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BIPR | Interpreting Europe's Future
Interpreting Europe's Future

October 16, 2023 - 18:30

Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Directorate-General Interpretation (SCIC), European Commission

Event Recap

Monday October 16th, Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Directorate-General for Interpretation (SCIC) of the European Commission, visited SAIS Bologna. Professor Michael Leigh moderated a seminar with her about the future of Europe. The meeting started with an overview of Ruiz Calavera's career and a discussion about the importance of languages to the EU. The second part was a Q&A during which the EU's foreign policy challenges and topics relating to enlargement were discussed.

Ruiz Calavera has been working with the EU since she is 29 years old. She first worked at the Directorate General that was responsible for customs and taxation dismantling the internal borders in the context of the introduction of the internal market for the free circulation of goods, people, services and capital in 1992. Ruiz Calavera explained how she had been able to use the logistic insights she gained in that job to then move on to working on the European Community's embargoes on Yugoslavia during the Balkan War, in a time where there was no Common Foreign Security Policy (CFSP) in place yet. Consequently, she worked on the EU's external relations in the realm of the enlargement process. After being detached to Kosovo on behalf of the EU, she helped setting up the first crisis management structures of the EU. She returned to working on the Balkans once again as Director of the Western Balkans before starting as the head of DG Interpretation (SCIC).

SCIC is the largest interpretation service in the world, working in 24 official EU languages. This is a huge logistic operation, as not only European Council and Council of Ministers' meetings require interpretation for all 24 official EU languages, but also lower-level meetings require to be interpreted, such as COREPER, the diplomatic committee of the EU, that runs in English, French & German. Human factor is especially important as the negotiations take place in vibrant political contexts and funds and other vital interest for the EU Member States are at stake. Thus, the language aspect of European decision-making is at the heart of the legitimacy of the machinery in Brussels, even more so as EU law requires to be translated into all official EU-languages before entering into force and EU citizens have the right to communicate with the EU institutions in their language.

In relation to the perceived lack of speed and unity of the EU, she indicated that a substantive amount of negotiation is needed to reach consensus but that we end up reaching solid consensus. Such was the case with the withdrawal agreements in the context of Brexit, but also with the current situations in Ukraine and the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. Ruiz Calavera explained that the EU has shown leadership in many areas (eg COVID vacines, green agenda, energy diversification, etc) but it is more difficult to reach unanimity in some policy areas. CFSP, and especially defense policy, is the hardest nut to crack. The war in Ukraine was a game changer to this regard, seeing for instance coordinated military exercises and EU joint procurement of ammunition through the European Peace Facility. That is unprecedented.

Ruiz Calavera saw the link between such geopolitical contexts and consensus building in European policy making, reflecting on her own experiences regarding enlargement. She explained that in every of the 7 waves of accessions to the EU there were geopolitical considerations, just like today in relation to the new candidate countries. It is not a matter of if, but when and how new enlargement is going to happen. Given the merit base approach and the need for EU reform, there should be no artificial deadlines but there is a growing convergence even in the opinion of traditional sceptics. She concluded by emphasizing that despite shortcomings, the EU is a force for good.

Interpreting Europe's Future

hosted by Professor Michael Leigh

Genoveva Ruiz Calavera
Directorate-General Interpretation (SCIC), European Commission

The head of the European Commission's Directorate General for Interpreting shares her vision of the EU's future through the lens of a distinguished and varied career in the EU's institutions.

Genoveva Ruiz Calavera is Director-General of DG Interpretation at the European Union.

Calavera held different management positions in the private sector before joining the EU in 1992, when she started working on internal market and enlargement negotiations. In 1999 she was detached for a year to the European Commission Taskforce for the Reconstruction of Kosovo in Pristina. She was then responsible for relations with Serbia and Montenegro as well as Kosovo until 2009, when she headed the unit responsible for "Crisis Response and Peace Building" in the Directorate-General for External Relations. In 2011 she joined the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) under the auspices of the High Representative/Vice President of the Commission. Calavera was appointed Director for Western Balkans in 2016 at the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR).

Calavera holds a degree in Philology from the University Complutense in Madrid and a Master in Public Management from the "Ecole de Commerce Solvay" in Brussels.
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