Brussels, 3 March 2020

Note to the attention of Mr Gianluca Brunetti

Secretary-General of the European Econiomic and Social Committee

Subject: Refusal by the Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) to adopt the discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Economic and Social Committee for the financial year 2018 following the in camera hearing of the Director-General of OLAF on the report of confirmed cases of harassment and other inappropriate behaviour within the EESC


My note of 11 February 2020 following your message of 3 February 2020 concerning cases of harassment at the EESC and list of questions that we submit for your assessment (/2020/02/harassment-at-the-eesc/)
My note of January 28, 2020 : (/2020/01/olaf-report-on-several-cases-of-harassment-at-the-european-economic-and-social-committee-eesc/
My note of May 13, 2019   (/2019/05/new-organizational-chart-of-the-eesc-note-for-the-attention-of-mr-luca-jahier/)
My note of April 12, 2019 (/fr/2019/04/note-a-lattention-de-m-luca-jahier/
My note of February 12, 2019 ( /2019/02/note-to-the-attention-of-mr-jahier-and-mr-brunetti-harassment-in-the-eesc/)
My note of December 17, 2018 (/2018/12/note-for-the-attention-of-mr-brunetti-management-of-harassment-cases-in-eesc-2/)
My note of November 26, 2018 : ( /2018/11/absence-dune-veritable-politique-de-gestion-des-cas-de-harcelement-au-sein-des-institutions/ )

Following the transmission of the OLAF report on cases of harassment and other inappropriate behaviour and on the meeting with the staff that you organized on February 11, I addressed you, by my note of the same day and cited in reference, several questions brought to our attention by colleagues.

We are still awaiting your responses.

The remarks you made during this meeting aroused our surprise and reinforced our perception of being now confronted with a worrying denial of reality on your behalf.

Despite the damning conclusions of the OLAF report, with your self-referential monologue on the occasion of the meeting with the staff aimed at convincing (yourself?) that, at the EESC everything is fine, things are going very well, believe me… everything is just fine…

It was astonishing to see that, with an unnecessarily sustained and haughty tone, you nevertheless continued to praise the exemplary effectiveness of the measures put in place at the EESC, in particular thanks to you as Director of Human Resources and subsequently as Secretary General, in the context of the fight against any form of harassment. You have even praised the number of communications and seminars on this subject.

The failure of your “Mission: Impossible”

We fully understand that you may be under a lot of stress because of the impossible and surreal nature of the mission that you have assigned to yourself.

Indeed, the OLAF report seems to have become for you ― the new Ethan Hunt ―, the legendary message “which will self-destruct in three minutes” entrusting you with a truly impossible mission, as new James, namely that of convincing the “Marquise”, or anybody else, that at the EESC everything is going very well and that the EESC still remains ‘the spearhead in promoting a respectful working environment‘ and that it would only be a question of ‘maintaining our current efforts‘ .

Under these conditions, we understand very well your frustration at the complete and foreseeable failure of your desperate and appalling attempt to calm the game.

The assurances that you widely spread before the submission of the conclusions of the investigation led by OLAF led you to an untenable situation. Your positions have become simply ridiculous since, following the results of the investigation, you stubbornly kept on repeating the same refrain concerning the effectiveness of the measures put in place to prevent… exactly the same serious facts as the OLAF had just noted.

Your inappropriate reaction at the staff meeting

However, all of this in no way justifies that you can indulge in regrettable and unnecessarily emotional reactions as was the case towards a member of the EESC staff and towards our representative who at the meeting of 11 February have simply taken the liberty to submit the questions set out in my note and that everyone has the right to ask themselves and to ask you.

On the one hand, we would like to sincerely thank our ASAP colleagues for their message of support distributed to EESC staff aiming in turn to distance themselves from your attitude (read).

On the other hand, we do not hold it against you for refusing to provide answers to the questions asked, an attitude which obviously seems to be the founding axis of your (non) communication strategy.

Indeed, the questions to which you have refused to provide answers are those asked now by the Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) to the EESC, by refusing to grant it the 2018 discharge…evolution that, according to your message to the staff, will not have failed to surprise you.

Indeed, going from one certainty and one denial of reality to another, you seemed to believe, based on your message, that everything was under control for the EESC discharge procedure 2018…

As part of your approach totally disconnected from the sad reality – which we had denounced and that the OLAF report mentions -, you made it as far as to append to your message to staff, the 2018 discharge questionnaire drawn up before the deposit of the OLAF report and before the hearing in camera of the Director-General of that Office by the CONT Committee.

Confined in your convictions, you believed that, as with the fight against harassment, everything was perfectly under control for the discharge procedure.

You most definitely go from one surprise to another…

Assuming that your certainties were based on an in-depth political analysis on your part in the light of your very long experience within the European institutions, particularly within the European Parliament, I had allowed myself, at the risk of again arousing your irritation, to ask you by my note cited as a reference the bases of your conviction that the 2018 EESC discharge procedure would not have been impacted by the conclusions of OLAF’s investigations.

It is ultimately no longer necessary for you to answer my question since the answer was provided to me by the CONT decision.

... whereas by its decision of last February 19, the Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT), having read the OLAF report, unanimously refuses to grant the discharge for 2018 to the EESC!

On the one hand, as we have already done with OLAF, we would like to sincerely thank the CONT Committee for its decision once again demonstrating the sensitivity and seriousness it reserves for the financial consequences of harassment in European institutions. Thus, by my note with reference, of October 28, 2018, for the attention of the former president of COCOBU, I had stressed “the absolutely untenable situation within the EESC” and “the climate of wholly unhealthy impunity aimed at making staff understand that certain politicians, in particular political leaders, are absolutely untouchable with an administration that has become a backbone, obviously unable to fully assume its role as guardian of the proper application of the Staff Regulations”. I also added that “In these circumstances, everything seems to be done to dissuade people from going further and lodging formal complaints in the internal procedures of the EESC. However, the situation seems to have become so untenable since at least four cases were reported to OLAF in 2018 “. These are the investigations concerned by the report that OLAF has just tabled.

On the other hand, in particular, the CONT Committee after the in camera hearing of the Director-General of OLAF:

Concerning the EESC discharge 2018

Unanimously refuses to grant the 2018 discharge to the EESC and defers its decision in the expectation that, until September 2020, the EESC:

“duly inform the discharge authority before September 2020 on the measures taken in order to follow-up the recommendations of OLAF and to rectify the wrongdoings “.

Concerning the findings and conclusions of the OLAF report

Reminds the EESC that:

‘From July until November 2018 received allegations about harassment against a senior member of the European Economic and Social Committee (the ‘Committee’), the president of the Employer’s Group (Group I) since April 2013, from five different sources and on 6 November 2018 decided to open an investigation; notes that OLAF on 17 January 2020 addressed its report and recommendations to the President of the Committee as foreseen in the cooperation agreement between the Committee and OLAF; expresses concern that OLAF made a finding of harassment against two staff members, improper behaviour (serious misconduct) against one staff member and a Member of the Committee, and misconduct against other staff members and also decided to refer the matter to the Belgian authorities’

Deplores the OLAF conclusions:

as regards psychological harassment, grave misconduct and inappropriate behaviour by the president of the Group 1 towards his subordinates in 2018; notes that under Belgian law harassment constitutes a criminal act; notes, furthermore, that Article 4 of the Code of Conduct for the Members of the Committee on dignity has been breached and that such behaviour is not compatible with the Union values of respect and protection of human dignity within the work place as provided in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union;”

Invites the EESC:

calls on the Committee to consistently apply Article 8 of its Code of Conduct and the relevant rules of procedure for the Committee without any delay by starting the necessary procedures and promptly referring the matter to the advisory committee;”

Concerning the insufficient nature of the sanctions

Reminds the EESC:

“the Report of the European Ombudsman on dignity at work in the EU institutions and agencies: SI/2/2018/AMF which stated with respect to high-ranking personnel that ’Individuals are particularly vulnerable to harassment where there is a power imbalance between the parties involved. This can be mitigated through more demanding rules for high-ranking personnel, who are not covered by the Staff Regulations, such as commissioners, judges, members of the Court of Auditors, members of the Economic and Social Committee and so on. These could include aggravated disciplinary measures, such as compulsory retirement or removal of pension rights. High-ranking personnel should be informed of all anti-harassment rules and policies at the beginning of their mandates in a comprehensive manner and at regular intervals”

Invites the EESC to follow the examples of good practice such as those from the Court of Auditors concerning the severity of the sanctions to be imposed in the event of proven harassment, providing for:

strong disciplinary measures for culpable members, such as compulsory retirement or denial of pension rights, and calls on the Committee to implement these examples”;

Concerning the ineffective nature of various measures and procedures put in place within the EESC in the fight against harassment

Deeply regrets the ineffectiveness of these measures and that they:

have failed to avoid the related cases of harassment and to protect the victims; reminds the Committee that a proactive, real and urgent protection (including against threats, blackmail and bribery attempts) of victims and whistleblowers must be one of the key priorities of these measures; calls on the Committee to reinforce and improve the measures undertaken until now and above all effectively protect the victims; asks the Committee to report back to the Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control;

Requests the EESC to put in place and implement an action plan:

to actively prevent and tackle harassment in the working environment, to raise awareness about harassment, and to foster a culture of zero tolerance with regard to harassment”;

Calls on the Committee to improve measures allowing staff to make formal harassment complaints and:

“to organise regular trainings for confidential counsellors”

Calls on the Committee to set up a pool of independent investigators:

“which the Committee can call upon during formal harassment investigations”

Notes that:

“For the first time, the new Code of Conduct for members, which is annexed to the Committee’s new Rules of Procedure that entered into force in March 2019, for the first time contains sanctions for members involved in situations where a member does not fulfil his or her obligations according to the Code of Conduct; regrets that such sanctions are not significantly severe and not are aligned with the ecommendations of the Ombudsman; reminds that using Union funds to defend the institutional reputation and/or members condemned by the Court of Justice of the European Union or by courts of the Member States is a misuse of public funds and reminds that institutional legal services are used for the purpose of defending the institution only, not to defend the interests of individuals; asks the Committee to urgently strengthen the Code of Conduct for members in order particularly to add sanctions that may be more effective and dissuasive; notes that an advisory committee on the conduct of members has been established and that this committee will give any member who so requests guidance on the interpretation and implementation of the Code of Conduct and, by advising the President of the Committee on possible steps to be taken, and on alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct; strongly recommends that harassment training is available to all members, as it is the case in Parliament since the beginning of the current legislature”;

Concerning the harm done to the proper functioning and independence of the Legal Service of the EESC

 Reminds the EESC that:

“the Legal Service of the Committee was greatly weakened for four years from March 2010 when the head of the Legal Service was dismissed with immediate effect from his duties after having denounced serious irregularities and illicit pressures by the Secretary General at the time; also recalls that this position was vacant for three and a half years, that the European Civil Service Tribunal condemned the Committee for this case (judgment F-41/10 RENV Bermejo Garde v EESC), that the Committee had to pay more than EUR 100 000 and that only in 2014 a new head of the Legal Service was finally appointed and the service reinforced with five lawyers;”

Is very concerned about:

“the recent changes which may again weaken the Legal Service of the Committee, including that it since January 1 2020 is attached directly to the Secretary General…”

Asks the EESC:

“to eliminate all measures that could weaken it in the exercise of its corresponding activities and functions; also reminds the Committee of the importance of consulting the Legal Service on the Committee’s decisions in order to assure they comply with the law and to avoid making serious mistakes and subsequent legal, long and onerous proceedings”

Concerning your procedure for appointment as Secretary General of the EESC


“(…) the arguments raised by the Secretary General in the answers to Parliament’s questions for the 2018 discharge; stresses the importance of ensuring full transparency in all phases without any exception throughout the whole procedure (publication, selection, appointment and establishment) as set out in the Committee’s Rules of Procedure and in the Staff Regulation in order to avoid any reputational risk, not only for the Committee but for all the Union institutions“;

It will obviously be up to the EP plenary to adopt the final decision on the 2018 EESC discharge.

However, it is already possible to draw several key findings.

Firstly, after reading the CONT decision and the press articles published in this respect, you now have a clearer picture concerning OLAF’s findings.

In order to help you review your strong convictions and FINALLY grasp the scope and seriousness of the OLAF findings, that you seem to persist in denying, I would like to summarize them insofar as the CONT decision as well as the articles in the press (politico    20/02/2020 ; 19/02/2020) mention details hitherto unknown.

It therefore appears that the OLAF investigation report would mention, within the EESC:

· 2 (TWO, DUE, II) cases of PROVEN HARRASSMENT against two members of staff, the files having been transmitted to the Belgian Court as harassment is a criminal offense;

· 1 (UN, UNO, I) inappropriate behaviour (SERIOUS MISCONDUCT) against a member of staff;

· 1 (UN, UNO, I) inappropriate behaviour (SERIOUS MISCONDUCT) against a member of the Committee;

· 9 (NEUF, NOVE, IX) inappropriate behaviour (MISCONDUCT) towards other staff members.

That is 13, (THIRTEEN, TREDICI, XIII), cases! It should be repeated again: 13 (THIRTEEN, TREDICI, XIII) cases!

Secondly, having regard to the seriousness of the facts found by OLAF, it is time to stop playing “Mission : Impossible”, to disguise oneself as “new James” wanting to reassure the marquise at all costs. We invite you to come back down among us… on planet Earth!

The development of the 2018 EESC discharge procedure as well as the numerous press articles (  euobserver 31/01/2020 , 22/01/2020 , 22/01/2020 , 23/09/2019 ; 22/01/2020 ; politico 21/02/2019, 20/12/2018 ; Publico 18//11/2018 ; active 22/12/2018 )… should encourage you to finally be accountable… in line with reality.

If ever with President Jahier, you should still cultivate the illusion of calming the game, the desire to trivialize the findings of OLAF, to pretend that everything is perfectly fine, to imply that any critical voice would be animated by the will to damage the reputation of the EESC and even the hope of imposing silence by constantly threatening legal actions … it is high time to open your eyes.

Thirdly, with the CONT Committee decision on the discharge 2018, the EESC has taken a further step in its UNIQUENESS

Indeed, the EESC, after having been:

· the ONLY European institution which was the subject of fairly heavy findings of ill-treatment at work mentioned in the OLAF report, including proven cases of harassment, seriously inappropriate behaviour and other inappropriate behaviour… for several years;

· the ONLY European institution with a track record of files concerning cases of harassment transmitted to the judicial authority of the host Member State.

Add to its record the fact of being also:

· the ONLY European institution, to be denied discharge by the CONT Committee and possibly by the European Parliament following the very serious findings on several cases of harassment and other seriously inappropriate behaviour. This, while remaining according to you “the spearhead in terms of promoting a respectful working environment“.

The EESC ONLY institution to collect these so little “enviable” exploits:

· while being in your eyes again and again “the spearhead in terms of promoting a respectful working environment”;

without forgetting the solemn and memorable words of President Jahier: “Let me assure you, by giving my word to the members and the staff, that the course of action followed by the EESC and its administration sets the bar at the highest possible level in protection of dignity at work, strictly respecting the principles of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU “… adding as if this were not enough that” Acting as a pioneer among the other institutions, the Committee has continued over the past two years to apply the formal and informal procedure provided for in the internal administrative framework with a view to preventing and dealing with psychological and sexual harassment at work ”.

At the risk of causing all your disappointment, it seems to me difficult to imagine that in order to put in place an effective policy in the fight against all forms of harassment, having read the conclusions of the OLAF investigations and the result of EESC’s discharge procedure, the other institutions want to be inspired by the administration of the EESC as a “spearhead” “raising the bar at the highest level” and still trust the EESC as a “pioneer”… leading them in their turn to the same unique exploits!….

Fourthly, you will no doubt be deeply saddened by the fact that ALL the aspects included in the decision of the CONT Committee are the same to which by our notes we have drawn your attention repeatedly.

As a matter of fact, we invite you to note the inadequacy, insufficient and ineffective nature of the prevention policy and the measures put in place to fight against harassment, the urgency of implementing an action plan, the need to implement effective procedures for filing harassment complaints, the insufficient nature of the sanctions included in the code of conduct adopted in 2019, the need to take into account the recommendations of the European Ombudsman in this regard, the need for the EESC to set up an independent internal investigator service, the unacceptable nature of the attacks on the independence of the Legal Service…

ALL these aspects were already included in the notes we have sent you.

Make no mistake! This is not proof of the political plot denounced by Mr Krawczyk, which you too seem to believe in.

The fact is that these are findings and recommendations so obvious that, in our opinion, it is still impossible to understand, how and why as soon as you received the OLAF report, you did not announce yourself the implementation of these measures.

This would have saved the little credibility that remained of your “zero tolerance policy” and, above all, could have saved the EESC the humiliation of having these measures imposed by the CONT Committee.

Fifthly, we look forward to your reaction as well as that of President Jahier to the decision of the CONT Committee.

Indeed, faithful to your vision of reality, we are convinced of that, you will, with President Jahier, express all your indignation against the CONT Committee and possibly the plenary of the European Parliament by accusing them in turn of being responsible for “disinformation, allegations without foundation, inaccurate and unjust, false information… ” namely the same qualifications that you addressed to our steps highlighting the same aspects included in the decision of this Parliamentary Committee. Without forgetting of course to denounce the complicity of OLAF in this political scheme.

Sixthly, it should be recalled that prevention is not an empty slogan but an obligation of result … the result to be achieved should have been above all to avoid the 13 cases found by OLAF!

These THIRTEEN cases found by OLAF constitute the indisputable certification of the total failure of the prevention procedures in place at the EESC, of which you are the only one in the world ― perhaps two with President Jahier ― to continue to advocate effectiveness.

THIRTEEN CASES! Spread over several years! Moreover, not once were you or your services able to stop this unacceptable behaviour towards our and your colleagues.

These situations of abuse must have been of public knowledge within your services. By consulting any reference text, by reading the opinions of the EESC … even a somewhat distracted reader understand that the prevention of psychosocial risks and in particular of harassment begins by anticipation and, in all cases, by stopping immediately these kinds of situations. However, they lasted until they forced victims to contact OLAF by using the whistle-blowers procedure, as they could not count on internal procedures at the EESC.

In these circumstances, rather than repeating the same slogans ad nauseam, you have the obligation to explain why and how the EESC administration was unable to prevent and punish the THIRTEEN serious facts found by OLAF.

We are entitled to ask you this question given that these facts happened for a fairly long period within an institution of a few hundred people, all located in the single building, within an institution where you have been, since 2010, Resources Director and, since 2018, Secretary-General.

We are all the more entitled to ask for explanations with regard to the measures put in place by the administration of the EESC to prevent these misdeeds and to protect the victims, as in the judgment of the Court of 12 May 2016 (Case F-50/15 FS against the EESC), an investigation report within the EESC is mentioned, which specifies that:

Mr. K.’s management style is not necessarily unusual, particularly in relation to the private sector, but it does not completely correspond, in certain aspects, to the administrative culture of the European public service. On this point, as well as with regard to the problem of illegality of work during maternity leave… it would be desirable for the administration of the EESC to consider a system… to familiarize the CEOS of the EESC groups with the principles and the essential rules of the administrative culture of the Union, as well as with the main problems which arise[1]. (p. 10, point 58, 4th paragraph).

Thus, either nothing was done to avoid the serious facts found by OLAF, or what was done was obviously ineffective. Tertium non datur.

In general, it is not to you, Secretary General of the EESC, that we should explain the general obligation of safety and result which is incumbent on each employer according to Directive 89/391 of 12 June 1989 and in particular its responsibility to assess the risks, including psychosocial risks, and to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and protect the physical and mental health of its staff.

This general obligation is based on a global approach to the prevention of occupational risks. It is not only a question of seeking compliance with specific obligations but of obtaining the expected result and in particular ensuring security and protecting the physical and mental health of staff members.

None of this is reflected in your positions. You constantly give the image of an administration which refuses any critical analysis, which seems to be able only to repeat ad nauseam the same refrain confirming that all the necessary measures would already be in place, that the EESC would bethe spearhead in terms of promoting a respectful work environmentand that it would simply be a matter ofmaintaining current efforts “.

However, if the “current efforts”, your zero tolerance strategy, your fail proof procedures… if all these infinite measures, which you have constantly boasted of having implemented, had been efficient… how do you explain the 13 serious facts found by OLAF?

Under these conditions, how can you continue to pretend that it is only a question of “maintaining current efforts”?

How can you not see that you are actually offering the guarantee that these serious facts will repeat themselves in the future?

How can you not understand that your words constitute a new detestable affront inflicted on the victims although you say you want to FINALLY defend them?

We would like to remind you that according to the national law, the employer is responsible for cases of harassment and / or inappropriate behaviour and that he must implement policies to prevent and remedy these situations.

In view of the above, faced with such a failure of your prevention policy and your obstinacy to deny it, we believe it would be essential for the EESC to be assisted by external organizations specialized in this issue, within the implementation of the recommendation of the CONT Commission.

Seventhly, yes, President Jahier, exceptionally, we agree with you: the reputation of the EESC which is now seriously called into question! EESC staff do not deserve this!

But we are waiting to be enlightene by your guiding lights to find out who is responsible for this political disaster.

We are delighted to see that President Jahier, in his statement to the press (politico 20/02/2020),, notes, or better said, finally discovers that it is the reputation of the EESC that is now deeply damaged.

Let us note that your positions and those of President Jahier, your attempts to deny everything possible and to trivialize what has become impossible to deny… and not our actions, neither the complaints of the victims, nor the OLAF report, nor the decision of the CONT, nor the press articles… call into question the reputation of the EESC, which you claim you want to defend.

Do you not realize that by persevering in this self-referential and totally disconnected from reality approach, even after the seriousness of OLAF’s findings, you have contributed to further tarnish the reputation of the EESC and to reinforce the fears of staff and from external observers that with the current administration of the EESC things will never change?

In short, the reputation of the EESC would have been less tarnished if, by recognizing the total failure of your prevention policy, you had put in place without delay the measures that we asked you for and that you qualified as “malicious and defamatory speculation”… the same measures that the CONT Committee and the European Parliament are now asking you to adopt.

Eighthly, Mr Krawczyk is already assisted by his lawyers and does not need the EESC administration to give the impression of wanting to disguise itself as his ‘pro deo’ lawyer

Likewise, in addition to refusing to answer the legitimate questions asked, it would be useful to avoid gender confusion. While it must ensure a real defence and effective protection of the victims, EESC Administration as well as President Jahier should avoid giving the slightest impression that ― perhaps using the opportunity of the Carnival ― they would disguise as pro deo lawyers for Mr Krawczyk, suggesting in particular that they would share his words and “his political analysis”.

Mr. Krawczyk naturally benefits from the presumption of innocence, he has all the rights, the faculty and the means to ensure his defence, in accordance with the formal requirements and having recourse to the arguments which he considers appropriate to oppose the “political conspiracy against his election” which he continues to denounce, thus adding a new insult to the victims and a surreal turn to this sad affair.

On the contrary, what remains unacceptable to us is that in response to his arguments, Mr Krawczyk can still count on your deafening silence as well as that of President Jahier, and on the absence of any denial or any other reaction from the EESC.

This is an incomprehensible lethargic inertia, given your reactivity and the threatening tone that, together with President Jahier, you had reserved to our efforts.

Or even worse, that Mr Krawczyk can see his theses being reinforced by taking advantage of your absolutely incomprehensible positions like the ones you expressed during the staff meeting, by making ludicrous allegations against the European Parliament.

Ninthly, we could not believe it when we heard you describing the current EESC crisis as evidence that the European Parliament would be the “big bad wolf” who wants to eat the poor little piggy, namely, the EESC.

Again, while understanding the times of stress you’re going through, this does not justify the insulting caricature of interinstitutional relations you delivered

Tenthly, R&D FINALLY awaits your answers

Having said all above, it is therefore eagerly that, together with the colleagues concerned, we await your answers.

Should you, against all odds, decide not to answer our questions, we will then limit ourselves to read the EESC’s responses to the requirements set out in the decision of the CONT Committee,

These requirements have always been ours and those of the staff that we will continue, with even more determination, to defend and represent.




Mr Jahier, President of the EESC

Mr Krawczyk, President of EESC’s Group I

Ms Sharma and Mr Malosse, EESC members

Members of the EESC

Ms O’Reilly, European Ombudsman

Ms Hohlmeier, President, Mr/Ms the Vice-Presidents, and members of the Committee on Budgetary Control of the European Parliament

Mr Itälä, Director-General of OLAF

Ms Nicolaie, Director of IDОС

Staff of the Institutions


1. Italian translation

2. Roman  numerals