The “Near you”
by U4U, USHU, R&D, Conf-SFE, FFPE
Editorial: A diagnosis... When will we get some action?
When meeting the Staff Committee during the plenary session of the EEAS Staff Committee, the Vice-President / High Representative restated her commitment to social dialogue.
A common view was established during these discussions: too many colleagues are demotivated, there is still too much overlapping and friction between the services of the Commission and the EEAS, and a lack of coherence; it is therefore necessary to remotivate staff, rationalise the work of the services and rebalance the sources of staff, particularly with regard to the supervisory posts between headquarters and the delegations and to improve the flow of transfers between institutions, all by making the rotation and mobility exercises more flexible.
An admission of failure, therefore, with regard to the "management" and a huge programme that must now be tackled by the new Director General for Staff and Finance, Gianmarco Di Vita.
Real representation for staff
The EEAS has only existed for a relatively short time. There have been two elections for the Staff Committee. However, we have not learned from our experience.
The electoral system misrepresents the choice of the voters. Thus with 36% of the votes, Near You, the strongest trade union alliance in terms of representativeness, has only 3 seats out of 20 instead of the 7 seats that a proportional system would have given us. With 20% of the votes, The Union would have obtained 4 seats, instead of the single seat it currently has. We recommend a proportional system, little matter which one.
The second problem is that, with a committee made up of 20 elected members, half of whom work in countries outside the European Union, the Staff Committee can only meet twice a year, due to insurmountable budgetary constraints. We recommend a committee with 11 elected pairs meeting 4 times a year.
Will the unions have the courage to agree with this to improve the effectiveness of staff representation? In any case, the 5 trade unions that make up Near You are ready to move in this direction.
Contract Agents working for the European External Action Service
While the negotiations on the new policy for the Commission's contract agents (at headquarters, representations, delegations and offices) are dragging on, the question of internal competitions for contract agents under the new article 82.7 of the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants (CEOS) is thankfully making quicker progress.
At least at the Commission and the European Parliament, with varying results, and more recently at the EEAS.
The negotiations on the next internal competitions at the EEAS help us to realise at what point the division of the AIPNs between "institutions" leads to a fragmentation of the populations of contract agents, resulting in broadly unequal systems.
Indeed, three salient points remain the subject of disagreements between NEAR and the administration.
· The number of successful candidates is very low and does not take account of the population of officials who can also enter this competition.
· The period of service required for eligibility – 42 months – excludes some CAs from entering a single competition, which is not fair. In addition, the reasons why the eligibility has been extended by six months beyond the limits stipulated in the Staff Regulations are unclear.
· Finally, it appears that contract agents cannot apply for AST posts, which gives them the status of officials while downgrading them and ignoring the policy of using the talent base much vaunted by the Juncker Commission of which Mrs Mogherini is the first Vice-President. The same competition at the Commission allows FG IV contract agents to enter an internal competition for AD6: why this double standard?
On all these points, NEAR promises to stand up for the future of contract agents in the EEAS.
A united agreement has been reached with the US and PLUS on the first two points, but sadly not on the second. These three unions have prepared a request to the administration along these lines.
We believe it will be helpful to launch external generalist and specialist competitions in the immediate future that will help to enrich and rejuvenate staff in post with the addition of human resources from outside the EEAS and will enable the ATs and FG IV CAs who want to do so to join the institution at a level that takes account of their qualifications and experience.
Sensible use of the surplus from the Joint Sickness Insurance Scheme [JSIS]
Ours is a joint scheme for the European institutions and agencies.
This fund has experienced a few years of deficit, which some were quick to call a structural problem, calling for sometimes radical measures to curb its losses. U4U maintained that the deficit was temporary and mainly related to the freezing of the salary indexation, which reduced the Fund's income. Time has proven U4U right.
Since 2014, it has generated an operational surplus, resulting in an increase in the financial reserve that has existed since the creation of the scheme due to decades of surplus operating results.
The question now is how to use this surplus to improve the service to members. Near You will hold an information meeting on this subject on 13 April.
EEAS ROTATION EXERCISE
The EEAS 2016 rotation exercise is now over. Some colleagues are happy that they have been chosen to go to a delegation. A lot of colleagues are unhappy because they were not chosen...
It is always a mystery how the lucky few are chosen. The quality of the interviews does not seem sufficient to judge who can go and who cannot. Mostly it seems that everything has been decided beforehand. Some colleagues may go to a third delegation just because it suits them and the administration, not because it is an exception, as it ought to be. Some colleagues get everything they want because they provided loyal service for many years in RELEX K, know everybody and are "friends" of the administration. This results in discrimination for colleagues who come from other institutions and have to make ten times the effort to prove their skills.
Often the rumour mill is the decisive factor, not a colleague’s true achievements. It also too often happens that colleagues have to return to headquarters early and then no longer get the chance to go back to a delegation.
Another big issue is where colleagues work when they return from a delegation. Often they get a job where they cannot easily integrate and where they cannot use all their skills. This leads to demotivation and lack of due recognition, with negative consequences for the person and the institution. The new head of human resources has already promised some improvements. We hope that, in future, the right people will work in the right place to provide the maximum output. For example, former Heads of Administration should work for the "Rights and Obligations" Division in Staff Administration and colleagues should, where possible, get a job in the desk dealing with the region from which they just came.
For NEAR, the best solution to these problems would be to make the rotation exercise transparent and to involve staff representatives in the selection process.
Open Forum: the price of an unfortunate decision!
When the EEAS was created, two options were discussed: that of keeping the Service within the Commission and that of creating an independent service under the authority of a Vice-President of the Commission. The first option was discarded, although it would have allowed better coordination with regard to external policies. The second option implemented is more expensive, less effective, and does not prevent numerous overlapping situations or make any real contribution to inter-service cooperation.
What is more, this separation, which has resulted in the exteriority of the EEAS, costs no less than 10 million Euros per year, according to estimates calculated by the Commission's services, due to the coordination costs and the overlapping of services at all levels of the Commission.
These 10 million Euros represent the equivalent of 200 posts for contract agents who would have been able to help implement the EU's policies.
Open forum: THE EEAS SECURITY POLICY
This article was written before the Brussels attacks. On re-reading it, we do not believe it has lost its relevance.
We would like to express our solidarity with the victims and their families, with a special thought for those of our colleagues affected by these attacks.
The European Union can and must contribute to the fight against terrorism. What follows is a perfect example of why it is vital to establish as soon as possible a European centre for security and intelligence coordination: “We don’t share information,” said Alain Chouet, a former head of French intelligence. “We didn’t even agree on the translations of people’s names that are in Arabic or Cyrillic, so if someone comes into Europe through Estonia or Denmark, maybe that’s not how we register them in France or Spain.” Aside from the usual post-attack speeches, the European Commission must propose practical and realistic actions to put an end to the shortcomings regarding intergovernmental cooperation on security issues. The threat transcends the EU's borders, and the EU must respond to it with well-coordinated action and unwavering solidarity between Member States.
Following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and events in Brussels, and within the framework of a very difficult international context in which there is a strong risk of attack, with a very high alert level (3 of 4 in Brussels), all the European Institutions have responded by strengthening their security measures.
At the EEAS, armed soldiers guard the main entrances of our building (HQ) and armed security staff have been positioned inside.
However, the administration's policy for the protection of our buildings seems to us to be somewhat superficial, especially compared to what happens in other Institutions.
The Commission is in the process of hiring more security officers to strengthen the team of protection officers, Parliament has conducted a huge insourcing operation for security officers and the Council has finalised an internal competition for security officers, while the EEAS, on the contrary, seems to have come to a halt with regard to security issues, at least in Brussels.
The restructuring of the EEAS appears to confirm this, as the "Director of Security" and “Director of Infrastructures and Budget" posts have been merged, ascribing a reduced significance to the problem of security, which should logically be dealt with by highly specialised experts in this field and not by diplomats, whose area of expertise does not include security.
Security is a term that covers a wide range of very specialised activities.
We usually think in terms of the security of EEAS staff and others, such as visitors, who are required to go to the buildings occupied by the EEAS.
From this perspective, are we secure at the EEAS?
It must be said that the problem of security is somewhat different from what we mean when we talk about security in the delegations and at HQ: in the delegations things are changing gradually, although there remains a lot to be done; at Headquarters the approach has always been more flexible, and yet security at HQ is substantial.
22/03/2016 - n°17
Editeur: Georges Vlandas
Rédacteurs en chef: Petros Mavromichalis, Bertrand Soret
Webmaster & mise en page, envoi: Jean-Paul Soyer, Dominique Cabannais
Equipe de rédaction: J. Lux, C. Hansens, F. Zaccari, F. Kopp, G. Sorg, S. Krahl, V. Davydova, K. Buse, S. Thakkar, M. Manon