Brussels, 13 May 2019
Note for the attention of Mr Luca Jahier
President of the EESC
Subject: New organizational chart of the EESC
The draft new organizational chart raises serious concerns and questions far beyond the simple internal management of the EESC and that we submit to your attention in the hope of finally receiving clear answers.
The accountability for the decisions taken and the reasons lying behind them is indeed a basic principle of any European public administration.
On the basis of the draft organizational chart, the EESC would be the only European institution without a legal service! It is incredible!
The question of the independence of the Legal Service within the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has already given rise in the past to some controversy and a situation of profound crisis. In fact, disputes have arisen between the Head of Unit of the Legal Service and the Secretary-General of the Committee as shown by a series of judgments (Judgment of the Civil Service Tribunal of 25 September 2012, Bermejo Garde / EESC, Case F-41/10, Judgment of the General Court of 8 October 2014, Case T-530/12 P, Bermejo Garde v. CESE). The head of the EESC president’s private office has then acknowledged that “there was a tense atmosphere between the Legal Service and the Secretariat-General and that this difficulty appeared to be due, inter alia, to a difference of opinion on the role of the legal service”.
While the political and administrative circumstances can provoke the will to revise the organizational charts, it is necessary to remember that the essential principles, the foundation of our institutional system, must be respected, among which the primacy of European law in our institutional system and the necessary independence of the Legal Service.
As you are aware, the Commission’s attempts to reorganize its Legal Service prompted a strong reaction from the European Parliament, the press and the staff representatives, forcing the Commission to formally deny any project in this sense.
However, while in the Commission it was a question of placing the Legal Service under the authority of the Secretariat-General, according to the EESC’s draft organizational chart the legal service would simply disappear, making the EESC the only institution without such a service.
A reorganization to get rid of any obstacle which could militate against an administration more and more self-referential and allergic to any criticism?
It should not be forgotten that within every institution the independence and the excellence of the Legal Service are also a fundamental guarantee for the European citizens who are entitled to be assured that all decisions adopted by the administrations are fully respectful of the legal framework in force.
This also applies to staff who is entitled to be assured that the decisions adopted in their regard are respectful of fundamental rights and the rule of law.
This requirement seems all the more essential in view of the delicate context in which the EESC currently stands with:
1) allegations of psychological harassment with ongoing OLAF investigations,
2) monitoring of this situation by the European Parliament’s Budget Control Committee which raised these serious problems during the debates on the EESC’s 2017 budget discharge procedure,
And 3) the attention paid by the European press to these allegations.
Therefore, the desire to review the organizational chart and to delete the Legal Service as such gives rise to a presumption of unacceptable motives.
In these circumstances, we understand the concern that this may be the elimination of a service that may conflict with past and present administrative management, particularly with respect to harassment cases that have already been mentioned in Court judgments (Judgment of the Civil Service Tribunal of 12 May 2016, Case F-50/15) and invoked by the Budgetary Control Committee of the European Parliament.
In any case, the abolition of the Legal Service would run counter to the fundamental organizational principles of the institutions:
– the institutions recognize the primacy of European Union law and its necessary respect in all their actions;
– this double respect (primacy and guarantee of application) implies the existence of an independent Legal Service.
In response to the objection that there would be no dismantling of the Legal Service but simply replacing it with a Legal Adviser directly reporting to the Secretary-General, it should not be difficult to understand that independence requires a minimum critical mass of expertise and therefore a minimum number of lawyers supervised by a competent hierarchy capable of producing the requested opinions.
Within the European institutions, the legal services are not merely docile advisers to whom the administration could turn at their leisure, but real and fully independent structures responsible for verifying the legality of the decisions and opinions adopted.
The dismantling of the Legal Service is the most striking but not the only question and concern raised by this proposed organizational chart.
We allow ourselves to submit other questions that require a clear answer from you.
A reorganization to organize dismissals?
The reorganization proposal also provides for the mobility of the directors, but, at the same time, the Committee has just published the post of Head of Human Resources and Finance, first as a TA and the following day as permanent staff, after correcting the correspondent vacancy notice in this sense. Furthermore, it appears that other publications are also planned.
This is obviously incoherent because, in accordance with the Staff Regulations and the EESC’s internal rules on mobility, Committee’s directors in mobility have priority.
Unless the dismissal of current directors is already planned, which we are asking you to formally deny.
A reorganization to organize parachuting?
Moreover, it would also seem that one of the posts of director would be published externally.
In response to the fears expressed in this regard, we do not want to believe that this “external” procedure would actually aim at allowing the promotion-appointment of an “external” candidate, which is in fact entirely internal … allowing a rise of more than one grade in favour of a colleague seconded to your or another cabinet.
It is obvious that in such a case the reputation of the EESC, which has already been undermined by the difficulties mentioned above, would definitely get out of hand.
We therefore ask you to confirm whether it is true that this post of Director should be published externally and in such case what would be the justifications.
A reorganization to organize a political “redeployment”?
Our attention was also drawn to the fact that the new organizational chart provides for a post of adviser.
In response to the fears expressed in this regard, we do not want to believe that this measure would aim to allow a very well paid “redeployment” for the benefit of a person whose political mandate would expire soon.
We would therefore be grateful if you could clarify all the justifications for the envisaged inclusion of this post in the organizational chart.
In view of the foregoing, we can only join in the invitations to you to suspend the adoption of this draft organizational chart, which is in many ways absolutely unacceptable, starting with the proposed abolition of the Legal Service, which is purely and simply unspeakable.
It is not necessary to stress that this is not a purely internal matter of the EESC, which is becoming an increasingly self-referential administration and which would have the freedom to adopt an organizational chart in order to get rid of an interlocutor who is too difficult or insufficiently docile.
Above all, it is important to respect the constitutional principles and the fundamental organizational principles that apply to all European institutions, including the EESC.
Mr G. Brunetti, Secretary-General of the EESC
Ms E. O’Reilly, European Ombudsman
Ms I. Graessle, Chair of the Committee on Budgetary Control of the European Parliament
Mr V. Itala, DG OLAF
Members of the EESC