Graduates of the Prague University of Economics and Business aim to be among the top officials of the European Commission

Last week, Hospodářské noviny reported that several Czech representatives who won internal selection procedures in the European Commission have succeeded in senior positions in the European Commission. Most successful Czechs are graduates of the Prague University of Economics and Business. The selection procedures were for the AD12 level, the last step for a Director in the European Commission. The director’s post is one of the senior management positions and Czech representatives hold only two so far. We are glad that the graduates of the Prague University of Economics and Business are reaching high positions in the EU institutions, this time specifically in the European Commission. Congratulations!

One of our graduates is Milan Lisický, an economist working in the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs. He graduated from the Faculty of International Relations at the Prague University of Economics and Business, with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business. He studied at the Master’s level at the Faculty of Finance and Accounting and obtained his PhD in Economic Policy at the Faculty of Economics.

What did studying at VŠE bring to Milan Lisický?

“Let me start with what stuck in my mind the most: the enormous flexibility in the choice of majors and optional subjects. I did my Bachelor’s degree at the Faculty of International Relations, my Master’s degree at the Faculty of Finance and Accounting, where I chose electives mainly from the Department of Public Finance, and as a minor I chose the then newly opened macroeconomic analysis at the Faculty of Economics. Gradually, I found my way to a field that I still enjoy and find fulfilling. I also remember some excellent teachers and open-minded people who inspired me and pushed me a lot. I can name only Vladimir Tomšík, who recommended me for an internship at the Ministry of Finance, where my professional career began. But there were many more.

Of course, the opportunity to study abroad was excellent. I chose the CEMS management programme in Cologne, Germany, which was the experience of a lifetime and a great opportunity to experience a different system of study.

Finally, I met friends at the Prague University of Economics and Business, some of whom have remained with me. I like to remember how we all stood in line overnight to register for the math exam (why we had to stand there overnight is still unclear to me), and today we are creative directors, top consultants, Eurocrats, language school directors, experts in development projects at non-profits, etc. Prague University of Economics and Business opened the door to all sorts of career paths for us, even though we are probably not the typical managers and accountants it probably wanted to produce.

For me, the journey continued with my studies in economics in Essex, England, a PhD at the LSE, and then a job at the European Commission. At the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs, I worked on the Greek bailout programme, among other things, and now I’m helping to keep Ukraine and other countries in the EU’s neighbourhood financially afloat. It’s a great job, and if you are at the start of your university journey, I highly recommend applying for an EU traineeship.”

Milan Lisický

Another prominent graduate of our school is Daniel Braun, who holds the position of Chief of Cabinet to the Vice President of the European Commission, Věra Jourová. Daniel Braun also graduated from the Faculty of International Relations with a degree in International Business. Lenka Filípková, another graduate of the Faculty of International Relations, who specialised in European economic integration during her studies in International Business, is among the distinguished graduates of the VŠE.

It should be stressed that the proportion of Czechs in European institutions is still relatively low. The Czech Republic still has only 12 representatives at AD12 level in the European Commission, but this number will now rise to 17. Hungary, for example, which joined the EU in the same year as the Czech Republic, already has 20 representatives. Austria has 56 and Portugal even 64. Slovakia, with a similar population, has one less official than the Czech Republic.

However, it is important to note that the selection process for the European institutions is demanding and competition is high. Only the best candidates from across Europe are selected. The VŠE graduates who have been successful in these selection processes are an example of how hard work and a quality education can lead to a successful career in the European institutions.

What does Milan Lisický, a graduate of the Prague University of Economics and Business, have to say about his career in the EU?

“There are several ways to get a job in the EU. The classic one is through the open competition EPSO organises yearly for permanent positions. The second way is to go through short-term positions. For example, once a trainee has done well during his traineeship, it is possible that his supervisor will recommend him to colleagues who need help, and so you can go through different positions and in the process try out for permanent positions, which are then a bit easier because you already have a better understanding of what is going on in the EU.

And once a permanent EU official, career progression is to some extent determined by salary scales, as in any public administration. Career progression can be accelerated to some extent by taking positions that are very important and visible at the time. In my case, it was working on the Greek bailout programme, which was a time-consuming and very dynamic job, where my task was specifically to assess how Greece was meeting the agreed public finance targets and to seek consensus between Greece on the one hand and the international institutions (European Commission, IMF, ECB and ESM) on the other. After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, I helped prepare several financial packages and economic reforms that Ukraine needed and could do at the time. These were challenging positions (indeed, far from the widespread perception of the workload of European civil servants), but at the same time probably the most interesting tasks an economist could have worked on in the last ten years.

So my experience is that the EU values people who can quickly get to grips with emerging problems or economic crises and have the breadth of experience to be able to propose viable solutions that not only work, but can be supported in discussions with the European Parliament and Member States.”

Milan Lisický

If you are interested in studying the European Economic Integration programme, you can find more information on the website of the Faculty of International Relations, which currently offers a joint preparatory course in cooperation with Charles University that will prepare you for selection procedures for these institutions. You may be interested in a podcast with Associate Professor Nicole Grmelová, Head of the Department of Business and European Law, who talks about her career in an EU institution, among other things.

Congratulations to our graduates.