Brussels, 21 February 2017






Objet: DG GROW …  organizing another umpteenth meeting on the basis of bold promises to deal with the problems and the work overload which for too long affect your services … and the colleagues left the room!




On 14 February 2017, Ms Irmfried Schwimann, Deputy Director-General of DG GROW, convened an umpteenth meeting with all staff to analyze, for the umpteenth time, the problems affecting DG GROW for far too long and which R&D has denounced since May 2015.

After Mrs Schwimann’s introductory message, faced with this parody of participatory management worthy of a recreation course and after the umpteenth attempt to convince colleagues that the working conditions would have finally changed, and taking note of the same mollifying proposals repeated like a mantra for years, most of the colleagues present decided to leave the room no longer wanting to play the role of mere onlookers in this sad masquerade, which has already lasted too long.

Recall of facts

On 22 April 2015, the College adopted a decision to reorganize the Commission departments. Without any prior analysis and in the absence of any genuine accompanying measures, the College decided to merge DG ENTR with 3 DG MARKT directorates and DG SANCO units. As a result, 2 directorates and 7 units were removed. It is important to emphasize that no valid explanation has been provided as to the reasons on which this decision was based, or as to the grounds for excluding any other option.

This “cold fusion”, put in place in an unthinking way, quickly turned into a veritable administrative disaster and a source of dysfunctions resulting in strong internal tensions in services.

Faced with the first criticisms raised, DG GROW’s usual response was: “criticisms are unfounded and everything is going well in DG GROW”.

In order to get out of this dialogue of the deaf and in view of the fact that DG GROW seemed to underestimate the magnitude of the problems, R&D launched in May 2015 a survey on the reorganization implemented in this DG (Survey on staff satisfaction – Reorganisation of DG GROW).  The results, which were submitted to the DG  ( Survey DG GROW – Final report and specially Indicateurs spécifiques tirés des résultats de l’enquête lancée par R&D-Renard Déchaîné, p. 40-41) demonstrated the seriousness and the extent of the problems.

Given the results, it was clearly impossible to deny the obvious. DG GROW was therefore obliged to adapt its position somewhat: “we are aware of the problems in our services, we must not exaggerate, we also want to assure you that we are doing the necessary to solve these difficulties”.

It is unnecessary to recall that DG GROW was greatly affected by the dramatic act of our colleague who plunged the staff of this DG into a deep distress which they are still trying to overcome.

In a letter dated 14 December 2015 addressed to Mrs Georgieva, aiming at the opening of a formal IDOC inquiry, in order to shed some light on this dramatic event, we drew attention to the reactions of DG GROW’s colleagues, demonstrating all the gravity of their distress and sometimes a real feeling of despair.

A multitude of initiatives put in place without really tackling the causes of the problems

Subsequently, R&D took note of the multitude of initiatives organized within DG GROW: working groups, discussion forums, meetings with the services in charge of psychosocial risk management…

Since your arrival as new DG GROW’s Director-General, we wanted to believe in your reassuring remarks and we were hopeful that the steps taken would have enabled your services to finally emerge from the confusion in which they plunge for too long.

Unfortunately, we are sorry to see that this is not the case. We even feel that the efforts seem to be aimed at “calming the situation”, or even to avoid questioning members of management, namely superior level senior management, and to temporize without really tackling the causes.

The proof was given to us by the laughable modalities retained in the organization of the survey launched in February 2016 which obviously questioned the anonymity of the answers. R&D immediately denounced these dysfunctions ( DG GROW – Enquête de satisfaction février 2016).

Staff Survey 2016: very meaningful results

It is hardly surprising that the uneasiness of the staff of DG GROW is also strikingly evident in the Commission’s Staff Survey. According to the results of this survey, DG GROW is one of the 10 DGs with the lowest commitment index at the Commission with a 10-point decrease on the question “I have the appropriate and timely information to do my work well” and a drop of 6 points on the question “I feel that my opinion is valued”.

In addition, there is a 9 percentage point decrease in the question “I feel that the Commission cares about my well-being” representing a satisfaction rate of 23%.

DG GROW is also victim of the policy of taxation of posts implemented by DG HR in a reckless manner

Certainly, your task has been as complicated, and for certain aspects rendered unmanageable, by the measures imposed in an unthinking manner by DG HR, regarding the taxation of posts. These measures block the possibility of recruitment, and given the approach of not replacing colleagues who leave without taking into account the real needs of the source services, they produce an erratic distribution of the workforce and make it impossible to distribute the workload equitably and intelligently.

And the colleagues left the room…

In these conditions, it was no surprise that the frustration of the DG GROW’s staff continues to grow.

This malaise was demonstrated through the message of anger and despair passed on 14 February by colleagues who decided to leave the room massively after a few minutes of presentation by Ms Schwimann. This obvious attitude demonstrates beyond doubt that the problems persist, that staff has lost hope that they are resolved, and no longer has the patience to continue to listen to beautiful words without real changes.

R&D still and always side by side with DG GROW’s colleagues

In view of the above and the undeniable messages of deep dissatisfaction which have been sent to you by your staff, R&D asks you and the central services of our institution to note the failure of the approach adopted so far and to give full consideration to this file in order to get your Directorate-General out of the crisis in which it plunges for too long and that, up to this time, you do not seem to have been able to solve.

DG GROW more than ever : Facta et  non verba

Cristiano Sebastiani,



Copy: M. G. Oettinger, Vice-President

M. M. Selmayr,  Chief of Staff to President Juncker

M. A. Italianer, Secretary-General

Mme I. Souka, Director-General, MM. C. Levasseur, C. Roques,  DG HR

Mme I. Schwimann, DDG DG GROW

MM. P. Delsaux,  A. Peltomäki, DDG DG GROW

Ms V. Superti, Ressources Director, DG GROW

The staff