Administrator at the European Commission – An interview with Dr. Bartłomiej Kurcz, LLM.

Joel Stumpp*

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Working at the European Commission is not the ordinary type of work after law studies.

It is different to the classic professions such as judge, prosecutor, or working in a law firm. However, a job at the European Commission can be very attractive not only with regard to the variety of possible tasks but also to the fact that working at the European Commission means working in an international and intercultural team supporting the European integration.

Dr. Bartłomiej Kurcz has been working at the European Commission for more than thirteen years. After the law studies at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków (Poland) he did his PhD there in European Law, comparing the forms and methods of implementation of directives into national law. In the meantime he did his LLM in European Law at the University of Leuven (Belgium) and the Diploma in Legal Studies at the University of Cambridge.

Freilaw: Could you please describe, in which unit at the European Commission you are working and what are your tasks?

Kurcz:

Currently I am working in Directorate General for Justice and Consumers leading a company law team. But I have worked in other Directorates General before, such as Internal Market or Competition.

Freilaw: What are the interesting points for you to work at the Commission?

Kurcz:

The Commission is an excellent place to work for many reasons:

Dimension: you create and enforce the law not only for your village, town, land or country. You do it for 27 Member States. For Europe. It is unique.

Common idea: despite significant differences between Member States you have a sense of purpose: you facilitate and defend agreements between them. What’s the alternative? Everyone in its corner. If history teaches us anything, then everyone in its corner is not the best idea. But I admit that there are very different ideas on how to get to peaceful cooperation between Member States. So a challenge, sometimes frustrating. You can often observe the lack of trust which does not help.

Variety of choice: you can work on creating legislation, negotiating it in the European Parliament and in the Council, but also, for instance, on enforcing competition or health and safety rules. You can also work in the legal service defending cases before European courts or providing legal opinions.

Chance to work with people of very different cultures and backgrounds: you work in teams with economists, lawyers or political scientists from different countries. Although there is a common working language each of the persons brings their very different life experiences, perceptions, ways of behavior. It is not always easy to reconcile, but it is very exciting.

Freilaw: What are the striking differences and the specialty of your work at the Commission compared to other jobs for lawyers?

Kurcz:

The key advantage is that the Commission is wide enough to allow most people to find a place and a job they are good at. If you prefer legal work in the strict sense, there is the legal service. If you prefer creating policy, negotiations, the economic approach to law, there are other directorates general. If you are interested in developing your management skills, you can also find a place. Also a lot depends on you. You have often important responsibility. If you want, you can also, much easier than in private sector, combine your private life with your professional development. But I admit that not everyone is happy. Like in every job.

Freilaw:  Which requirements are there and which skills should persons interested in a job at the commission have?

Kurcz:

In order to work at the Commission, you need to pass the EPSO test. But you could start as a trainee or as a contractual agent and see whether this is a place for you. You need to be motivated, eager to learn and bring some expertise with you. And foreign languages are important.

Freilaw: How exactly does the selection process for the work at the commission look like?

Kurcz:

The selection process is well described at the EPSO website

(https://epso.europa.eu/). Generally you need to first pass the test and then look for available vacancies. You need to be prepared that the process is slow and may take months or years before you get a job after you pass the competition. But sometimes, if you are lucky, and there is a vacancy, it can go very quickly.

Freilaw:  The Commission is the „engine“of the EU politically as well as in an administrative sense. Could you give a description, which kind of decisions are made by the Commission?

 Kurcz:

There are very different decisions the Commission is taking, from purely administrative to approving huge international mergers. Generally, the important powers of the Commission relate to the preparation and negotiations of legislation, infringement proceedings and decisions in the field of competition (anti-trust, mergers, and state aid). But there are also other very important decisions related to the implementation of budget. The Commission is involved, in one way or another, in „spending programmes“. It is impossible to list them all here. For instance, the Commission deals with structural funds,  foreign aid, Galileo program, connecting Europe facility, or training of lawyers, judges and prosecutors to name a few.

 

Freilaw:  As an administrator you are familiar with the internal structures of the Commission.  Lately there are more and more voices claiming, that regarding to many panels of experts and the different structures of the Commission there is a lack of democratic legitimacy and intransparency.

What´s your view on that?

Kurcz:

The transparency of expertise has improved dramatically. There are on-line registers, everyone can check each meeting of the expert group, there are minutes available etc. However, there is a difficult compromise to be reached here. The Commission, like any organization, needs a space to think and reflect freely. And people are often afraid to speak their mind freely if they know they could be quoted. But of course, citizens need to know what the EU is doing in order to feel associated with it.

* Der Autor studiert Rechtswissenschaften im sechsten Semester an der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg mit dem Schwerpunkt “Deutsches, Europäisches und             Internationales Öffentliches Recht”.