...the EU has slashed the price of telephone calls and air tickets, because the single market and a common currency reduce prices and increase choice? The EU is a "single market", where competition drives prices down and quality up. The EU has created the euro which is used in 12 countries. The euro gives stability for business and makes it easier to compare prices.
Answering citizens' question is very important to the Commission. Citizens can call our free-phone number from anywhere in the European Union or email our EUROPE DIRECT team. Sandra is part of this team.
Sandra was born in Siersdorf, a village near Aachen, Germany, in 1966. She is part of the EUROPE DIRECT team in DG Communication, which answers more than 100,000 telephone, email and internet enquiries from European citizens each year.
After qualifying as a multi-lingual Director's assistant, Sandra's original intention was to work in Brussels for one year and then head across the Atlantic to the United States. Things didn't quite turn out that way! She joined the Commission in 1988 as a secretary in different DGs, then went back to Aachen to pursue studies in economics and rejoined the Commission as an Assistant Policy Officer in DG Education and Culture to work on implementing the Leonardo da Vinci training programme. After another 4 years in Brussels, she returned to Germany to take up a post in the Commission's Representation in Bonn, then Berlin, when that city became the German capital and the Representation of the European Commission moved there. This was Sandra's first experience of working in her native country and she experienced something of a culture shock
"Part of my job was to organise the programmes for visiting Commissioners. This involved contacts with civil servants in the German Ministries. I was sometimes struck by the formal and hierarchical working style at the Ministries compared to the more relaxed atmosphere I had known at the Commission".
She returned to Brussels in 2007 to join the EUROPE DIRECT team, which provides information and answers to questions about the European Union in all 23 official languages. Citizens can call a free-phone number from anywhere in the EU (00800 6 7 8 9 10 11), or can send an email or have an online "chat" with a member of the EUROPE DIRECT team. Most of these queries are answered by the EUROPE DIRECT contact centre, but more politically sensitive or complex questions are handed over to Sandra and her colleagues at DG Communication.
"We often answer tough questions which require us to get details from many different Commission departments. It is satisfying when we are able to put together a proper answer. I've learned a lot! It is also very satisfying to interact with the general public."
Sandra is also pleased that this role allows her to work part-time and spend time with her three and five year-old children. "When I had the interview, I told my colleagues that I had small children. The response was, 'but of course, you should be able to combine your family life with your professional life!' "