Tuesday

22nd Jan 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

Focus

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.

EU to propose scrapping summer time change

Based on the preliminary results of an online survey in which mostly Germans took part, the EU executive is proposing that the whole EU stops changing times in March and October.

Investigation

How to get around the EU posted workers directive

Some EU careworkers in Belgium receive around €400 a month - despite their carers paying €2,500 a month and paying for flights and accommodation. The answer lies in how firms can skirt the safeguards in the EU's posted workers directive.

News in Brief

  1. May U-turn on fee for EU nationals in UK
  2. French data watchdog gives Google €50m fine
  3. EU hits Russians with sanctions over Salisbury attack
  4. 'Don't look for answers to Brussels', EU tells UK
  5. Germany warns UK not to 'misuse' EU patience on Brexit
  6. Germany sent 8,658 asylum-seekers to other EU states
  7. Poll: Macron popularity up four percent
  8. 'Economy is broken' says Oxfam in global inequality report

Stakeholder

A touch of football at this year's G20 summit

FIFA president Gianni Infantino addressed the G20 leaders and placed football at their disposal as a powerful tool to help them address the challenges facing the world today.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Turkish NBA star takes on Erdogan
  2. 'Meme ban' still on table in EU copyright bill, says MEP
  3. Brexit power grab by MPs hangs over May's 'Plan B'
  4. Polish mayor's funeral marred by Tusk TV dispute
  5. Salvini and Kaczynski - the new 'axis' powers?
  6. Seven member states miss climate plan deadline
  7. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  8. Germany led way on EU rights protection

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us