A few words from the 2009 Best Speakers on their Luxembourg experience!
“ And the Best Speaker’s award goes to….”
When back in May 2009 Denise Ashmore read our names in the debating chamber of the newly built Supreme Economical Court in Kiev we were dumbfounded. We couldn’t believe that among so many brilliant students from all over Europe taking part in the 15th Central and East European Moot Court Competition, it was us – Adelina Prokop and Vanda Jakir who had come first. Receiving the Best Speaker’s award was like a dream come true; however, it was only when we arrived in Luxembourg in November 2009 that the big news had sunk in – we were about to undergo a two-week stage at the European Court of Justice!
The European Court of Justice is situated on Kirchberg, a little hill towering above Luxembourg town. Among the modern ECJ buildings, there is also European Bank of Investments and Luxemburg Philharmonic; the surroundings are therefore formidable. We felt like being in the very heart of Europe when we entered the main ECJ building – Ancien Palais.
Adelina was undergoing a stage at the cabinet of Advocate General Ms Eleanor Sharpston, while Vanda had the opportunity to be a stagiaire at the cabinet of Judge Mr Alexander Arabadijev. The two cabinets are situated next to each other on the long, never ending corridors of the Anneau – a building where all members of the court have their cabinets.
Each cabinet is composed of four referendaires and assistants. They form a perfect team, which helps respectively the judge and the advocate general to prepare for the hearings and deliver opinions. For the two subsequent weeks we had an opportunity to become part of their team. We were taking part in the cabinet’s weekly meetings, analysing cases which were currently pending before the court and having long and inspiring discussions about the development of EU law.
Being a referendaire at the two cabinets differs substantially. Main role of an Advocate General’s referendaire is assisting in drafting the AG Opinions. While undergoing a stage at the AG cabinet, Adelina had the opportunity to observe the process of drafting the opinion and the brainstorming which precedes it. Vanda, on the other hand, being a stagiaire at the Judge’s cabinet, had additional duties of updating the judge on the all current cases pending before the court. During weekly meetings at the cabinet, the Judge’s referendaires discuss the cases lodged before the court and assess their potential impact on the development of the European Law.
We also took the possibility to attend the Court’s hearings. The Grande Salle where the hearings of the Grand Chamber and full Court take place made an unforgettable impression on us. Bedazzled by the courtroom’s décor, we listened to the observations submitted by lawyers from different Member States. The multilingualism of the European Union exerts an impact on the court’s hearings as well. It was surprising to hear one of the party delivering a speech in Dutch, a Judge posing questions in French, and an Advocate General presenting his or her opinion in English. Of course, everything is being simultaneously translated by dozens of interpreters.
Although there are a few hundred people working both at the ECJ and the Court of First Instance, the Court’s environment is rather family-like. During the two-hour lunch breaks everyone goes down to the cafeteria situated in the long corridor on the ground floor (the Gallery) to enjoy delicious meals in the presence of other colleagues. It is not unusual to meet a Judge or an Advocate General eating their lunch at the opposite table.
As a part of our prize, we also had an opportunity to visit Brussels and have a taste of other European institutions. Although our visit was brief, we managed to get acquainted with how the European Commission works, which was kindly presented to us by officials from Directorate General for Competition and the Internal Market. In addition, our tour of the European Parliament was astonishing since westood in the very chamber where the Parliament has its sittings and even popped in on a Committee meeting, not to mention all of the vivid sculptures exhibited in corridors of the Parliament. Of course, it is superfluous to mention that we enjoyed Belgian chocolates as well.
Even though we tried to retell our experience in the past few lines, the whole adventure is almost impossible to depict. The atmosphere both at the Court and in Luxembourg, the joy of being a part of the process that seemed too abstract just a few weeks ago, or the friends we’ve made while erasing the barriers between our mother tongues; these are certainly the things that make this trip a bit of a turning point. In other words, the enthusiasm that we gained will probably boost us up for some time to find and achieve our goals, and perhaps come to Luxembourg again.
In the end, we would like to thank AG Sharpston and Judge Arabadijev, both their cabinets and the organisers of the CEEMC – Denise Ashmore and Steve Terrett – for giving us this opportunity of a lifetime that we will never forget.