Q&A: Diversity in the Workplace

From a reader: How well are the different nationalities represented among the fonctionnaires? Are there quotas? Does the current system work or are there tensions?

Let me first say that working at the EC is a blast when it comes to diversity. I can't think of any other employers who can bring so many nationalities at the table...

Having said that, it is obvious that there is not a fair representation of nationalities among the Fonctionnaires. There are several reasons to that. First, you can't expect to have as many Luxembourgeois as Germans. Demography is a major factor explaining the representation of large countries such as Germany, Italy, France and Spain. Second is History. Founding members (Germany, France, Italy, Benelux) are also well represented because you still have the old fonctionnaires in place. Also, there is Geography, with Belgians quite present for a small country but tend to concentrate in lower levels and admin (IT, accounting, etc).

So overall, it will be a while before we get a more balanced EC (remember, you can't fired Fonctionnaires, so you have to wait a long long time...)

Nonetheless, all the nationalities are there. The countries who joined between the 70's and the extension to the East are now well present and very active. In particular Scandinavians who have a strong sense of Public Service.

The EU10 and EU2 (those who joined in 2004 and 2007) are gradually getting integrated but we don't expect many Latvians or Slovenes, of course due to demographics. On the other hands, Poles are getting there in force.

There are no quotas or no quota policy (or if there is one, it must be top secret). I am pretty sure there won't be one anytime soon. However there is definitely a push to get more officials from EU10 and EU2 and very recently more management level officials from the new countries.
One way is we are informally asked to favor new countries when we have candidates with the same qualifications.
The other way is how the recruiting is being done. Simply, to be recruited, you of course need to be a "laureat de concours", and most of the concours these past 2 years are being restricted to allow only EU10 and EU2. As a result, if you want to recruit a new official, you will get in majority CV from new countries. This in fact do create a lot of tensions: old nationalities are complaining to be treated unfairly, they argue that the quality of the service is declining (Unions say that often lately).

It's hard to take a position on this topic. The question is in fact exacerbated by the decreasing numbers of concours, when the EC was asked to cut costs during the Kinnock Reform. For sure I don't agree that new officials from EU10 or EU2 are less capable, that they had it the easy way. Idiots are very diverse, and they come from the 27 countries!

Eventually, what really blows my mind at the EC is the linguistic capabilities of the Beast. The vast majority of Officials under 40 speak at least 3 languages. And if you get the younger ones you see people talking fluently 5,6 or even 7 languages without being a translator or an interpretor. That you get nowhere else.


  1. Thanks for the reply, it's quite insighful!

  2. yes there are quotas, yes there is policy, no it is not top secret, it's just another of those things which we like to keep away (we have our ways) from those who might ask too many questions - in this case about why the EU allows itself to take nationality into account in awarding contracts for work even though it is banned in the treaty and against EU law.