Negotiations have concluded on the changes to the staff regulations necessary for the implementation of the European External Action Service (EEAS). Though the institutions accepted the principal point made by the trade-union majority aiming to introduce a legal basis making it possible to set up a social policy for local staff, the personnel of the delegations will however be represented by two different Staff Committees. This division of the personnel will without any doubt generate confusion, inequality of treatment and social tensions within delegations. An initial positive meeting took place on 17 November with the persons responsible for the new service. Commitments were entered into on both sides to move forwards to a frank social dialogue, in transparency and with the aim of finding the best possible solutions for institutions and Staff.
Shared political will: to make the EEAS an exemplary service
In this negotiation, the undersigned organisations pushed for the EEAS to be as closely linked to the Commission as possible, and that the Community architecture and process are not adversely affected. This approach unfortunately was not followed either by the European Parliament, more concerned about getting mission expense on a flat-rate basis or by a part of the staff representation more interested in unionising national diplomats (sic) and heads of delegation in the new service, than to defend the personnel currently in place. Strange perception of the role of Members of the European Parliament; and strange perception of the role of staff representatives. However, all is not lost. Indeed, there are several service level agreements enabling the Commission to act to support the activity of the EEAS. The conclusion of these agreements in the current context constitutes an economic need, whilst maintaining the closest possible links to the Commission.
EEAS an exemplary service?
Though the new staff regulations were formally adopted on 17/11/2010 by regulation 53/10 – see http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/117746.pdf and the service will be operational as from 1 January 2011, essential work remains to be done to establish an exemplary service as wished by all. An initial meeting took place this 17 November 2010 with Mr Vimont and Mr O’ Sullivan for the EEAS, Mrs Souka for the Commission and Mr Shapcott for the Council.
The challenge facing staff is to create an administrative culture of the European Public Service duly respecting its foundations. This is a challenge first recognised by the founding fathers. Today it is up to us to reinterpret this in the evolving area of European diplomacy. In this context, and taking into account that Commission staff will be working in this new service, it will be useful to put in place common instruments for staff management, for example at the level of the CDR. Nothing will be worse for the European Public Service than the proliferation of different rules and provisions for the institutions’ Staff.
A transition of a year but not the end of history.
Formally constituted on 1 December 2010, the EEAS will have less than one year to put in place procedures in particular as regards the social dialogue, to set up its Staff Committee and to adopt a staff policy. In the interim, the rules of the parent institutions will continue to apply, thus requiring that as regards for example the evaluation of EEAS personnel, a valid way of it comparing merits needs to be ensured. This will therefore require specific and transitory rules.
This will be a real challenge as the system for evaluation and of promotion in the Commission is as conflictual as that in the Council. Mr Vimont alerted the trade-union majority that this will have be done quickly and that for a temporary period there will be imperfect and provisional rules. It is obvious that the undersigned trade unions are not in the habit of confusing haste with speed, or of taking the social dialogue like a series of “fait accompli”. Admittedly the challenge is historical and particularly exciting but the trade-union majority will accept no levelling down of our rights and obligations. Guaranteeing social peace in the delegations and the new service will require efforts and a mutual respect from both sides.
Transition: adoption of the supporting measures
At the request of the undersigned trade unions, the institutions have agreed to social guarantees. The option of the mass transfer of selected colleagues (more than 1100 posts of officials from the Commission and more than 400 from the Council), a “return ticket” – article 98§2 – has been put in place as a supporting measure. This involves a permanent return ticket which will apply to all the colleagues transferred en bloc. The combination of two mechanisms – monitoring/information of the Staff Committees and the possibility of a transfer between the EEAS and the Commission – should make it possible to solve any difficulties
arising. Both RELEX and the Council have already begun setting up a helpline/helpdesk, but much remains to be done. Hundreds of colleagues have still not been informed of their fate even at this late stage of a few days from the entry into effect of the new service. Accompanying measures will be taken up again by the new service. A work programme, identifying priorities and a timetable will be fixed together with Mr O’ Sullivan at a forthcoming meeting scheduled for December. The trade-union majority will consult the personnel concerned to draw up its roadmap.
National diplomats – enemies of the Community method?
The arrival of national diplomats in the Community services causes concerns for staff. Their recruitment levels, the more or less transparent recruitment procedure, their number (more than 300 posts), their assignment (for the most part as Heads of Delegation, Deputy Heads of Delegation and Heads of Administration) and especially the loyalty of such national personnel to the European Union are the subject of intense debates. Aware of these risks, the duration of
the contracts of AT 2 e) was moreover limited to 2 x 4 years + 2 years.
Their actions, attitudes, open-mindedness, respect for the principles of the social dialogue and of Community procedures will be the elements on which their capacity for leadership and their European credo will be judged. Mr Vimont – diplomat, savant and familiar with the esoterics of Europe – sent all the right signals: open-mindedness, pragmatism, transparency, focused on results, willingness to create added value, and culture of the European public service: That the
common principles which lead the European Public Service will make it possible to build a shared foundation with the national diplomatic services.
Mr Vimont moreover stated “to have fully accepted the European Public Service” and to be at the beginning of an ambitious project even if the precise forms are still largely unknown. The EEAS’s only ambition is to be at the service of the existing institutions and to give to Europe a greater diplomatic presence in the world. The message is reassuring; good faith seems to be there. .
Two Staff Committees…
Certain staff representatives of the minority are pleased with themselves that they got the Commission to give ground on the question of a single committee as called for by your trade union majority. Although the proposal was set out and defended by the Commission, it was not adopted. For us, this involves a decision which could have heavy consequences because the single Staff Committee was an absolutely essential element of the proposal aiming to guarantee a harmonious operation of these services and a strong, united and balanced representation of staff whatever their status, parent institution and Appointing Authority. If a minority prides itself on such a power, it is without any doubt because this will to divide staff met with a favourable echo in the Council and in certain Member States which wish for the this new service to fail… the undersigned trade unions will continue the battle and will organise themselves in order to create the closest links between these two committees in the headquarter and in delegations.
Innovations for contract agents – Article 2.4 –
The creation of the EEAS will enable contract agents (CAs) in the EEAS to return to headquarters without losing the benefits of their open-ended contracts. If the trade-union Majority welcomes this improvement favourably, all worry about social tensions likely to emerge due to cohabitation, within the same service of contract agents with a 3-year limited contract and other contract agents who will be able to remain in headquarters for up to 4 years. Balance and transparency in the management of the contracts indeed will probably be called into question in the services. Moreover, the totality of Annex X will be applied to the contract agents benefiting from a contract of a duration greater than one year.
A statutory provision for the social policy of local agents – Article 121
The introduction of a legal basis to introduce a primary or complementary social security system for the local staff (LA) has to be accompanied by a real social improvement for this category of staff who need to benefit from a correct Social Security cover. A statutory modification is introduced in order to provide a clear and explicit legal foundation for the provident fund of AL. Although that constitutes considerable social improvement, the greatest challenge will be to implement the measures necessary for the establishment of the pension fund, of Social Security for retired local staff and disability insurance. This fundamental question will have to be settled under implementation provisions which will have to be negotiated by the trade unions.
The undersigned trade unions negotiated the statutory changes necessary for the establishment of the EEAS and note the results of the negotiation. Never since the
euro, has the confrontation between the Community and the intergovernmental approach been as lively. In full financial, budgetary and political crisis, it’s necessary to count on ALL personnel of the European institutions to make this new service work.