Nervous Breakdown: How Signatories can drive you NUTS!

There has been huge improvements in terms of transparency at the Commission since the resignation of the Santer Commission. For those who don't remember it, Santer and his team resigned in 1999 under allegation of fraud. There was not a single scandal in this episode, but arrogance and opacity at the EC really got on the nerves of the European Parliament and the fall of the Commission got crystallised by the fraud focused around on two commissioners, Cresson and Marin.

On big change was the creation of OLAF, the Anti-Fraud DG with a large amount of independence. Another, more subtle, is a reinforcement of the letter circuit.

Until very recently you had ADONIS, which is basically an electronic archive of letters. Let say you send a letter to the Commission, the letter is read, scanned in the system, and attributed to a service. the dogma is: All letters in ADONIS need an answer! May it be a letter from a head of government, a letter from a citizen, a firm, a lobby... So a fair amount of our work is to answer those queries in strict delays.

On the other side, you have the signatories. Of course, a Commissioner or a Director-General will only answer directly a very small number of the letter. The rest is send to low-level officials for an answer. With the letter comes a signatory where you have the circuit. Can be quite long depending on the number of signatures, visas, authorisations, for information, etc. steps on the circuit. Assuming a letter signed by the Director General himself, starting from the writer, it goes to your head of section, then to the head of unit, then to the assistant of the director, then to the director, then to the assistant of the director-general and then to the director-general himself. If at any point, one is not happy, comments are made and send back to the writer for a new round in the circuit. Depending on the urgency of the matter, you would see secretaries and internal mail running around to beat the deadlines.

Recently the two systems merged into a new IT system: ARES. Why ARES? because in the Greek Mythology ADONIS was killed by ARES... You can't invent things like this. It must have been a Greek personally in charge of IT names!

As any changes happening in an administration, the level of anxiety increased substantially with a lot of training. IT honestly replaces a lot of paperwork and movements, but the system is not yet clear to anybody....

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