How to become a Fonctionnaire without ever passing a Concours?

Things are now settling down at the top level, with a president everybody expected and a High Representative out of the blue. The English played it very well... on that one. The gender balance did also play a critical role. But now it is time to think about a new commission and there will be a very good opportunity to join the EC without ever passing the Concours.

I remember some time ago a post by Julian Frish on the cost of hiring Officials. Te Court of Auditors investigated a bit how the European Institutions recruit and came up of a cost of 7000€ per person on the Reserve List. Now EPSO is changing the whole recruitment process: from knowledge to competencies...

But did you know that you could become an Official without going through EPSO? Difficult but not impossible... Well do you know people? do you happen to know a commissioner? Then offer to work in his cabinet, and boom! you are a Fonctionnaire. And if you are lucky, when the Commission's term is over, you will get to pass an internal concours, terribly favorable to you, to become a head of Unit. And if you are extremely lucky to be the director of the cabinet of your commissioner, you might just become directly a Director General.

Well, forget about EPSO and all this none sense Numerical and Verbal tests; just work for your favorite commissioner and start a wonderful career in the European Institutions!

The Business of Outsourcing

As the years go by, the public service is getting more and more privatized. You might have witnessed in your respective countries that we should trust the private sector to deliver a better value-for-money service. Reagan and Maggy Thatcher started it all in the 80's, and it has lead to some extreme with the financial sector or the underdogs in the Iraq war. But I am not there to argue if it is a good or a bad thing. I have my own opinion on it, but I just want to show you how it is affecting us at the EC.

When it was created in the 1950's, with Germany, France, Italy and Benelux, the Commission was seen as the ultimate public sector agent. Those guys were offered a well paid lifetime employment in exchange for their technical, managerial, political expertises. Nowadays, ADMINISTRATORS are wanted...

The critical point was the 2004, with the Kinnock reform of the Status. No more cooks fonctionnaire, no more guard fonctionnaire... all outsourced to major contractors. In a sense, was it legitimate to give the same status to all the categories. The underlying rationale was that you should give a compensation package good enough to protect the Commission's independence. So it makes some sense to provide the cooking or cleaning services through the private sector, as I remind you incentives to perform well are rarely in our organisation.

Nowadays, on the higher level, the vision of the EC is to be a public government only to administer and use technical expertise from the private sector.

So the technical expertise is outsourced to Contractual Agents and consultants. It is starting to create a quality problem. One, CA are paid correctly, but their lack of long term perspective prevents from attratcting top talents. Don't get me wrong, CA are in vast majority bright and motivated individuals, but how much people don't join the EC because of the 3 year rule. With respect to consultants, the sacred consultants, it is not that we are paying them well, it is just that our procedures are very cumbersome and rarely focused on quality. Let me give you an example, or to say our dilema. You want some expertise on a domain that you don't have in-house. So if you have a lot of budget and a lot of time, than you just tender a call for proposal, get a panel of evaluators, wait 6 months before the guys deliver the product. If it is a quick need, then you use Framework contracts: in a week you get 3 proposals from selected contractors... contractors, not really, just recruiters who post the jobs on the Internet. And don't think you get the best consultants in a week of time!

Eventually, the critical question is: how do you evaluate the work of the consultants, when they have the expertise and you are just an administrator??? Do you hire other consultants to evaluate your first consultants?

It is all about finding the right balance between technical and administrative expertises... the original status was maybe to focus on the technical one, but the reform is rushing to the other extreme. But it is how reforms go, right?

Habeus Papam!

Yes we have a winner for the post of president of the UE. Most of us are still guessing, but it is clear that we have a winner... actually winners (for the high representative as well).

The Swedes have convened a Council Meeting next week, and officially it will be a former or current head of government...It can only mean that a consensus has been reached on Herman Van Rompuy, current Prime Minister of Belgium.

Tony Blair got burnt on the last lap, by a sacrifice from Junker. Quite a rooky mistake if you ask me for a "political animal" such as Blair.

And then Van Rompuy appeared miraculously as the best, not-charismatic, from a small country, fine negotiator candidate. The ironic thing is that the stability long awaited for the Union will be at the detriment of Belgium... Another inestimable sacrifice!

For the HR position, Miliband judiciously set himself out of the game... probably to reconstruct the Labor Party next year. D'Alema is now the lead candidate for the HR position. Once again, appearing from nowhere! I am surprised that Berlusconi would leave such a strategic position to a member of his opposition, what is left of Silvio's reputation?

Let's see next week!

In the News: Treaty of Lisbon

Well, well, well... Finally, Vaclav Klaus signed the Treaty of Lisbon today! It was a long and tortuous ratification process, with many hurdles, delays and surprises and hopefully the Treaty will enter into force this December.

I thought it would be harder to get Klaus to sign, but apparently the man isn't foolish as I thought. The British Tories are now in an interesting position... But don't worry Cameron, you can still withdraw from the Union :)

It was a strange time here at the European Commission, as people got a bit surprised by how fast the Treaty and the Irish vote passed through. Some of us really thought that we would get stuck in Nice forever. Some even said that Klaus delays in signing the Treaty allowed people to get ready.

The hot topic nowadays is the External Service and the High Representative (HR). As you know, it is one of the main innovations of the treaty and the HR is likely to be become even more powerful than the president of the Union. So negotiations are ongoing on the subject and many of our colleagues in the RELEX (External Relations) family are worried by the structuring of the External Service. Because the Service will be mixed with the Commission, the Council and the Member States, everyone is trying to protect his own backyard: diplomacy, development, trade, enlargement. And even the Parliament is joining the debate, threatening with his new powers!

Many internal session to inform are being conducted but still nothing seems decided. The Treaty stipulates that the External Service is to be defined by a Council Decision on a proposal by the HR himself... Thrilling, isn't it?