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Brussels, 20 October 2010

The big stage: 50th anniversary of the Commission's traineeship programme

What do King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Mario Monti, Silvana Koch-Mehrin and Barack Obama's economics advisor Michael Froman all have in common? They were all once trainees at the European Commission. More than 40 000 young university graduates have participated in the Commission's traineeship programme since its launch in 1960. It is the longest running traineeship programme of its kind and the biggest in the world in terms of the numbers annually recruited. The trainees, or "stagiaires" as they are more commonly known, work with the Commission's full-time officials on a wide range of tasks for a five-month period. Some have gone on to become European Commissioners and MEPs, while others became kings and even journalists. The Commission is hosting a conference in Brussels today to mark the 50th anniversary of the traineeship programme, also known as "Le Stage".

Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: ''Over the years, the trainees have contributed enormously to the Commission with their dynamism and knowledge. For many, this experience has been a pivotal step in their future careers and in a lifelong commitment to the European Union.''

In 1960, the first year of the programme, there were three trainees. By 1983 this figure had risen to 500 and it has now reached around 1200. In the 50 years of the programme's existence, Italy has provided the highest number of trainees (almost 4500) and Malta the least (around 50). Almost 3500 trainees came from non-EU countries. During the past ten years female trainees have outnumbered their male counterparts by 70% to 30%. In 2009, the average age of a trainee was 26, the average number of languages they could speak was more than four and the average number of diplomas was almost two per trainee.

Ten former Commission trainees

Former Commission trainees include:

Dacian Ciolos, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development

Prince Felipe of Spain, heir to the Spanish throne

Michael Froman, Deputy Assistant to US President Barack Obama and Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs

Silvana Koch-Mehrin, Vice-President of the European Parliament and chair of the German Liberal Democratic Party (FDP) in the European Parliament

Manuel Marín, former Vice President of the Commission

King Mohammed VI of Morocco

Mario Monti, former European Commissioner responsible for the Internal Market and for Competition

Christine Ockrent, Belgian journalist, former chief of the l'Express editorial office, TV presenter for France 2 and France 3

Odile Quintin, former Director General for Education and Culture at the European Commission

Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, in charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship

To mark the 50th anniversary, the Commission is hosting a conference in Brussels (Charlemagne building) focusing on the past, present and future developments of the traineeship programme. Trainees from different generations and nationalities will tell their stories and representatives of the Commission services, in particular human resources, will give presentations. The traineeships office will present a video on the social, cultural and professional advantages of the traineeship.

How to become a Commission trainee

The traineeship programme is open to university graduates from all over the world. Some 90% of the trainees come from the EU Member States. Competition is fierce, with more than 14 000 applications per year and 1 200 places up for grabs. There are two five-month traineeships per year, starting 1 March and 1 October. Applications must be submitted seven months before the start of the period via the traineeship office website. Recruited trainees receive a monthly grant of €1067 and reimbursement of their travel expenses. The traineeships office also runs a special programme to attract Roma candidates (10 trainees per year) and interpreters from China (10 a year).

The traineeships office manages the programme and has an annual budget of €7 million (2009).

The Commission's traineeship programme is part of its Directorate General for Education and Culture. The Commission is planning to create a community of former trainee “goodwill ambassadors” to promote European ideas and values.

To find out more:

Commission Traineeships Office:

Portraits of former trainees (1960-2010):

Conference website:

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