of this allowance will be a matter for the EEAS, the ombudsman believes that the allowance should be such as to respect the principle of non-discrimination and should ensure that young people will be encouraged to apply for a traineeship irrespective of their (or their family’s) financial status," O'Reilly said.

"This will benefit both trainees and delegations,” she added.

The ombudsman's recommendations are non-binding but EU institutions usually follow them.

The EU foreign service has until 31 May to submit an answer.

The ombudsman said she would look into the practice of unpaid internships in other institutions.

The ombudsman's investigation comes days before EU interns organise a protest to demand an end to unpaid internships in the EU institutions.

Demonstrators will gather in front of the European Commission on Monday (20 February).

The European Parliament has banned unpaid internships in its secretariat, but MEPs are still free to propose such internships in their offices.

The European Commission offers 200 unpaid internships at any one time.

EU interns to rebel against unpaid work

Young people will gather in Brussels on Monday to protest against hundreds of unpaid traineeships offered by the EU institutions each year.

Opinion

A bold call for traineeship equality

The EU ombudsman's slapdown of the EU diplomatic service's unpaid internship programs offers a glimmer of hope to a future of paid internships in Europe.

Investigation

Commission accused of cherry picking job applicants

A pilot project scheme is giving preferential treatment for interns to land highly sought-after jobs at the European Commission - bypassing the lengthy open competition for everyone else seeking the same position.

Opinion

EU buries head deeper in sand over Israel's apartheid

While every European diplomat knows that a return to the "status quo" means maintaining the daily oppression, humiliation and anguish that comes with living under apartheid, the EU continues to acquiesce to a situation that gets worse by the day.

Opinion

EU buries head deeper in sand over Israel's apartheid

While every European diplomat knows that a return to the "status quo" means maintaining the daily oppression, humiliation and anguish that comes with living under apartheid, the EU continues to acquiesce to a situation that gets worse by the day.

Opinion

Wales' message to Europe: 'We'll be back'

The scars of Brexit have left their mark in communities across Wales. The Menai mussel industry has experienced a sharp decline having once been a staple in fish counters and restaurants across Europe; its business model wrecked by post-Brexit rules.

Latest News

  1. Eight EU states press for more Turkey-style migrant swap deals
  2. EU buries head deeper in sand over Israel's apartheid
  3. Polish MEP also went on freelance Azerbaijan trip
  4. Why Europe's interminable compromises are a virtue
  5. Wales' message to Europe: 'We'll be back'
  6. MEPs to vote on risky 'hydrogen for home heating' rule
  7. The man who won't stop filing info requests until every EU doc is public
  8. EU hands Libya coast guard boats ahead of migration summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWWEU Social Dialogue review – publication of the European Commission package and joint statement of ETUFs
  2. Oxfam InternationalPan Africa Program Progress Report 2022 - Post Covid and Beyond
  3. WWFWWF Living Planet Report
  4. EFBWWEFBWW Executive Committee report on major abuses, labour crime and subcontracting
  5. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  6. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us