Mr Panopoulos, you participated in the MCAA General Assembly in Brussels on 23 November. What were you hoping for on this special day?
We had several important expectations and things we needed to achieve at this first General Assembly. First and foremost we wanted good attendance so that we could actually meet Members in person, present the preparatory work that had already been done – and the potential for the future, and above all, we wanted to have the elections necessary for the governance of the organisation. We also wanted to present to Members the first Articles of Association, which we intend to use to establish the MCAA as a non-profit organisation under Belgian law – expert work has been carried out by lawyers specialised in this domain.
Did the number and the enthusiasm of participants fulfil all your expectations?
We were pleasantly surprised by the level of attendance (we reached the permitted capacity of the room), by the intensity of interest in information and becoming actively involved in the work of the MCAA. What is more, an unexpectedly large number of Members put themselves forward as candidates for election and to serve on the Board. The discussion on the day was so lively that at some point I was even worried that we may not have enough time to address all the ideas that were presented, and to answer all the questions.
Did you talk to Marie Curie Alumni during the day? Did they communicate their expectations and hopes concerning the Association?
We had a couple of coffee or lunch breaks set up in a way that allowed people to meet and talk. We wanted to meet Alumni, but more than that we wanted them to meet each other and to talk in person to the election candidates so that they could make informed decisions about who to vote for. Having said that, I nevertheless had opportunities throughout the whole day to speak to Members and I got the impression that they have high hopes and some very challenging expectations from the MCAA – something that inspires me to work even harder on this project.
What do you want to say to the newly elected Board?
The same as I said a couple of times during the General Assembly: it is your association and it will be run by you for you (and the Membership as a whole), as our (the Commission's) role is to simply help you steer it towards growth, success and practical independence in the long run.
What would you like the next steps to be for the Association, now that the Board has been elected?
The first and most important step is the speedy legal establishment of the Association. Other than that, we have several things in mind and implementation is ongoing, such as, expansion of existing services, creation of new services, creation of content, and to put it generally, actions that aim to expand the MCAA and especially its capacity to be beneficial to its Members' careers. We are confident that the Board Members elected have the drive and capacity to make all this happen (and probably much more).
How will the European Commission support the Association in 2014?
The EC has a running service contract which is currently used to support the MCAA. This contract will run until May 2014 and can be renewed for an additional 12 months twice. In the current contract we have foreseen several ways to support and grow the MCAA, in terms of both web-based and non-web-based services. We have foreseen, for example, assistance for travelling, for setting up and supporting working groups and national chapters, networking facilities, job-search assistance, mobility assistance, publications, a multi-media library and much more. However, one of the goals of having a self-governed body is to allow Members to steer it towards a direction that allows them to influence its development.
Will the European Commission promote the Association through actions linked to Horizon 2020? How?
We shall for sure promote Membership, which is the most essential substance of such an organisation. As you may know, Membership is free and every person benefiting from a past or future Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action qualifies for Membership. We will inform everyone, as they enter the programme, of the existence of the MCAA and the benefits of Membership for their careers. Furthermore, given that the Members of the MCAA have had the ‘mobility experience’ offered by the Marie Curie Actions, they are best suited to active involvement in the programme’s future development (as long as there is no conflict of interest). So yes, we intend to invite them to participate and possibly contribute to events, advisory bodies, etc.