Enrico Traversa has been working for Europe for nearly 33 years. He is currently the head of the section of Justice of the Legal Service of the European Commission. This Italian lawyer believes in a united and profitable Europe. We met him at his office at Berlaymont Building for talking about Europe’s future.

  1. Why did you decide to become a lawyer and work for the European Commission here in Belgium?

I started to study Law because I was involved in politics in Italy in 1968, a significant year in European history, I wanted to bring our revolution, our ideas into the legislation. I wanted to change the society and that’s why I chose to study Law in order to acquire the knowledge for having an influence in collective decisions.

Enrico Traversa.

During my studies in Bologna I had an exam of European Community Law and I was enthusiastic about that exam and the manual that I had to learn to pass the exam. After I passed this exam I decided I would do my very best for joining the Commission. My final project at the end of my studies was an analysis of the first European directives on Banks, it’ was one of the first “end of studies” based in European Law in Italy so I was ready to participate in the open competition for becoming a European servicer.


2. How is your working day here, in the European Commission?

We are in the Legal Department which is the service of the President: Mr. Barroso. We have the General Secretaries and the Legal Service. These two services are very horizontal; we deal with all the activities of the European Commission, there are 34 directories general which correspond 34 areas of activities, which correspond 34 Ministries at a national level, the level of Member States: Agriculture, Transport, Justice, etc. In the Legal Department we have 12 different teams which cover all the activities of the European Commission.

Here the work is very different from day to day; the variety of the work is extraordinary, each lawyer is fully responsible for his/her sector. There is also a head of the team, as I am, who coordinates, guides and leads the work of the specialists. We know each other here; we are friends so there is a very nice atmosphere of cooperation between all of us. There is a lot of work here; some days can be very stressful. We are consulted in legal issues which are extremely delicate. The consequences of a legal opinion are vital, I can give you an example: when I was responsible for European Bank Law a legal opinion was worth trillions of Euros.
On the one side you have a lot of work and responsibilities but in the other we are very independent, autonomous. We are paid to give interpretations of the law but we don’t receive any instruction because a legal opinion is useless if it’s ordered by somebody else. We can also organize our time as we like.


3. Speaking about Lampedusa: shouldn’t Europe as a developed continent help the underdeveloped countries creating work and companies instead of exploiting them and selling them weapons?

Of course! The migration from Third World countries to Europe is always the consequence of tragic events which take place in these countries. Immigrants do not like to leave their countries to come to Europe, they would like to remain in their respective countries and be able to live in decent conditions. But it’s a fact that in many African and Asian countries there are no safe conditions of life; the causes are very different. We have the example of the Syrian War, which is a political-diplomatic action on the other hand we have Somalia, there is a Civil War that lasts 20 years, they have no Government, no State, nothing. The mission of the EU and United Nations there should be to help them to set up a State. Each African or Asian country has different problems and it’s not easy to say what the solution is.
I think the first problem is war and the EU should bring peace where there is a war. The pure economic problem is maybe the easiest to solve there are very stable and well- administrated countries in Africa and Asia where is possible to promote investments and to provide people with the opportunity of working there. I would like to remark that the EU is the first donor of funds in the whole world even more that United States.


4. What should the citizens and countries do to reach a true united Europe as the ideal United States of America (USA)?

I’ve been in USA twice, also in Canada, and I’ve discovered some unexpected features of these federal states. I’ve discovered that in some areas the EU is more united than the USA and Canada, for instance there are still controls on frontiers between states in USA whereas in the EU they were abolished 20 years ago.
But it’s true that in some areas USA is more united than the EU, especially in two: Foreign Policy and Defense; because from the very beginning, in 1776, these two were the prerogative of the President and of the federal government. So there is a gap the EU still has to achieve, on the other side we have a common currency: the Euro.
The important thing is that there is a trend; we should transfer more competences of the States to the EU, for example the next year all the big banks in Europe will be under the supervision of a single European institution, the European Central Bank.
But all these developments have to be explained to the citizens and we have huge problems with communication. The commutation strategies of the Europeans Institutions are insufficient; the level of the competences of journalists of the Member states is absolutely painful; they know nothing about the European Institution. Some public opinions believe that some painful decisions are being imposed by Brussels to their countries but they’re completely necessary if we want to fix countries’ problems.

5. What protocol does Europe follow for chasing criminals?

There are a big number of laws in the area of criminal procedures. We must consider that there are no longer frontiers within the Union so everybody can move from Lisbon to Bucharest, they can be honest citizens or be dangerous criminals. That’s why when the internal frontiers were abolished and internal controls were prohibited a number of legal instruments were introduced in order to facilitate the chasing of criminals. I’ll mention one instrument which is extremely effective: the European Arrest Warrant. If a State orders the arrest of a criminal in other Member State, this second has to deliver the suspect immediately with no formalities.
There is an admirable network of European Persecutors of all Member States; this is also a significant step of the European Integration. I just remind you that in the US the FBI was introduced in the 30’s, it means that it took them one century and a half after the American Independence set a federal police.
Again what’s important is the trend; we are making huge progress in the criminal legislation and cooperation between the Member States. Now there is a proposal for the European Regulation for setting up a European Public Persecutors which is being discussed in the Council and the Parliament and we’re confident in 2015 it will be in force.


6. Regarding the politics’ issues: what things would you change in Europe?

The European Parliament need almost full powers of legislation; we need much stronger European Political Parties, because now we have European Parties but they are a confederation of National Parties, a major political change is needed.
I would give more powers to the European Parliament. And finally for achieving a fully integrated Europe we need to enlarge the European budget. Normally the countries contribute with the 1% of their Gross National Product (GNP) which is not enough. There is a big different with USA; President Obama can dispose of a budget which is 17% of the GNP. If we could increase the European budget which is now 135 billions euros to the 200 billions euros, that would be a significant increase which could make a big difference.
I would like to end again with an historical anecdote; there were no federal taxes in the US until 1914. Again it took them one century and a half to have a federal tax on revenues and it was just before the First War World because the President of the US has no money to finance the army so he needed so financial resources to set up a real federal army and navy.

7. How is your life here and which are the differences between your life here and in Italy?

I moved to Brussels in 1981 so I live here for nearly 33 years and I’m quite satisfied with my life and family in Brussels. The main differences between my city, Bologna, and Brussels is the size. Brussels is much larger than my city of origin, the life in my Italian city was more concentrated. I’ve noticed that there are differences in the level of efficiency of certain services. I can tell that Health Care in Belgium is excellent, better than in Italy. On the other side Brussels is more chaotic, for example the traffic. Speaking about social life Italy has more, in an Italian city people live ‘outside’ buildings, in the squares… whereas the live of Brussels’ habitants is based on networks of activities and if you are not in it is difficult to meet people.

Enrico Traversa en la sala de prensa de la Comisión Eurpea.

Publishes 10th December 2013 por María M.M.




Journalist, Writer & Audiovisual Communicator 📽 You may say I’m a dreamer 🦄✨ TW/IG: @mary_vordel

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María Muñoz Morillo

María Muñoz Morillo

Journalist, Writer & Audiovisual Communicator 📽 You may say I’m a dreamer 🦄✨ TW/IG: @mary_vordel

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