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The chef's flick. An Ashton specialty? (shift)

at the European External Action Service… (© Bruxelles2 / NGV)

(BRUSSELS2, exclusive) It's a European success story but people don't like them so much in the European district. Or very discreetly. The matter seems so trivial that we could have not paid attention to it. A member of a commissioner's cabinet who takes the head of a division is rather classic, and almost normal after all. Except that the person concerned had a real boost for his career. (NB: we will not reveal his name).

After the European Parliament (where he was AD7), he completed a short stint at the Commission which put him at an AD8 level. Short passage, which seems more justified by the fact of wanting to circumvent the rule of recruitment by three thirds (Council / Commission / Member States), according to the unions. In the meantime he had made it available to his original Spanish government. Then he joined the cabinet of the High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, from the start. Integration which takes place at an AD12 level. A position he recently left to be appointed head of the “European Parliament and National Parliaments” Division, a department placed directly under the responsibility of the Deputy Secretary General for Institutional Affairs, the Pole Maciej Popowski.

An “armchair” promotion

This progression at an accelerated speed – from AD7 in the European Parliament to AD12 in the European Diplomatic Service (EEAS) – in the space of a few years and three transfers is, to say the least, extraordinary, according to experts in personnel files. Usually, it takes more than ten years for a particularly deserving civil servant. We could almost call it an “armchair” promotion! Because the grade comes with a hell of a pay bump. An AD7 earns at least between 5.500 and 6300 euros (gross, without bonus, without family allowance and before social security contributions), an AD12 between 10 and 11.500 euros. Basically we double the salary. Not bad... in these times of crisis when everyone is holding on to their belts and trying to save European budgets. (NB: It will then be very very difficult to come and defend before the Council or the European Parliament an increase in the European budget, even though the EEAS is one of the services most richly endowed with high salaries.)

Super fast recruitment

Recruitment was also very rapid. Published on June 29 in the JO, the deadline for entering applications was set for July 9 at noon. Taking into account the two weekends, this gives a short week to submit your application. Short… If it doesn't look like a tailor-made position, it's because my administration practice is still imperfect 🙂 Especially since the rest was also rather quick if I judge the official calendar: 22 applications were received (12 from Member States' services, 2 from the Commission and 8 from EEAS agents). 7 candidates were interviewed during a panel on July 20. And 2 candidates placed on the short list. After another interview, our man won. From the experience of the EEAS, we have experienced recruitments that dragged on more… (see the head of Eulex for example! but the examples are numerous, personnel management within the service is not yet really a model ).

A pataques at the Capitals

Needless to say, the event is starting to cause a stir in the European diplomatic Landerneau. At the brand new headquarters of the EEAS, the Capitals, as elsewhere, conversations are going well in the cafeteria... The unions have taken up the matter and are threatening to file a legal complaint. A MEP, the German Ingeborg Gräßle (CDU/EPP) shot faster than her shadow and already tabled a written question. By asking a question which seems relevant: the EEAS administration invokes “the use of a procedure other than that of the competition for jobs requiring special qualifications”, but in this case we can wonder what special qualifications are requested. The description of the tasks appears rather classic (*).

Embarrassed response

The Administrative Director of the EEAS, David O'Sullivan, hardly seems to be moved by this agitation. His response dated October 23 (to the unions and the staff committee) reached us unexpectedly. He recalls the appointment procedure, believes that everything was carried out correctly, according to the rules, and that if the salary and grade is that of an AD 12, “ this is the level at which the position was advertised. If anyone else had won, they would have been appointed to that level. ". Simple as pie, isn't it? But rather short of an answer, terse even... Because it does not answer the relevant questions asked. In any case, this new affair comes at a more than embarrassing time for the High Representative. If the matter is not resolved with less casualness than up to now, because given the elements presented, we are very close to a case of favoritism, it could even taint the management of the European executive. After the painful “Dalli” episode, Barroso will have to manage a new sensitive case with his commissioner Ashton.

In the office of the High Representative, it is estimated that all recruitment was carried out “it's clear","according to the rules” and that the nominated candidate is “really the best one could have for this position, having experience in several of the institutions".

To be continued…

(*) “ Placed under the direct authority of the Board of Directors and the Deputy Secretary General responsible for institutional relations in particular, the head of division responsible for the daily management of the division and the general coordination of parliamentary matters within the EEAS. He/She represents the EEAS, serves as an interface between it, the European Parliament (EP) and the national parliaments, and contributes to the establishment of good working relations. The Head of Division monitors and reports on the EP's activities relating to foreign affairs and the institutional aspects of the EEAS's relations with the EP. He/She provides professional support and advice to the High Representative/Vice-President and EEAS officials on all parliamentary matters and all institutional aspects of the EEAS's relations with the EP. He/She contributes to the adequate and timely preparation of the parliamentary activities of the High Representative/Vice-President. And we add for good measure: “ The position involves some travel. » Indeed Strasbourg is a city full of dangers. 🙂 As for Berlin, Madrid or Stockholm… to meet the national parliaments, it must be a total adventure. I have a proposal to base this position on: special envoy to Gao in northern Mali? Yes, that justifies an AD12 (even more)!

Note: the little leaflet made by Renouveau et Démocratie, full of humor which describes how C. Ashton decided to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Jules Verne in his own way with a Homeric journey. And asks to award the Nobel Prize in Physics to the EEAS “for his extension of Albert Einstein's work on relativity, applied to the promotion in a few months, after mutations, of an AD7 official/photon to AD12″. To download here

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).