ESA Trainee Programme

Read on for more information on the programme and the eligibility criteria.

Each year several talented candidates are invited to join the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) trainee programme for eleven months from September to July. The traineeship provides young professionals and recent graduates from the EEA EFTA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) a unique opportunity to experience and participate in the work of ESA and the inner workings of the EEA Agreement.


Working at ESA

A traineeship at ESA is a great way to kick-start your career. Whether you are pursuing a career in the public or the private sector, at home or internationally, the experience will prove beneficial. Trainees take part in the daily work of the different departments of ESA. They gain valuable work experience by assisting case handlers with ongoing activities, get hands-on knowledge of the functioning of the EEA Agreement and have the opportunity to live and work in a thriving multicultural environment. 

We are looking for engaged young professionals or recent graduates from Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, primarily with a background in law but also in other relevant disciplines for our Communications traineeship.  Strong academic results and an interest or specialisation in EEA/EU affairs are required, as is an excellent command of English, the working language of ESA. Extracurricular activities and community involvement are rated positively.

The trainees work in the Competition and State Aid (CSA) or Internal Market Affairs (IMA) directorates or in the Legal and Executive Affairs (LEA) department, which includes the Communications Team of ESA.


"It was an amazing year working at ESA where I have not only learned a lot but where I also met wonderful people. I could work with great lawyers on court cases and also accompany them to the European Court of Justice and the EFTA Court. This experience was really special and is now also valuable for my current job as an associate at a renowned law firm in Liechtenstein.“

Larissa Majer, former Legal and Executive Affairs trainee, now Associate at Wolff Gstoehl Bruckschweiger.

Trainee Positions

Every year, two or three trainees join each of the directorates/departments. The placements include a variety of different tasks and challenges:

Competition and State Aid Directorate:

  • Undertake legal drafting and analysis, working as a key member of the CSA team
  • Take part in CSA's handling of state aid, antitrust and merger cases
  • Conduct legal research on national and EU law
  • Attend meetings with the European Commission, Member States and national competition authorities

Internal Market Affairs Directorate:

  • Work closely with officers across a broad range of internal market issues as an integral member of the team
  • Assist officers with legal drafting, including formal decisions of ESA
  • Carry out legal research and analysis on both national and EU/EEA legislation
  • Attend meetings with the European Commission, Member States and EFTA working groups

Legal and Executive Affairs Department:

The role of Legal and Executive Affairs is to ensure a harmonized approach to case decisions. As a result, the LEA trainee will get the opportunity to work with both the CSA and IMA Directorates, as well as their LEA colleagues.

  • Assist legal officers with litigation preparatory work
  • Review draft closure decisions, reasoned opinions, letters of formal notice and correspondence with states/complainants
  • Conduct legal research on national and EU legislation
  • Attend court hearings at the EFTA Court and the ECJ
  • Handle requests for access to documents



ESA's Communications Team is located within the Legal and Executive Affairs Department and consists of the Head of Communications and one trainee. This means that the Communications trainee has the opportunity to take part in the majority of the communications work at ESA. This includes:

  • Coordinating the drafting and distribution of press releases
  • Updating ESA's external website, social media and intranet
  • Media contact
  • Editing and publishing of ESA's Annual Report, brochures and other materials
  • Organising and delivering presentations about ESA
  • Handling requests for access to documents
  • Communication and coordination of events related to employer branding



“It was a pleasant surprise how the trainees are trusted to do important case work and that we get such good feedback. The case handlers are very good at explaining the issues and allowing us to contribute.

One of the big advantages for me with the trainee position was the opportunity of living in central Europe and being able to jump on a train and go to another country for the weekend. Suddenly you are in London, Paris or Amsterdam. It's a great opportunity to go and see places you have never been – then go back to work on Monday." 



Marte Hustveit Hauge, former trainee in the Internal Market Affairs Directorate, now Adviser at Hordaland fylkeskommune in Norway.

Trainees do not just get to experience life at ESA, they also get to learn more about the workings of the other EEA and EU institutions. Every year, a visit is organised for the trainees to Luxembourg to visit and/or attend hearings at the EFTA Court and European Court of Justice. Trainees often have the opportunity to participate in important meetings with national authorities in the EEA EFTA capitals to discuss current cases.  

A step towards your future career

A traineeship at ESA will give young professionals knowledge and experience that can lead to exciting careers. Several former trainees have been offered positions at ESA, national administrations, prestigious law firms, European organisations and international companies.

Essential requirements, skills and qualifications:

  • Applicants must be nationals of Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway
  • University degree in law for the IMA, CSA & LEA trainees
  • University degree in a relevant discipline for the Communications trainee (i.e. Journalism, Media or Communications).  Other subjects may be accepted, provided the applicant has work experience in media and communications
  • Interest or specialisation in EU/EEA matters
  • Applicants should be young professionals or final year students who will complete their studies prior to their planned start date, with strong academic results
  • An excellent command of written and spoken English, the working language of ESA
  • For the Communications traineeship, the ability to communicate fluently in Icelandic, both orally and in writing, is essential. This is to ensure that the Communications Team is able to handle communications in the languages of ESA's largest relevant media markets
  • Experience of working with social media, photography or photo editing would be beneficial for the Communications traineeship, although this is not essential
  • We are looking for people who are engaged, proactive and independent, whilst at the same time being strong team players. You should be accurate, well organised and proactive in your work
  • Extracurricular activity and community involvement will be rated positively

Life in Brussels

  • Brussels is often called the “capital of Europe”. It's a great place to gain hands-on knowledge about the legislative mechanisms within the EU/EEA and to build a strong network with the EFTA and EU Institutions.
  • There is much more to Brussels than institutions, as it is also an enriching city with a truly multicultural population, making it possible to make friends with people from all over the world.
  • Brussels also boasts a thriving art and music scene and an excellent variety of foods, restaurants and markets.
  • Brussels is truly at the heart of Europe. It is ideally located for travel within and outside of Belgium and for exploring the rest of Europe. Wonderful cities such as London, Paris, Cologne and Amsterdam are just a train ride away.
  • Belgium is of course also the country of beer, comic books, chocolate, waffles and fries, which is why many people do not measure their time in Brussels in months or years but in kilograms!


It is enriching to live and work in an international setting like Brussels and it gives you a great opportunity to meet people from all over Europe with similar interests and goals.

Ketill Einarsson, former Trainee, now Senior Legal Officer in Competition and State Aid at ESA



Application process

The application process for the 2020/21 trainee programme will open soon, with a closing date in early March.

Applicants are asked to specify their preferred position in their application. The selected trainees may be assigned to duties and functions other than those initially requested, based on their skills and experience and the needs of ESA. 

Applications must be submitted via our online job portal:

Further questions regarding the traineeship programme may be addressed to Kathryn Bryan, Head of HR: or +32 (0)2 286 18 32.


Trainees receive:

  • A monthly allowance of €1600
  • Free furnished and private accommodation in Brussels, all utilities and WiFi paid for
  • Mobile phone provided for the duration of the traineeship
  • Health, life & invalidity and travel insurance cover
  • Reimbursement of travel costs upon taking up and leaving the traineeship
  • Financial support for language courses



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