Long-term training periods (3 to 12 months) allow an in-depth insight into the work and daily business of the hosting institutions.
The Exchange Programme had the opportunity to interview 5 participants.
On behalf of EJTN, the Exchange Programme team would like to thank the 5 participants for accepting to be part of this interview.
Can you introduce yourself in a few words?
Mariano Lopez Molino (CJEU – 6 months): I have been working as a judge at the first instance court of Telde, Gran Canaria for 9 years. In my daily work I mainly deal with cases of civil and family law. Additionally, I work on cases of contract law as well as consumer protection.
Sophie Depelley (CJEU – 10 months): Being a judge for 20 years, I am now in the position of a legal secretary in the social chamber of the Cour de Cassation, the French supreme Court. In this position I participate in the judges’ deliberations.
Peter Horvath (ECtHR – 12 months): I have been working as a full-time judge for about fifteen years in Debrecen, Hungary. My professional field of law is the criminal arena that covers every and each aspect of Hungarian penal law. I’m an expert on economic criminal law and intrigued by all sorts of criminal issues that have cross-border relevance.
Rita Simoes (Eurojust – 3 months): With 16 years of experience as a public prosecutor focusing on white collar crime, I have been seconded as Deputy EJN contact point at the Portuguese Central Department for Criminal investigation and Prosecution for the past 5 years. My main focus lies on international co-operation in white collar crime and corruption cases.
SV (Eurojust – 4 months): In my work as a public prosecutor in Germany, I mainly deal with various crime types, such as cybercrime cases, gang crime and burglary cases as well as property crimes. I’ve been a prosecutor for 5 years now.
What was your knowledge about your host institution before this experience?
MLM (CJEU – 6 months): Before my traineeship I haven’t had direct contact with the CJEU. Of course, I knew about the role and significance of the institution, but I had the impression that it is not too well-known among the national judiciary. I therefore appreciate the opportunity for judges to become more familiar with the institution.
SD (CJEU – 10 months): Since I work at the supreme Court, it is obvious that I’ve had contact with the CJEU before. I was therefore familiar with the procedures for the national jurisdictions. However, it is interesting to actually work at the Court and have in-depth insight in the cases that I deal with.
PH (ECtHR – 12 months): Prior to 2010 I had not really paid much attention to the case-law of the ECtHR but, since Hungary got more and more involved in severe issues regarding the Convention, I started to keep track on the matter and I was willing to get familiar with the problems we are facing highlighted by the Court. I had some knowledge about the Court itself stemming from my university studies but had no in-depth information about, among others, the procedural rules thereof.
RS (Eurojust – 3 months): I’ve had contact with Eurojust in my work as a contact point for international cooperation. I knew a lot about the institution before which I consider a big advantage.
SV (Eurojust – 4 months): I knew about the structure and work of Eurojust before my traineeship but never had contact with them myself since none of my cases required it yet. I learned about the long-term exchange from colleagues of mine who had been EJTN-trainees in the past. Their experience triggered my curiosity to file my own application.
Regarding the reception in your host institution: Did you feel comfortable and were there enough tutorials/welcoming events to make you familiar with the environment? On which subject have you most learned?
MLM (CJEU – 6 months): The tutorials offered for long-term trainees at the Court of Justice are good. Moreover, there is a strong bond among the trainees which provides for a network and constant discussion and assistance with my peers. We even have a WhatsApp group chat!
During my first days, I learned a lot about handling French language documents correctly and the procedure before the Court.
SD (CJEU – 10 months): When it comes to tutorials for the long-term trainees, I would desire more specific information about the jurisdiction of the Court. I started working on cases immediately in the chamber that I was affiliated to. It would be great to have at least an introduction, similar to the EJTN study visits at the very beginning of the exchange.
PH (ECtHR – 12 months): The reception of the participants at the Council of Europe was well-organised. The staff was overwhelmingly kind and helpful to assist in getting familiar with the life of the Court. Dozens of introductory courses, talks and meetings were organized concerning the arrival of the study visitors.
RS (Eurojust – 3 months): Eurojust provided for a very warm welcome of the long-term trainees. I already knew my colleagues before I arrived and had contact with everyone. Everything was perfectly prepared when I arrived. I started to deal with cases from the very first day.
SV (Eurojust – 4 months): Eurojust and the German desk did their best to welcome me in the best possible way. All my questions were answered very politely, and I was given useful information to get settled at Eurojust. The introduction day after the first week was very useful.
What were your daily tasks? What did you bring as a national judge/prosecutor?
MLM (CJEU – 6 months): I work in very close co-operation with the judge and have the opportunity to draft opinions and statements for him. Furthermore, I work on particular cases and participate in cabinet meetings.
SD (CJEU – 10 months): Drafting and reviewing decisions and opinions for the judge I have been affiliated to.
PH (ECtHR – 12 months): My duties included filtering new cases and preparing draft decisions in manifestly inadmissible cases; processing applications concerning the length of criminal and civil cases in well-established case-law fast-track procedure; processing cases concerning the conditions of detention in Hungary; analysing and researching in particular areas of Hungarian law. The vast majority of the applications concerned the criminal area, so I was able to handle these cases since I knew what and where to find when it came to examine a complaint in more of its depth.
RS (Eurojust – 3 months): I was assigned cases in international co-operation between Portugal and other member states. This is a topic that I had already worked on before. It is interesting how the communication between two countries is facilitated by the work of Eurojust and the possibility to directly contact the other MS’s desk. Furthermore, I am in constant contact with the national authorities in Portugal.
SV (Eurojust – 4 months): Together with my colleagues from the German desk, I work on the cases at hand. The colleagues value and appreciate my support and I can participate and speak in meetings on behalf of the German desk which demonstrates a lot of trust being put in me.
I especially appreciated the opportunity to participate in a 2-day training at Europol.
Regarding the practical aspects: Was it easy to settle in Luxembourg/Strasbourg/The Hague? Did you come alone or in family? What was the most challenging part?
MLM (CJEU – 6 months): Settling down in Luxembourg was not particularly difficult. The only obstacle – since I came with my family – was the registration of my children with the international public school. I was glad that the Court provided very useful information on this issue.
SD (CJEU – 10 months): Settling in Luxembourg was easy. Especially because the long-term trainees at the Court of Justice support each other very well and share their information.
PH (ECtHR – 12 months): The only difficulty to mention is that if you do not have a French bank account it is not easy to find a flat to rent and, in the meantime, you can open a bank account only if you have a proven address (a lease contract is eligible). Moreover, in case of opening a bank account you need to have a French mobile number. But this issue falls outside the organisation of the exchange program, this is systematic and common difficulty. Anyway, to find a suitable flat much depends on the flexibility and the attitude of the owner. I stayed in Strasbourg with my two daughters and the paramount challenge was to find a school for them. Finally, with a help of a friend, I could manage to get a great private school for them.
RS (Eurojust – 3 months): Settling in The Hague from a communicational point of view is not challenging at all. Everyone speaks perfect English and the communication with people is very easy. It was especially easy since everyone is used to internationals living in their city. However, the duration of the long-term training was an obstacle for finding an apartment. Most landlords here have a problem with renting out for less than a year.
SV (Eurojust – 4 months): The other trainees and my colleagues at the national desk were very helpful while settling down in The Hague. I had the chance to take over a rental contract from my predecessor and the general support of my colleagues and other trainees is very good. We meet regularly at work but also in private.
How would you assess the added value of the training in the host institution regarding your professional life: Have you learned new skills or practice? Has the training affected your relation/point of view towards the host institution?
MLM (CJEU – 6 months): The long-term training at the Court of Justice is very efficient, enormously useful and of great value for my professional life. It is very important for national judges to be familiar with the Court of Justice and to know about its working structure.
Furthermore, I learned many new skills such as the editorial of French texts, team work.
SD (CJEU – 10 months): It would be desirable to have an actual training on the Court’s procedure and EU law. These courses exist but won’t start before December which is already late.
PH (ECtHR – 12 months): The period of the long-term exchange program was sufficiently enough to obtain all the relevant information about the Court’s working method. I became familiar with all the procedural rules and learned a lot about how to manage huge loads of cases with the available IT tools. As to these, I was really impressed how the IT background reacts to actually occurring issues and how everyone is at service in case of an arising problem. I was deeply involved in the work of the Court and I was able to give a significant assistance to eliminate the backlog concerned and to handle effectively the communication with the parties throughout my stay. I grabbed the chance and built new relationships with staff members with whom I’m in constant contact ever since. The great professional experience I have gained from this study visit helps me a lot in my everyday work at my court when it comes to the Court’s judgments and decisions to refer to in my domestic cases.
RS (Eurojust – 3 months): The most interesting and challenging part of my traineeship is the work in international co-operation and communication. Since my work in Portugal has to do with international cooperation, this traineeship can provide me with in-depth insight and profound information on the institution and international co-operation in criminal matters.
SV (Eurojust – 4 months): A duration of 4 months for the training is very recommendable. I could immediately immerse in my own cases and got in-depth insight in the institution. The international and European contact among the desks is much more intense than at home.
How do you envisage your future career? Do you think your experience benefit/will benefit your home institution?
MLM (CJEU – 6 months): The CJEU in general and the training in particular reflect perfectly the European motto “united in diversity”. It is therefore a great experience and opportunity to take a close look at European judicial co-operation and different judicial systems and their alignment with European law.
PH (ECtHR – 12 months): As a criminal judge, acting at regional level, I will keep on monitoring the work of the ECtHR and will implement and refer more and more often to relevant segments of the reasonings of the Court in its decisions and judgments. Moreover, I have obtained a wider scope of how things have to be handled in order to comply with the Convention and the Protocols thereto. I also have to emphasise that I am frequently asked to give lectures to members of the judiciary and other legal professionals to share all the experience I have obtained in Strasbourg.
RS (Eurojust – 3 months): I think the training can directly benefit my home institution and the prosecution office I work for. Since I am dealing with those types of cases that I take care of at home, I have the great opportunity to have a closer look at the European co-operation in these cases. The training therefore not only enhances my knowledge about co-operation, for example in money-laundering cases, but also my professional horizon by regularly communicating with my European peers.
SV (Eurojust – 4 months): While I focus on my own cases at home, I have the opportunity to see the bigger picture at Eurojust. Experiencing the European judicial co-operation every day is a great opportunity to widen my professional horizon.
What are the highlights of your long-term training period?
MLM (CJEU – 6 months): The three most important lessons learned during this internship are team work, judicial editorial and the relationship with my European peers. It is very important to have a good relation with the other trainees to broaden and foster my professional network.
SD (CJEU – 10 months): To learn exactly how the preliminary ruling procedure works. Since my Court is a Supreme Court, I deal a lot with preliminary questions. Furthermore, the training gives me the opportunity to learn how exactly the judges and advocates general at the Court work and how I can contribute to a good relationship with the national judges.
PH (ECtHR – 12 months): With the working attitude that I generally do at my court, I was able to improve statistics regarding the Hungarian cases in such an extent that had never occurred before the ECtHR and at the end of the secondment this was, unexpectedly, expressively appreciated by the Registrar of the Court.
SV (Eurojust – 4 months): International co-operation, participating in co-ordination meetings and the topics I work on.
What would you recommend to a hesitating potential applicant? What would you recommend to future EJTN trainees at the CJEU/ECtHR/Eurojust and what should they avoid? 1. Regarding the host institution itself; 2. Regarding life in Luxembourg/Strasbourg/The Hague
MLM (CJEU – 6 months): Don’t be biased and hesitant! The training is a great opportunity to foster interpersonal relations. I also recommend having a car in Luxembourg since the town is so small. Nevertheless, I recommend to live in the city of Luxembourg, even though it might be more expensive.
PH (ECtHR – 12 months): If there’s anyone hesitating concerning whether to go for a secondment I would absolutely encourage them to try it not only and exclusively because of professional purposes but also because of the added value that Strasbourg itself grants. No room for doubt that this year at the Court was one the best experiences in terms of the professional and private sphere of my life so far. If I had to give an advice for someone commencing a secondment at the Court would be to pay a few-day visit to Strasbourg prior to the start of his or her programme to manage those technical issues concerning the accommodation and the bank account together with the French phone number.
RS (Eurojust – 3 months): People who apply for the training should be aware how much effort they are willing to invest in the training. They should choose their area of interest wisely and be well-aware about the logistic prerequisites.
SV (Eurojust – 4 months): I would recommend to apply. The trainee-programme is a very valuable opportunity to enhance professional skills on an international level and to build an international network.