In the News: End of the Czech Presidency

Here we are, at the end of the Czech Presidency of the Union and it is time to give an assessment.

It started very well with a first controversy from David Cerny, giving a vibrant homage to Czech humor. But other Members States were not ready for that...
On the political affairs, their agenda was less ambitious than the previous one, and certainly much less egocentric!

I can't really tell you what is the outcome of this program, because the Presidency was rocked by the resignation of Topolánek, leaving a void at the top. It could not contrast more with the Omni-Presidency of Sarkozy.

Well, it was not a bad thing that Topolánek resigned... I think he has better things to do in Berlusconi Playboy Mansion...
Personally, it felt like 6 month lost, when we would have need a strong leadership in time of an major economic crisis and an important election. Really hope the Swedish do a better job.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: a typology of Fonctionnaires

This is a post I have been preparing for a while. I put a lot of thoughts on it and I would really be curious to get your feedbacks.

Like any organization, the staff is an heterogeneous group with different levels of interests and motivation. Here is how I would classify my colleagues. It is not a scientific survey, just rough estimates.












Lazy Bastard












I will focus on three specific categories:
  • The Good (the Lazy Bastard)
  • The Bad (the Saboteur)
  • The Ugly (the Prick)
The Lazy Bastard
Those are officials who are known to be inactive, but remain neutral. Sometimes you even forget they exists as procedures have been established in the unit to bypass them. Several reasons can turn you into a Lazy Bastard: you reach the end of career and don't have any prospects; you have been given an inadequate position, so you just wait for your rotation; because of internal politics you have been offer a golden closet...
So if you take 15% of 23,000 fonctionnaires, it is 3,450 officials, which can represent its own DG!

The Prick
Even though there are less pricks than lazy bastards, they have a stronger visibility by complaining a lot. Instead of being constructive, they will make sure to criticize you without offering an alternative way. Of course, being constructive could force them to be productive. Some are actually experts at hiding their laziness with constant bitching. Fortunately you can just ignore them or just ask them to produce. It is actually your best defense, they will definitely shut up if it can save them from working. People get there out of frustration, being there for so long.

The Saboteur
This is the "Crème de la Crème"! If not controlled, the Saboteur can messed up your all unit. Very hard to ignore, very hard to fight, you have to be very skilled to deflect their attention to a less important subject. He will definitely break one of our Golden rules, which is no criticizing of colleagues with external people. I think some people don't know that they are saboteurs. if they are not doing it on purpose, you can still manage... it is just their personality. But the one who are doing on purpose are just mean people. Since you can't fired them, just try to promote them and hope that another unit will make the mistake of hiring him.

So how would you compared it with your own organization in private sector and national/local public sector?

European Commission in the Media

I don't know if you have notice lately, but the Commission is making a real effort to communicate to the citizens. Of course, there were the European Elections, but it seems that DG Communication is trying to go beyond for once.

On the traditional media, it seems that only Euronews (obviously) seems to pay any attention to European themes. Don't get confuse, Euronews does not belong to any EU Institutions... though it would not be a bad thing to have a European Public Channel.

But it is in the new media that the effort is concentrated. We even have our own You Tube Channel. We are totally cool :p)

Next you will be able to follow your favorite commissioners on Twitter!


"Le chef d'unité "Politique Sociale", au nom du Directeur gènèral du Personnel et de l'Administration a le regret de vous informer du décès, survenu à XXX le JJ/MM/AAAA de Monsieur/Madame XXX. [...] La Commission, et plus particulièrement les collègues de la Direction Générale XX, présentent leurs condoléances à la famille."

Twice a week on average, we receive in our mail an A5 leaflet announcing the death of a colleague. At the family's request, a message is circulated to remember a dear colleague... I personally think it is a lot of rubbish. You usually get the leaflet the day before the ceremony so you cannot physically make the arrangements for it. And I don't really understand why it has to be circulated to the whole EC. We do have a level of mobility within the Commission, but twice a week is becoming really morbid...

I could not help smiling once when a newcomer freaked out on the mortality rate of officials. Was it because of the asbestos in the Berlaymont??? Well she did not know that the leaflets include pensioners... who left long long time ago.

I read on our internal newspaper somebody actually complaining about this mascarade, highlighting also the cost incurred to the internal mail service. So I dared ask to our postman! Well he was hesitating... while it is very unpleasant, it was a guaranty of work for them.

In the News: European Elections

Results are now out, and the next Europarliament will be blue. The battle for the next commissioners is getting started.

I would like to thank the European Voter who did not make the effort to vote on this elections. To that stupid moron, I say, you have the right to remain silent for the next five years. If we, Eurotechnocrats, that your sausage should not be larger than 2cm in diameter, there is nothing you can do about it...

On a more serious note, it was clear that the abstention was going to be high. But who to really blame for that? Surely we have not been proactive enough, but the Member States have not played well on this one.

No big reaction among officials, we are very busy nowadays deleting the spams from the Unions! Yes Unions' elections was this week... Let see if we have more than 2/3 of the voters. Otherwise we can an additional 10 days of spamming!

Is the General Interest prevailing in the European Union?

Grahn, in one of his comments, quoted Guy Verhofstadt, saying that during his years on the European Council, he never heard anyone mention the European interest.

The aspiration of every democracy is to insure that the General Interest prevails over the various vested interests. When at the country level it is not very clear if the majority can truly represent the National Interest, capturing the General Interest at the level of the European Union is even harder. Can a simple electoral rule translate the European Interest?

Obviously, in my humble position of a Eurotechnocrat, I cannot make a general judgment on the topic. The only thing I can blog about is the perception that we have inside the European Commission on how the General Interest of the Union is represented.
In our daily work, I would say that this feeling can be perceived from three parts: the general interest felt through the Commission itself, from the Europarliament and from the Member States, ie the Council.

Within the Commission, my guess is that vast majority of Officials really do put forwards the interest of the European Citizens before the interest of their fellow citizens. This is actually one of my pride in being an officials. Of course there are few of us who are excessively patriotic and even fewer who succumbs to lobbies' pressure.
Even at the highest level, I can also say that the Commissioners are generally taking their role seriously. One speaking example: the Common Agricultural Policy which has with years turned into a cash machine for farmers. What is the point of spending the vast majority of the European Budget on a tiny fraction of the population? When the EC tried to reform the subsidies, it was with great pain as producing Memeber States fought to preserve their interests. Well, we are still paying the subsidies (less and less), even if it makes the consumers and society worse off.

With respect to the Parliament and the MEP who really do their jobs (not the bozos cashing their indemnities), there is a true desire to represent the European Citizens. You can be your own judge by looking at the laws that were passed: SMS rate, limitation of toxic products, etc. From what I experienced from the MEP scrutiny, it is clear that MEPs do not act like their American counterparts and the Pork Barrel legislation.

I cannot say the same about Member States... No need to work at the EC to see how each Council becomes a bargain mess whenever a major decision needs to be taken. Where most of countries agree that majority equals general interest, at the Council level it must be consensus in most case, two third at best, . But when it comes to our relations with Member States, mostly in the various committees, it can be clearer that we are not talking from the same point of view. But what do you expect? After all committees are there to make sure that Member States don't get screwed. I personally found it hard sometimes, because some have no shame in doing so.

Like any other honest public servant, I would like as much as possible serve the General Interest. So anything that strengthen the European Citizens is good for me. But only you, the European Citizen, can decide what is the best proxy for the General Interest. If at the national level, there is a agreement, it is yet to be done seriously at the European level. European Constitution, Treaty of Lisbon or anything else.

I think the ball is in your hands.

VOTE!!! or just SHUT UP for the next 5 years

Here is your time to make us, EUROTECHNOCRATS, accountable!!! So please go and vote...

If you are still not convinced by the importance of this election, here comes some of our propaganda:

Did you know that the European Parliament plays a key part in deciding how the EU budget of some €133bn per year will be spent?

45% of it, or some €60 billion, currently goes on promoting competitiveness, growth and jobs as well as on reducing the differences between the richest and poorest regions. This gap has been reduced by about a sixth between 2000 and 2006.

Did you know that the EU helps people in difficult economic conditions?

The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, approved by the European Parliament, has up to €500 million available each year to help people made redundant find new jobs.

Did you know that the EU has strengthened the rules on using potentially risky chemical substances in Europe?

New legislation on chemicals, adopted together with the European Parliament, came into force in 2007 and will assure the safe use of some 30 000 potentially dangerous substances. It puts the onus on industry to collect data and guarantee the safety of chemicals. The legislation is known as "REACH', which stands for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemical substances.
The EU is also encouraging industry to introduce more biodegradable types of plastic for bags, cups, food wrapping, plant pots etc.

Did you know that the European Parliament played a key part in bringing an end to roaming charge rip-offs across Europe?

Charges have been reduced by up to 60% when you use your mobile phone abroad.

Did you know that thanks to the EU, there is now a single emergency number for the whole of Europe?

The European Parliament together with the Commission has ensured that since January 2009 you can reach the emergency services by dialing 112 anywhere in the EU.

Did you know that you fly more safely thanks to an EU blacklist?

Thanks to a regulation adopted with the cooperation of the European Parliament, airlines failing to meet safety requirements appear on an EU blacklist and are subject to an EU-wide ban.

Did you know that as a result of legislation endorsed by the European Parliament, temporary workers in the EU have the same rights as permanent employees as well as improved working conditions?

Temporary workers in the EU make up as much as 10 % of the workforce - or more than 6 million jobs. Thanks to EU legislation, they can now enjoy the same basic working and employment conditions as their permanent colleagues. The agreement maintains the flexibility that industry needs and allows workers to achieve a better work-life balance.

Did you know that your food is now safer than ever?

The European Parliament has contributed to the adoption of a wide range of measures to ensure that food across Europe is safe to eat, and to encourage a healthy diet. These measures cover the whole food supply chain, "from farm to fork", setting standards and monitoring animal health and welfare, plants and crops as well as food imports. The European Food Safety Authority is there to give independent scientific advice.
The EU sets stringent rules for organic produce, and stops the manufacturers of 'health foods' or slimming products making inaccurate or unsubstantiated claims. EU legislation on food labelling aims to give consumers all the background they need in order to make informed purchasing choices.

Did you know that it is now even easier to travel around Europe without borders?

The European Parliament gave its support to the enlargement of the Schengen area. The area without internal border controls has now expanded to 22 EU Member States, (i.e. all of them except Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria, Ireland and the UK - the last two having opted out) and three associated States (Norway, Iceland and Switzerland).

Did you know that the European Parliament has a say in who can join the European Union?

The EU Member States can decide on whether new members should join the Union, only with the agreement of the European Parliament. Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey are the current candidate countries whilst Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as Kosovo are potential candidates. The European Parliament is assessing their progress and will have a final say on whether these countries become Member States of the EU or not.

Did you know that the EU is the most important development aid donor in the world?

As it aims to meet the Millennium Development Goals under the next European Parliament, the EU (European Commission plus the contributions of individual Member States) accounts for some 60% of all global aid - or a combined total of €49 billion in 2008. The EU is also playing a leading role in making aid more effective and ensuring that other EU policies such as trade, environment, agriculture etc are coherent with development goals. The European Parliament continues to be closely involved through the "European Development Consensus" established in 2005 between the EU Institutions and the Member States.

Contract Agent

STAFF REGULATION Title IV: Contract staff - Chapter 1 - General provisions - Article 79 (96): Contract staff shall be paid from the total appropriations for the purpose under the section of the budget relating to the institution.

Definition of Contract Agent: It is an official who does exactly the same task as a Fonctionnaire but for only half of the price. Not a coincidence that Contract staff is introduced in the staff regulation by article about money.

Introduced by the Kinnock Reform of 2004, Contract Agents are now an essential part of the European Institutions. It regularized quite a mess based on the status of parliamentary assistants. Without a standard format, non permanent officials used to be hired on very diverse and/or dubious conditions. Nowadays, to be hired as a Contract Agent, you need to pass a test EPSO and then your CV is put in a database for recruitment.

There are two types of Contract Agents. First, the lucky one, who works in agencies or in the External Services, is offered long-term employment. Their contracts can be renewed, and at the second renewal, they become permanent although not Fonctionnaires. The unlucky one gets a contract for a maximum of 3 years and then is kicked out. All contract agents working for the EC are on this status.

On one side you get officials who can't get fired, however bad they are and on the other side you got people that are offered limited job security.

The argument given by the EC is that Contract Agents are recruited for very specific tasks or tasks that are limited in time.
Let me tell you the truth: this is just a pack of lies! The main reason why Contract Agents are there is because the EC can't withdraw rights to officials. So they just created a second class of officials that cost half the price and don't get stuck forever in the job. I can give you hundreds of examples of posts that are permanent and that every three years you got some new Contract Agent hired to do the same tasks. Another hundreds of examples of a Contract Agent is doing the same tasks as a Fonctionnaire, some of the times much better, with the same qualification but with half of the salary.

The Unions are pretty angry on those subjects. Some says it violates sothis is just a pack of liesme of the European labor laws (on the use of successive temporary contracts and on equal qualifications+equals tasks=equal salaries). One of the unions has even hired a Jurist to write a report on the question and start a judicial action on the matter. As usual I don't knothis is just a pack of liesw if they are only barking or they will eventually bite on this one.

I really doubt that this issue will be resolved anytime soon, it is a really pity because you loose a large pool of talent every three years. Every three years, you need to hire somebody new (if you are in the specialized field, it can be quite a challenge), train him and not so long after let him go because he got a better opportunity in an Agency or outside the Commission.

My opinion is that the EC has implemented a very dubious strategy in trying to reduce costs. It is a shame that a group of colleagues are not entitled to their full rights, moreover it also has created an unpleasant atmosphere in the service. Some Fonctionnaires tends to forget that someone's administrative status is not a measure of his competencies.