Halyna Padalko standing in front of a EU parliament banner with the Ukraine and EU flag behind her.

Dispatch from the European Parliament in Brussels: Halyna Padalko’s blog from the field

Photo credit: Halyna Padalko

By Halyna Padalko, MAGG

What comes to your mind first when you hear the word European Parliament? For me, it’s an incredibly complex puzzle that I am still putting together. Having met a few hundred people in the Brussels bubble, I don’t know anyone who understands 100% how all the EU institutions work and interact.

If I were to try very hard and summarize what and how things work in this incredibly complex structure in one paragraph, I would write it like this. “The European Union (EU) is a unique economic and political union between 27 European countries that functions through a complex and interrelated system of institutions. The key institutions include the European Parliament, representing EU citizens and directly elected by them; the European Council, comprising the heads of state or government of the member states; the Council of the European Union, representing the governments of the member states; the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, and managing the day-to-day business of the EU. The decision-making process often involves a proposal from the Commission, followed by amendments and approval from both the Parliament and the Council, reflecting a balance between the interests of the member states and the EU citizens.” This complexity is due to many reasons, the main one being to prevent the accumulation of power in one set of hands and to ensure maximum transparency and democracy.

To truly understand how all this works from the inside, even obtaining a master’s degree in European Governance is not enough. Here, one needs to work and see how laws and resolutions are adopted in practice.

What allows the European Union to be large and spread its values, prosperity, and geopolitical influence? One of the most valuable and significant policies of the European Union is the policy of enlargement. Thanks to this policy, the European Union has grown from 6 founding countries to 27. It confidently continues its movement towards building democracy on the European continent, inviting more and more new countries to its family. Ukraine is one of the countries in line for full membership in the EU.

The policy of enlargement and Ukraine’s issue became two of the main focuses of my internship at the European Parliament, which my lovely tutor Julia Wanninger tried to guide me in. I was lucky to get one of the most experienced policy advisors who is fluent in 5 languages, has deep expertise in different angles of foreign affairs, is extremely advanced in mentoring, and is a very noble and generous person herself. Because of her knowledge and approach to tutoring, that internship went very efficiently for me.

I was also incredibly fortunate because, during my internship, a historic decision for Ukraine was made – the Council of the European Union opened the negotiations process for full membership of the country in the EU. This is a decision that Ukrainians had been waiting for decades, boldly starting the Revolution of Dignity in 2013 and continuing to defend their democratic European choice on the battlefield during almost ten years of war with Russia and now two years of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Despite concerns that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a long-time friend of Vladimir Putin and a Eurosceptic, would block the decision, the 10 billion Euros allocated by the European Commission to Hungary on the eve played their part. Orbán simply left the hall during the voting (All decisions in the Council of the European Union are made by consensus, meaning even one member country can veto a conclusion supported by the other 26 countries). Given that there are fears that right-wing populist movements are gaining popularity throughout the European Union, there is a severe discussion about moving from the principle of unanimity to the principle of qualified majority, as undemocratic forces and Eurosceptic sentiments have the potential to destroy the European project from within, and this is not the most positive scenario.

Also, a significant threat to the existence of the European project is Russia’s war against Ukraine, which has opened Pandora’s box of regional conflicts around the world and has significantly emboldened dictators and other bad actors regarding the possibilities of resolving territorial disputes through military interventions. Despite a great deal of internal disagreement within the European Union on the issue of aiding Ukraine, all political groups are unanimous (except for the far-left and far-right, which is not surprising considering that Russia has been financing radical right and left groups around the world for decades, forming an anti-Ukrainian agenda for followers of extremist ideas). The European Union strongly condemns Russia’s aggression, has chosen a side, and stands in solidarity with Ukraine. Europe understands the seriousness of the threat from a “country without borders” and sometimes openly expresses its aversion to sharing the continent with Russia. Thus, Europe has done and continues to do everything to support Ukraine, discussing the increase of weapons production within the EU and the rapid admission of Ukraine into the family of European countries. Ukraine is Europe.

I was sincerely happy to be beneficial for Ukraine and to do everything possible and impossible to advocate for Ukraine within the walls of the European Parliament. It was also an honor to be an Ambassador for the Balsillie School of International Affairs and the only participant in my group receiving education in Canada.

Studying in the Global Governance program was incredibly important and useful during my internship. A definite super advantage of the program is its multidimensionality and the opportunity to build almost any career. With a Global Governance degree, you can freely work anywhere, and having received a solid knowledge base in the program, you can deepen it in any direction, being quite flexible with choosing a narrow field.

So, I am happily moving into my fourth month of internship and will keep you posted.

The views expressed in this blog are strictly personal and do not represent the views of the European Parliament or the S&D Group.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the BSIA, its students, faculty, staff, or Board of Directors.

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