The “Near you”
by R&D, Conf-SFE, U4U, USHU
EEAS: how far have we come?Two years have now passed since the EEAS was set up and the time has come for the first balance sheet. Summing up: Near You struggled to make the new service as close as possible to the Commission or at any rate to ensure that its Committee was physically connected to that of the Commission. The EEAS chose another route, giving rise to increasing difficulties.
Instead of strengthening the European institutions, the establishment of the EEAS actually left them considerably weaker. The implementation of the three-way mission of the EEAS – designing a common foreign and security policy, defending the consistency of the Union’s foreign policies and managing the EU external service and Delegations Network – was unsatisfactory. The spirit of the European Public Service faltered. Criticism rang out on all sides.
Responsibility for this lies not with the colleagues, however high-ranking they may be but also lies with the politicians. Despite her promises, Lady Ashton has failed to inspire the European Union to seek a best practice approach and has thus been in any position to implement such actions.
An “official” assessment has just been carried out as part of the "EEAS Review". We are keen to find out its content, conclusions and recommendations, particularly as regards personnel policy. The staff associations of both the EEAS and the Commission should be involved in this exercise, given that both personnel categories overlap at this work location.
At an institutional level, the Commission and the European Parliament should also take an interest so that they can draw their own conclusions from this analysis.
EEAS personnel concerns: an initial glance at the situation
The following items are worthy of note among the lengthy wish list expressed by the personnel:
• the publication of the EEAS-Review results, particularly the analysis of staff management and the conclusions which can be drawn from it;
• their desire that this analysis should lead to a renewal of social dialogue: the staff are open to any proposals that management may make in this regard. It is essential for social dialogue to resume, as without it morale will collapse;
• the approach adopted regarding the renewal of AT contracts (Member State diplomats) and their possible reclassification: personnel would like to see this done completely in a completely transparent manner and want the balance of permanent staff member careers to be respected;
• the speedy organisation of the concours [internal competition exams] for the ACs and the matter of renewing their contracts in the wake of the Staff Regulation reform; staff members are also very interested in finding out where the analysis has got to as regards the rotation of ACs on delegation;
• the negotiation of the GIPs under the new staff regulations which should take place by bringing the representatives of central EEAS personnel together with Outside-Union staff in line with the promises made at the very highest level, particularly as regards annex X for personnel on delegation who have been seriously disregarded since the review of the Staff Regulation;
• the final results for the 2013 promotion procedure and the assessment of adherence to promotion rates (annex 1B of the Staff Regulation) and collective guarantees;
• the development which has been observed since publication of the 2014 rotation with the publication of positions in-house: staff are hoping for an extension of this practice which is still too limited; we shall keep an eye on the process. The “Member States” quota stipulated in the Treaty is usually filled for certain positions, causing a good deal of frustration as this freezes the careers of the permanent officials: since the 2013 rotation, over 44% of delegation head positions have been held by staff from the Member States;
• the data from the Mobility 2013 exercise must be extracted to improve the mechanism: improvements registered for this year must be followed up.
Local agents: one step forward, three steps back?
Concerned about the lack of progress on the AL front, Near recently approached President Barroso to ask him when he intended to implement the new possibilities offered by the Staff Regulations in the area of social protection.
We are still waiting for his reply.
On the same question, the WLAD and the "Zero Based Review" results are leading to AL retrenchments and support measures are slow in coming about.
When it comes to the degrading working conditions and the salaries of our colleagues on delegation, the powers that be are able to act very speedily. But they are dragging their feet as regards implementing improvements. Precisely how long is this situation going to last? And how long are we prepared to put up with it?
What sort of staff representation do we need at the EEAS?
This new section was set up on the basis of the sociological reality of a large DG (a large chunk of the DG RELEX head office and a small part of the DG DEV) to which a part of the Council Secretariat and a tiny piece of the Non-Union staff were added. As a whole, this totalled some 3,400 people, over half of whom were spread out across 140 delegations.
The framework agreement which governs relations between the Staff Associations and the EEAS administration sets out representation conditions which call for a Staff Association membership of 33% of the personnel. In truth, however, if you factor in the types of staff members who are actually likely to belong to a Staff Association, this figure rises to over one agent in two (55% of the staff), which is really too high. These practical considerations are exacerbated by the difficulty experienced by the new department in producing its own Staff Association teams.
This is the practical reason why most of the Staff Associations present in the EEAS are actually inter-institutional associations, physically incorporated into a variety of Staff Associations within the European Public Service. A “Home Staff Association” for the EEAS is hard to imagine under current conditions.
In addition to this practical reason, there are also political reasons. The Staff Associations comprising the Near candidate list fought from the outset to ensure that the EEAS would be as close a department as possible to the Commission. They have also lobbied, unsuccessfully so far, for a Staff Committee physically connected to the Commission Personnel Central Committee since they are working towards the unity of the personnel of the European Public Service. They have, however, managed to ensure that the workings of the EEAS management are based on the Commission departments.
In real terms, our Staff Associations are acting in such a way that the Commission Personnel Committees – particularly that of the Non-Union staff which is managed by a Near team identical to ours – will work hand in hand.
Our Staff Associations have also been trying to make sure that the negotiations on the GDEs, essential for the implementation of the new Staff Regulation, also involve EEAS staff, its representatives and its Personnel Committee. This synergy is boosted by the inter-institutional nature of the personnel representation system.
A home Staff Association for the EEAS, if it existed, would be politically weaker as regards the employer and economically weaker to the detriment of the services offered to staff, such a legal counselling or training. Its usefulness to the staff would be reduced. It would be in favour of scrapping the Staff Regulation and staff situations, which would weaken their defence.
So there are practical and indeed basic reasons behind our preference for a Staff Representation at the EEAS which is physically connected to the various Staff Associations of the European Public Service.
The EEAS Near team, at your service
Near has reorganised its operations on a more collegiate basis:
• Bertrand Soret (U4U, new Near coordinator),
• Ferdinand Kopp (Conf-SFE, assistant Near coordinator),
• Brunhilde Thelen (USHU, assistant Near coordinator).
The administrative assistant is Mathilde Gourdon.
Editor: G. Vlandas - Website : J.-P. Soyer