Stefan Clauwaert: A Friend of ERA

Stefan Clauwaert, is the Senior Legal and Human Rights Advisor at the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) before working from 1995-2019 as a senior legal researcher in Brussels at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), its independent research and training centre.

Over all those years, he has attended as participant or speaker numerous ERA conferences and seminars in the field of human rights, labour law and litigation. He became a Friend of ERA in 2018 and in the meantime also represents ETUC at the ERA Board of Trustees.

Stefan Clauwaert
Stefan, what is your ERA story?

My first experience with and at ERA dates back to 1999 (so 25 years ago!) when I attended the seminar „New Developments in EU Labour Law“, which was the first fully-fledged seminar in this area of EU law and thus the predecessor of the now well-known „ERA Annual Labour Law Conference“. One of my tasks at the ETUI was to set up and coordinate the ETUC legal networks for the ETUC. These networks enabled legal experts from ETUC-affiliated organisations to meet and learn about developments in EU labour law and social dialogue, but also to share and learn from each other’s experiences in implementing and applying EU labour law in their respective countries. A fascinating and very formative task that led to the creation of „ETUCLEX“, the ETUC network on human rights, legal and strategic litigation, which brings together more than 150 trade union legal experts from the EU, EEA and candidate countries (including the Western Balkans and Ukraine).

To train our legal experts, the ETUC could undoubtedly count on many union-friendly academic experts and networks, but it turned out that more was needed.

Having attended several of ERA’s very high quality training sessions myself, it was immediately clear to me that ERA could be the ideal partner to further develop the excellence of our trade union legal experts in EU law.

All this marked the beginning of a very fruitful collaboration between the ETUC and ERA. On the one hand, we reciprocally invited ETUC/ERA staff to participate in our respective legal conferences. This led to the joint organisation of seminars for trade union legal experts on litigation before the ECJ, the ECtHR and other international and European human rights bodies such as the Council of Europe’s European Committee of Social Rights.

What makes, for you, the Friends of ERA Association so special?

It is clear from the above that ERA in general has become part of my professional and personal DNA, so it was only a small step for me to join the Friends of ERA family!

What attracted me to the Friends of ERA were the objectives and actions it seeks to promote and develop, which are also close to my own professional and private (legal) heart.

First, there is the focus on young lawyers through the ERA scholarship programme and the annual ERA Young European Lawyers Contest. It reminds me of how much I myself needed high-quality training in EU law when I started my career as a lawyer in the European trade union movement, as this was not really available or provided for when I was studying and graduating from university in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

Secondly, there is the very recent and rightful decision to establish, under the auspices of the Association, the ‚ERA Fund for the Western Balkans and Ukraine. Ensuring expert legal input and training for our lawyers in this region has been and remains one of the priorities of the ETUC, especially in the present times!

I am therefore delighted to be able to invest personally, through my modest individual membership fee, in these two much-needed objectives, as it allows me to invest in the future of young lawyers and in the future of the European (rule of) law and Europe in general.

Finally, I can only agree with Julia Laffranque when she says that being a Friend of ERA is a wonderful opportunity to meet professionals who are equally committed and passionate about EU/European law, but also to meet the exceptional ERA staff, to attend high quality ERA events and to visit the beautiful city of Trier!

So I can only conclude by saying: „Ask not what ERA can do for you, but what you can do for the Friends of ERA. Join us now and invest in promoting excellence in EU law!

To contribute to the ERA Fund for Ukraine and the Western Balkans, even if you are not a member of the Association (yet), you can find all the details here.

Peter-Christian Müller-Graff: A Friend of ERA

Professor Dr Peter-Christian Müller-Graff is one of the founding fathers of the Academy of European Law. He is a renowned German legal scholar and held a chair for civil law, commercial and business law, European law and comparative law at the University of Heidelberg until his retirement in 2016. He is an honorary member of the ERA Board of Trustees and one of the first members of the Association.

Peter-Christian Müller-GraffMr Müller-Graff, tell us your personal ERA story.

Having been involved in conceptualising and establishing ERA and in promoting the idea of a European accentuated training of national judges from the very beginning in 1988, I am very pleased to see today that the work of ERA is flourishing and radiating in the best possible way along the lines of its mission to strengthen the European Union of Law in the practice of all legal professions. Because of this personal “genetic” link with ERA, it was a matter of course for me to become a member of the Friends of ERA when it was founded.

What makes the Friends of ERA Association so special?

In addition to supporting ERA´s activities, the Friends of ERA brings together likeable open-minded personalities who are aware of the responsibility for strengthening the authority of the law of the European Union in practice. Membership of the Friends of ERA offers the opportunity to actively contribute to Europe´s great historical achievement of promoting peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples through law. The personal exchange at the Friends of ERA meetings on current topics and/or in interesting places imaginatively designed by Joanna Kuzaj is characterised by this particularly motivated spirit in an atmosphere of serious reflection and inspired good mood.

Can you relive a memorable Friends of ERA experience for us?

A particularly memorable meeting of the Friends of ERA took place in the European Space Agency in Darmstadt in 2023. Looking at the exhibited satellites and models of rockets and space research equipment devices such as a Mars rover, discovering the functions of the satellite control centre and thus mentally transporting ourselves to an altitude far beyond our surface, an intense understanding of our Earth as a specific space body like “spaceship earth” emerged. This experience has made us even more aware of the essential task of ensuring – also legally – the preservation and promotion, on our turbulent planet, of a stronghold of the desired enlightened way of life, enshrined in the fundamental values of the Treaty on European Union and the law flowing from them. The members of the Friends of ERA are among those who help to realise this vision in everyday life. It is well worth becoming a member of the Friends of ERA.

Julia Laffranque: A Friend of ERA

One of the more than 400 members of the Friends of ERA is Julia Laffranque. She currently lives in Tartu, Estonia, where she works as a judge at the Supreme Court. She also is the Controller of procedural guarantees at the European Anti-Fraud Office, also known as OLAF, in Brussels.

Julia LaffranqueJulia, what is your ERA story?

I joined the Friends of ERA in 2021, but my friendship with ERA goes back much further. I first came across ERA in 2004 – exactly 20 years ago! When I was a young judge, justice and member of the Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court of Estonia, I took part in an ERA training course on preliminary references to the European Court of Justice. Preliminary references were one of my favourite topics, which I also defended in my Master’s thesis. I was very impressed by the high level and quality of the ERA course. I had heard about ERA before the training event, but it was the first time I had been to Trier. In 2010 I met Joanna for the first time at the International Federation for European Law (FIDE) Congress in Madrid, where ERA had a stand, and I invited ERA to the FIDE Congress in Estonia in 2012, which I organised.

The relationship deepened when I worked as ERA’s Programme Director and Deputy Director, and I have been teaching at ERA ever since. I also belong to the Board of Trustees of ERA. ERA is a wonderful family.

The Friends of ERA continue to fascinate me both professionally and personally. They bring together Europe’s top lawyers with a noble mission: to promote excellence in European law. We want to encourage young people and support states that aspire to one day be part of the common European legal space.

We meet at many networking events, either online or in person, which are not only open to members of the local chapters. Less well known is the Association’s involvement in the arts, where it made a significant contribution to the installation of the bronze sculpture „Philosophers in Dialogue“ by Giovanni de Angelis in the courtyard of ERA.

Being a Friend of ERA is a lifelong adventure – rich in new experiences and knowledge of European law. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet very interesting professionals and simply nice people from all over Europe. At the ERA Conference Centre in Trier you will meet the enthusiastic staff, attend ERA training events and visit beautiful Trier, the oldest city in Germany, a Roman city with many World Heritage sites and a picturesque landscape.

Above all, you will spread the passion for European law as far and wide as possible.

Julia, it’s your turn: Choose the next Friend to tell their ERA story. Who will get the letter ‘I’ next?

I’ll pass it to Professor Peter-Christian Müller Graff. I have known him for even longer than ERA, we first met in Helsinki during FIDE 2000. Now our paths cross frequently through the Friends of ERA, of which I am grateful for.