Brussels, 9 January 2018
Mr Selmayr, Head of Cabinet to the President of the Commission, Mr Juncker
Mr Italianer, Secretary-General of the Commission
Subject: “Parachuting” of cabinet members at the end of the College’s term of office and your statements under item 7.5 of the minutes of the meeting of Heads of Cabinets on 23 November 2017
Ref: Our notes to your attention dated 6 February, 22 March, 16 May and 2 June 2017
Your statements under item 7.12 of the minutes of the meeting of Heads of cabinets of 30 January 2017
1. Reminder of the facts
R&D has always fought “parachuting” by cabinet members at the end of each College’s term of office and denounced its serious consequences, not only for the motivation of the staff and the credibility of our institution but also for its appointment procedures.
Likewise, R&D has always denounced the detestable practice of the “Geyser-parachuting”, namely the appointment of a cabinet member to a management position in a Directorate-General followed by an immediate reinstatement in a cabinet.
Without contesting the merits of our colleagues assigned to the Members’ cabinets, R&D has always advocated the setting up of clear instructions prohibiting in particular the appointment of cabinet members to management positions in the Directorate-General operating under their portfolio.
In this respect, it is indisputable that the Barroso Commission had already overstepped the limits (please read our file on the topic).
We had hoped so much that the Juncker Commission would not engage in such practices.
2. An administration reduced to the role of simple “linchpin”…
Whenever we asked to put an end to these slippages, denouncing the devastating effects of these practices, we received only bureaucratic reactions denying any problem, ensuring that all appointment procedures had been put in place, implemented with the greatest transparency… In short, that all was fine in the best of all worlds!
Regrettably, we had to face that our administration has been completely unable to oppose such practices or, worse yet, that it has used its skills for deleterious actions as was the case in 2014, when organizing internal competitions for the benefit of colleagues from the Cabinets, by misusing the legitimate expectations of post-2004 colleagues.
3. Your statements under item 7.12 of the minutes of the meeting of Heads of cabinets of 30 January 2017
Given the above, we had surely taken note, with the greatest satisfaction, of your statements at the meeting of Heads of Cabinet on 30 January 2017 (please see point 7.12 of the minutes of this meeting).
On this occasion, you had confirmed that:
“Shall not be allowed:
– the appointment of cabinet members to management posts in the Directorate-General operating under their portfolio and placed under their direct supervision.
– as well as appointments of cabinet members in a Directorate-General to obtain promotion and reinstatement in a cabinet as soon as this promotion is obtained.”
In support to these instructions, you had indicated:
“These practices are demotivating for the rest of the staff who are not promoted with the same speed as the cabinet members”
While warmly welcoming your position, we had nevertheless pointed out to you, by our note of 22 March 2017, the deep scepticism of our colleagues as to the actual scope of your statements: who could really believe that things would actually change in practice?
The first decisions seemed to confirm the legitimacy of this scepticism
By our notes of 16 May and 2 June 2017, we had regretfully been compelled to note that your instructions did not seem to have been taken into account for two appointments in the Moscovici Cabinet and Jourovà.
4. Your new statements under item 7.5 of the minutes of the meeting of Heads of Cabinet of 23 November, which seem to aiming at drastically reduce the scope and useful effect of your statements of 30 January 2017
On that occasion, while formally declaring you wanted to confirm your statements of 30 January, and though your position against the practice of the “Geyser-parachuting” remains very clear and unequivocal, you seemed to have wanted to drastically reduce the scope and the useful effect of your instructions of 30 January 2017 on “parachuting”, on two essential aspects (see below).
4.1 Non-application of your instructions for appointments of members of President and Vice-Presidents Cabinets
You said that your instructions did not concern “the members of the President and Vice-Presidents Cabinets as they do not have the direct responsibility of a general direction but a horizontal responsibility of coordination, covering several portfolios and general directorates“.
It is obvious that your position did not fail to arouse sharply negative reactions from colleagues and, in particular, from several members of the other Cabinets who have approached R & D to denounce the discrimination brought in to favour certain “parachuting” compared to others.
It is also surprising that the very broad nature of the Vice Presidents’ responsibilities is invoked to remove the members of their Cabinets from your instructions on “parachuting”, while it has not been taken into account in the proposal for a new code of good conduct for the Members of the College, in order to assess the increased risk of conflict of interest after the end of their mandate, by applying to the Vice-Presidents the same cooling-off period of 3 years, which will however be restricted to the President only.
As we already had the opportunity to mention, the application to the Vice-Presidents of the same cooling-off period now only foreseen for the President is also necessary to better take into account the positions of both the European Ombudsman and the European Parliament.
4.2 Restricting your instructions solely to appointing procedures of senior management
Worse still, the minutes of last 23 November meeting stipulate that “as a general rule1 members should not be promoted to senior management posts1 in the Directorate-general under the direct authority of their supervisory commissioner (the so-called “parachuting”).”
This, while on this same point of the minutes of the 30 January 2017 meeting, it is indicated that “Appointments of cabinet members to management posts1in the Directorate-General operating under their portfolio and placed under their direct supervision will not be accepted1”, thus in no way limiting the scope of the instructions to senior management appointments only.
On the one hand, the fact that your instructions of 30 January 2017 were unquestionably also applicable to middle management appointments, is confirmed by the strong reactions we received from candidates for posts of this kind, which expressed their irritation and strongly reproached us of having supported and welcomed your positions.
On the other hand, no one can doubt that, if, by chance, your instructions on “parachuting” should now only apply to appointments to senior management posts in the Directorates General under the tutelage of the members of Commissioners’ cabinets and that, in addition, they would not be applicable to appointments to senior management posts in the Directorates General under the tutelage of the members of the cabinets of the President and Vice Presidents, all the scepticism with which your initial statements were welcomed would prove to be absolutely justified.
5. Irony, sarcasm and… increased demotivation of staff…
In this respect, it is all the more useless to confirm that, since your statement of 23 November, we have been overwhelmed by ironic and sarcastic reactions from colleagues who reminded us that they had warned us not to take your commitments of 30 January 2017 seriously.
6. “Everything changes so that nothing changes”… or even worst?
While understanding these reactions and the dismay of colleagues, we have continued to confirm that we could not believe that the highest political and administrative authorities of our institution could actually engage in political statements against “parachuting”, establish clear instructions against it, confirm the harmful effects of these practice as to the motivation of our staff, solemnly declare to engage in those statements, ensure the greatest respect of them,… and, in the end, a few months later, reconsider their positions and drastically limit their scope, while formally confirming their initial statements.
6.1 Rather than restraining “parachuting”, it seems to be more about legalizing it
To appreciate the extent of the possible effects of such a change in approach, suffice it to say that only a dozen colleagues would now potentially be affected by the instructions in your statements of 23 November, while several dozens more of cabinet members, which were the subject of your instructions of 30 January 2017, would now be freely “parachutable”.
Under these circumstances, the true effect of all your statements would have been to recognize the acceptability of appointments, which until then had been considered – also by you last January – as indisputable cases of “parachuting”.
It is even unnecessary to point out the detrimental effects of such an approach on the demotivation of staff to which you have claimed you wanted to give an answer.
Given the above, we would be grateful if you would:
1) Reconsider your position to remove members of the President and Vice Presidents’ Cabinet from the effects of your instructions
2) Clarify that your instructions apply to all management appointments and not only to senior management ones, as mentioned in your statements of 30 January 2017.
In order to respond to the many questions we have received from our colleagues, we look forward to receiving a clear answer from you.