Ebru Ekeman – 1999-2000 Academic Year Jean Monnet Scholar

School / Department: KU Leuven University

Institution and Position: World Health Organisation, Head of Department in the Office of the Deputy Director General

 

  • Could you tell us a little about yourself? How has your career been shaped so far?

After graduating from Boğaziçi University, Department of Political Science and International Relations in 1997, I first worked in the Istanbul and Brussels Offices of the Economic Development Foundation (EDF). EDF also introduced me to the Jean Monnet Scholarship Programme. This was the most active period in Türkiye-European Union (EU) relations; the years when preparations for EU membership began immediately after the Customs Union. At that time, EDF was a cult in Türkiye in terms of EU studies. That’s why starting at EDF contributed greatly to my career. Probably because of my formation, when I started working as a diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2001, I started at the European Union Department. As a young diplomat, I had the opportunity to take an active role in EU negotiations. My fifteen-year career in the Ministry took me to various positions in Sarajevo, Rome and Geneva. Later, I served in NATO and the United Nations. For the last ten years, I have been working in the field of public health at the UN World Health Organisation’s headquarters in Geneva. Briefly, I have specialised in multilateral diplomacy in my professional career, starting with the EU and gradually extending to other international organisations. In this framework, I took part in many international negotiations in the fields of political, economic, military, humanitarian and development.

 

  • Could you give some information about the university you studied with the Jean Monnet Scholarship and the subject you are working on?

I completed my master’s degree in European Studies at KU Leuven University in Belgium within the scope of the Jean Monnet Scholarship Programme. The reason I chose this country and this programme was for practical reasons. I was working at EDF at that time. In this way, I could continue both to study and work at the EDF Brussels Office. I benefited a lot from this choice. On one hand, I witnessed the EU issues that we learnt in theory at university work in practice, and on the other hand, the increase in my academic knowledge on EU issues enabled me to be more efficient in my job. 

 

  • What are the effects of the education you completed, thanks to the Jean Monnet Scholarship Programme, on your view of the European Union?

The biggest benefit of the Jean Monnet Scholarship Programme is that it enabled me to understand European integration in depth from economic, political, social and cultural perspectives. When I was a scholar, the EU was very popular. Over time, as the membership perspective faded away, this enthusiasm diminished and the number of EU opponents increased, and relations cooled. I think that Jean Monnet scholars can change this balance thanks to the knowledge and achievements they receive. Thanks to the Jean Monnet Scholarship Programme, there is at least an enlightened audience in our country that approaches discussions and analyses from the axis of knowledge, common sense and rationality. 

 

  • What would you like to recommend to Jean Monnet scholarship candidates?

As someone who had the chance to study while working, I would say don’t miss this opportunity. For example, while I wanted to study in London, I found myself in Belgium and I did not regret it at all. Thanks to this choice, I got to know the centre of the EU and learnt a new language.

Research the programme you are going to attend carefully. Consider what it will bring to you, not only academically, but also in terms of improving your environment and social/cultural aspects. Try to visit the city, country or region as much as possible on weekends and holidays. You probably won’t have time for this later in your life due to work.

If possible, learn a new language. Do not hide behind the excuse ‘Oh dear, English is used everywhere’.

Make friends and stay connected with the friends you make. As you see where you and your friends have reached over the years, your sense of pride in being a Jean Monnet Scholar will increase even more.