The annual Irish Universities Law Students tour of EU Institutions took place between February 8th and 12th this year. 24 students from UCC were among those who flew to Brussels on Monday in preparation for a tour across Belgium, Luxembourg, France and the Netherlands.
On Monday the students visited Luxembourg City and took in the sights of one of the wealthiest nations in the world. On Tuesday the group attended the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg, where they were present for the hearing of an important case before thirteen judges of the Grand Chamber. They also attended a question and answers session with representatives of the Court, as well as the two Irish judges of the European Court of Justice, Judge O Caoimh and Judge O Higgins. Following this session, a lunch was hosted for the students, who hailed not just from UCC, but also from NUIG and UCD.
On Wednesday the group visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg and met with the majority of the Irish MEPs, among them Alan Kelly, Sean Kelly, Jim Higgins, Pronsiais de Rossa, Marian Harkin and Gay Mitchell. They were invited to ask questions and learned about the committees and operations of the background to the European Parliament. They also visited the Public Gallery of the Parliament and were present for voting of the MEPs on issues including the ascension of Turkey to the European Union and aid for Haiti.
The group stayed in Antwerp and on Thursday visited the European Commission in Brussels. Here they participated in several presentations, the first by Mr. Jo Vandercappellen regarding the fundamental institutions of the European Union. A further discussion by Mr. Donnchadh Woods arose in the area of competition law and antitrust policy in the European Union, with particular focus on the strength of companies such as Microsoft and Intel and their ability to abuse their noted positions of dominance in the market.
The European Union’s Neighbourhood policy was discussed by Mr. John O Rourke, who elaborated on the aspects of EU relations with other nations- among them Algeria and Turkey. He accepted questions regarding Russia and an Eastern Policy that is likely to emerge in the near future, in an attempt to strengthen old relations and build new ones- a core principle of the ‘peace and stability’ intention of the Union as a whole. Finally the group spoke with Mrs. Audrone Steiblyte about the European Commission’s Legal Service. how it operates and deals with obstacles such as language on a daily basis. She outlined for the students the future career opportunities at the European Commission.
On Friday the group spent free time in Amsterdam before returning to Cork.