No Xy Lo


n°25 - 15 october 2012


• Foreword: We should not be afraid!
• Finally, some good news: the European Union wins the Nobel Peace Prize
• Message from Jacques Delors, President and founder of Notre Europe, President of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995
• Contract agents: where do we stand?
• Notes from the GA
• Information sessions
• The Council’s silence
• The EU Civil Service Tribunal awards compensatory damages of 5000 euros for psychological harassment
• The Council has lost its bearings
• Multi-Annual Financial framework: the European Parliament weighs in
• Outsourcing versus insourcing
• DOCUMENT: Budget 2013, European policies are the way out of the crisis
• U4U answers readers’ letters


Foreword: We should not be afraid!

We should not be afraid to say that the austerity measures that are being imposed across the continent are not the right solution.

We should not be afraid to say that the solution to the crisis lies in closer European integration and that this requires a strong civil service.

We should not be afraid to say that consequently the European Union must have a bigger budget than that proposed by the Council and that this budget must be based on its own resources.

We should not be afraid to assert that European integration needs a strong, stable, competent and independent civil service, and that this civil service has already paid in 2004 the price demanded by the Member States, i.e. almost ten billion in savings borne by staff.

We should not be afraid to say that the advocates of austerity are politically responsible for the chaos and waste caused by their mismanagement, not to mention the inefficiency of the policies that they have implemented. Because of these policies, European citizens no longer believe in European integration.

We should not be afraid, faced with the Council’s irresponsibility and the fact that it seems to be spoiling for a fight, to say that we no longer want to negotiate with it on either the reform or the method. Staff in the Community institutions must not be seen as an adjustment variable. The Commission, with the support of the Parliament, must halt the negotiations on the reform of the staff regulations. It must instead implement the necessary measures – improving career development, reducing disparities and insecurity, ensuring gender equality, etc. – demanded by staff, and which it continues to postpone without just cause.

We should not be afraid of “what people might say”. We must react to the Council’s attacks.

The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to European integration has restored the pride that our leaders are endeavouring to destroy. However, it is time they stopped chasing “honours” and started defending our honour, and that of the European civil service.

Finally, some good news: the European Union has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

The staff of the European institutions were immensely proud to learn of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the European Union, in other words to European integration.

The EU has contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe,” declared the Chairman of the Nobel Committee, Thorbjoern Jagland.

The EU has reconciled European populations torn asunder by two world wars and then separated by an Iron Curtain. Since 1960, the idea of the countries making up the EU resorting to force to settle their differences has become inconceivable. It is not a small victory, even if it seems perfectly “natural”.

From the outset, the EU had a twofold objective: to maintain peace and create the conditions for prosperity, while respecting the values reiterated in the Lisbon Treaty:

"The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.” (Lisbon Treaty, article 1)

The building of Europe is not yet complete, as the current crisis has underscored. The advancement of prosperity and solidarity is ongoing and it is essential to maintain, guarantee and deepen these goals. The survival of the EU is at stake… as well as that of its achievements.

We may wonder why this Prize has been awarded to the EU at a time when the Commission (by reinforcing its role as promoter and guardian of the common good) and the Member States (by weakening existing solidarity, including all the economic and social cohesion programmes, such as REGIO, AGRI, SOC, EMPLOI) are betraying the EU’s initial principles.

Euroscepticism is on the rise everywhere. It would be arrogant to disregard this threat.

The EU has delivered peace, but it must now find a new mission to serve the interests of its citizens: broadening an area of social justice and sustainable and harmonious economic development.

However, this mission is now compromised by calls for austerity and, in some countries, by the destruction of social guarantees. While it is legitimate to want to put the management of national public finances on a healthier footing, it is essential to use the EU as a tool to promote investment and lay the foundations for a return to sound economic growth. It is now time to recognise the need for an EU which manages in a more democratic way, at EU level, economic, monetary and fiscal convergence. The EU must have its own budget, which must be sufficiently generous to make the necessary investments to enable Europe to regain its economic vitality.

The staff of the institutions recognise that the awarding of the Nobel Prize is not just a reward but also an invitation to pursue the building of Europe for the benefit of its citizens. Therefore, the European Union needs a strong, competent, independent and efficient civil service. That is why the current projects which are likely to weaken or even destroy it are absurd and counterproductive.

Europe should grasp the opportunity of this Nobel Prize to put an end to the doubts, misconceptions and self-destructive approaches. It is time to restore the reputation of Europe.

Official message of Jacques Delors, President and founder of Notre Europe, President of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995

“The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the EU is a great satisfaction for the founding fathers of Europe and millions of activists who are working for understanding between people and for their association for the common good of Peace.

It is also a message of encouragement for our people and governments who are sometimes beset by doubts and the winds of populism and narrow nationalism.

The Prize should be also seen as a sign for the entire world in the difficult search of common rules that would allow freedom to flourish everywhere by opening pathways for human, social and economic development accessible to all. It is in this sense that the rules of common life established by the European Union can serve as references for global rules.

European construction has never been a bed of roses. But it has always overcome crises thanks to fresh progress towards greater cooperation and solidarity between people. The Nobel Peace Prize encourages us to continue the historic work with foresight and courage.”

Contract agents: where do we stand?

Contract agents are still waiting for the adoption of the reform of the staff regulations which will enable them to be eligible for contracts of up to 6 years and to have access to internal integration competitions. However, the Council’s dithering suggests that unless staff mobilise for action there is a risk that, as a minimum, the possibility of sitting internal competitions will not be included in the final package.

Moreover, the withdrawal of the Commission’s proposals is still possible, even desirable, if the Council continues to block them or if the Commission’s proposal is watered down. In this context, the job security of contract agents can only be guaranteed in the framework of the executive agencies which will be able to give priority when recruiting to contact agents whose contract has expired or is about to expire.

Finally, the increasing uncertainty regarding the adoption of the Commission’s reform package and/or its date of entry into force makes it difficult to implement the transitional measures obtained by the Collectif des Contractuels; hence the advantage of a longer-term approach to the management of non-permanent staff, facilitating the hiring of contract agents nearing the end of their contract in the other Community institutions, executive agencies, offices or even delegations of the European Union. This is one of the areas on which the Collectif des Contractuels is focusing.

Notes from the GA

More than 1000 colleagues from the Commission were present on 11 October in Brussels at the GA called by all the unions. This GA followed that of the Council at the Luxembourg site.

The organisation of this GA reflects a reawakening of the militancy of the staff of the Community institutions, exasperated by a series of “bad” reforms, whereas their demands for new measures, for example on issues such as career development, participatory management, etc. have gone unanswered for several years.

After having discussed the political situation and the status of the reform dossier as well as the need for staff to remain united in solidarity, the GA adopted a resolution.

Another GA will probably be held at the end of October. A one-day strike is also likely to be called in November ahead of November’s European summit. We shall revert to this in due course.

Information sessions

Lunch time session at DG AGRI: Friday, 26 October 2012: Staff reform: what is the situation? Auditorium – LOI 102 (12:45 – 14:00)

Staff GA in Luxembourg on Thursday, 15 November between 12:30 and 14:00 on the initiative of the SID, the FPE, the SE and U4U

The Council’s silence

After the rumours and the ludicrous proposals from groups of Member States motivated solely by their short-term interests, the Council’s silence on its proposals during the discussions on the reform of staff regulations and the European Union’s financial outlook, the “main course” of next November’s European Council, resembles the calm before the storm!

We must react! It is becoming vital to prevent the Council from continuing its work of systematically dismantling the living and working conditions of European citizens. It must revise its austerity policies which merely lead to recession, unemployment and despair. We must demonstrate against these policies and demand a Europe built on solidarity.

The next European Council, bringing together Heads of State and government, represents a unique opportunity to set new objectives that will boost growth and equip Europe to achieve those objectives.

To "break" the vicious circle which has already started to spread to Northern European countries, we must succeed in thwarting the repeated attempts of the Council to reduce Europe’s capacity for action, in particular by reducing its human and financial resources!

That is the position that U4U recommends; we need immediate, preventative action!

The EU Civil Service Tribunal has awarded compensatory damages of 5000 euros for psychological harassment

The EU Civil Service Tribunal has sanctioned the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA, the former EUMC) for irregularities, lack of impartiality and a refusal to guarantee the anonymity of witnesses in the conduct of the inquiry into the psychological harassment of an FRA colleague.

The inquiry had been launched following a complaint about the psychological harassment of a colleague who had denounced irregularities in the conclusion of a study contract on discrimination. The investigator, a former member of the EUMC, appointed in response to a request for assistance, had produced a biased report which had led the OLAF to recommend that no further action should be taken.

The Tribunal upheld the complaint of our colleague by annulling this decision and awarding him compensation. In addition the FRA was ordered to pay costs. On the other hand, the Tribunal did not rule on the investigator (CURIA, Case F-58/10 of 18 September 2010).

The Council has lost its bearings.

It does not happen very often, but the European Parliament has been forced to give a lesson in public finances to Council ministers.

The budget discussions are so bitterly divisive that the Council has once again lost sight of legality and the simplest budgetary mechanisms. The situation would be laughable if it did not demonstrate once again the decline of the very idea of a European Union perceived as an area of joint projects, designed to achieve economies of scale, and a future based on sound investment.

In order to exit the crisis we need an economic recovery at European level. However, everyone would seem to be aware of this, with the exception of national governments.  

(See the full document)

Multi-Annual Financial framework: the European Parliament weights in.

The Budget Committee has produced in interim report. Here is its gist:

- Strongly rejects any attempt by the Council to reduce further the level of EU expenditure as proposed by the Commission; firmly opposes, in particular, any plead for linear, across-the-board cuts that would jeopardize the implementation and effectiveness of all EU policies, irrespective of their European added value, political weight or performance; instead, challenges the Council, in case it proposes cuts, to clearly and publicly identify which of its political priorities or projects should be dropped altogether (par. 17)

- Externalization: Underlines the crucial work of the decentralized EU agencies in supporting the Union’s objectives and the need to match their responsibilities with adequate budgetary resources (par. 36 and 37);

- EU staff: disagrees with the application of a linear staff reduction to all institutions, bodies and agencies, as their roles and responsibilities under the Treaties differ widely; stresses that it should be left to each of them to decide where cuts can be introduced, and which cuts, so as to not hamper their proper functioning (par. 39);

- Mid-term review of the MFF to be adopted before 2018 (par. 41);

- Need for more flexibility in the MFF (par. 42 to 50);

- Own resources: Reaffirms its basic position, that it is not prepared to give its consent to the next MFF regulation without political agreement on reform of the own resources system, in line with the Commission’s proposals of 29 June 2011 (par 55 to 59).

(See the Full report)

Outsourcing versus insourcing

The European Parliament has recently decided to insource the roles of security guards in order to save several million euros. This is in line with the policy which we recommend. U4U also proposes insourcing language teaching, fire fighting services, etc. These measures would also generate substantial savings and be sound management.

As regards the external staff in place – i.e. currently 500 security guards, recruited for their solid professional experience – U4U supports a solution to avoid making them redundant. To that end, they could be integrated as contract agents, using the same approach as that adopted for the Clovis kindergarten, where almost 95% of the staff have been hired via ad hoc competitions, based on clear and transparent rules.

DOCUMENT: Budget 2013, European policies are the way out of the crisis.
An interview with Giovanni La Via (MEP)

Budgets Committee of the European Parliament votes its proposal on the 2013 financial year

"I firmly believe that Europe and its policies are the way out of the crisis", said Giovanni La Via MEP, the European Parliament's Rapporteur on the EU Budget for 2013, on the sidelines of today's vote where the Budgets Committee approved its proposal on the EU budget, with reference to the Commission proposal, and eliminating many of the cuts proposed by the EU Council.

"One Euro spent at European level returns more than the same Euro spent at national level. For instance, in the field of research, one Euro invested from the EU budget results in a return of 14 Euros", explained Mr La Via. The cuts proposed by the Council were mainly focused on the chapters linked to growth and employment, those which, according to the Rapporteur, "are crucial for Europe to get out of this crisis".

The aim of the European Parliament is to focus on the resources for growth and employment policies especially in fields such as research, entrepreneurship and employment. Moreover, the Parliament is pushing to keep the necessary funds to honour the commitments for ongoing programmes within the Budget. Particular importance was given to the Erasmus Programme: the European Parliament approved amendments to avoid Council cuts. Giovanni La Via said: "This is a vital European programme which has proven to be a great success, contributing to growth and employment."

"We can't even think about putting European programmes such as Erasmus in danger. It is inconceivable that the Council does not want to make the necessary resources available to finance these programmes. This is the result of last year's budget procedure in which Member States questioned the audits conducted by the Commission that, in hindsight, have proven correct", Giovanni La Via concluded.

The Budget procedure is now entering its final stages: after today's vote in Committee, the 754 MEPs of the European Parliament will have to approve the La Via Report during the next plenary in Strasbourg on 23 October. Thereafter, negotiations will begin with the Council. The final agreement will have to be formally approved by the Parliament in December.

U4U answers readers’ letters

European schools

Following the item on European schools in No Xy Lo n° 24, and to supplement the information posted on your site, it is important to note that the European School in Ixelles (at least) has decided to terminate some of the contracts of Special Education Needs (SEN) paramedical staff and SEN assistants (PAS). The staff in question will be expected to work on a self-employed basis, rather than under the contract that they had signed with the European schools, notwithstanding Belgian employment laws in particular (“false self-employed” issue). Parents are forced to sign an agreement of questionable legality – moreover it has neither been published nor circulated – or are simply requested to find an external solution. The dismantling of the SEN system has therefore begun. The publication at the end of July of a call for expressions of interest by the Board of Governors of the European Schools is part of the same approach. The financial regulations of the European schools have recently been amended to provide for the recruitment of experts, and the names of paramedical staff will apparently be placed on lists drawn up in accordance with this procedure, without however any award or procurement process. In this regard it is noteworthy that the practice of copying the financial regulations of the European institutions when drawing up the financial regulations of the schools has rendered several articles meaningless, including those relative to calls for expressions of interest and the article relating to experts, undoubtedly intentionally in order to be able to use these provisions for purposes other than those initially intended by the regulations of the institutions.

U4U’s answer

Unfortunately, all that is true and it is only the beginning. The budget of the European schools has been frozen and the number of pupils has almost doubled with enlargement, hence the increase in SEN needs.

From a budgetary point of view, the following principle is still applied: "Enlargement should not cost the MS more money." As a result the schools are facing serious difficulties.

The question is where to find the money? The MS do not want to increase their contribution. On the contrary, they are using every possible cheap trick and subterfuge to reduce it. The Commission, under pressure from the Council, does not want to increase its share.

That leaves the parents. The plan of the MS seems to be to make the principle of free European schools for staff of the institutions untenable, and to force the schools de facto to charge fees for everyone, while eventually abolishing educational allowances. It is also true that school fees of, let’s say, €1000 euro per year for each child of a “civil servant” would solve many problems, including the problem of the correct financing of SEN. By way of example, the International School of Brussels costs more than 20,000 euros per year per child; in this case, the SEN costs are covered.

We must, of course, oppose such a trend. It is only one aspect of the policy currently being implemented: cutting the salaries of civil servants and agents by all possible means. They hope that we will be too stupid to add everything up and realise that, measure after measure, our emoluments have been significantly reduced.

Transfers of competencies to Agencies?

The transfer to agencies concerns not only a transfer of competencies, but also of resources (financial and human); the transfer of competences is only a side effect of the transfer of staff who, as a result, lose their status in the case of civil servants for whom a return to their original DG is problematic!

Éditeur: Georges Vlandas
Rédactrice en chef : B. Thomas
Comité de Rédaction: J.-P. Soyer, F. Andreone, R. Marquez García,
P. Clairet, A. Islamaj, S. Vlandas, A. Hubrecht

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