Note for the attention of Ms Christa Schweng President of the European Economic and Social Committee
Subject: Your message of 2 June to the EESC confirming your full confidence in your Secretary-General and his administration and not addressing a single word of solidarity to the recognised victims of harassment
Our note for your attention of 7 May
In our open letter of 7 May, we drew your attention to the surprising nature of the satisfaction expressed by the EESC Bureau and the subsequent congratulations to its Secretary-General regarding the EESC’s 2019 general budget discharge voted by the European Parliament on 29 April 2021.
In this respect, we drew your attention in particular to the particularly critical remarks made in the EP resolution once again calling into question your Secretary-General and your administration — if it should not yet be possible to differentiate between the two — quod non after the memorable hearing of 3 September 2020 of your HR Director before the CONT Committee.
We also wonder what measures you intend to take to respond to the EP’s very specific recommendations and to put an end to the deplorable lack of concern for the victims of harassment.
We stressed that it is high time to investigate the reasons and responsibilities of this blatant breach of due diligence and inaction on the part of the administration, as well as the very important financial consequences stemming from it, all of which the EP rightly points out.
Your message to EESC staff of 2 June
However, it was with astonishment that we read, in this context, your address of 2 June to the EESC staff, which included our open letter in the appendix.
In addition to the promises made to the EP, which have become as profound as they are ritualistic, to implement the real reforms needed at the EESC, and after the equally lenient reminder of the unwavering attachment to the founding values of the European project, you have decided to:
- confirm YOUR FULL CONFIDENCE in your Secretary-General and his administration;
- NOT EVEN ADRESS A SINGLE WORD of solidarity to the recognised victims of harassment.
Your last message seems to have a single objective: by playing the role of lawyer pro bono, to proclaim high and strong confidence in your administration, by which you seem to want to endorse even the decisions and actions that took place before you took office.
In doing so, you have taken a new step in denying the reality that has been affecting the EESC for too long, a fact which you seem to have decided to perpetuate by causing deep disappointment to those who had hoped that with your presidency things could finally change.
The triumph of our joint list with ASAP, which won 8 out of 11 votes in this election!
In order not to disrupt the smooth running of the elections for the renewal of the EESC Staff Committee, we had therefore decided to wait for the announcement of the results before sending you this note.
We would therefore like to start by expressing our sincere thanks to this vast majority of our EESC colleagues, who largely won the list that we, together with ASAP and independent colleagues, submitted to their vote.
With a historic result of 8 elected out of 11 seats on this Committee, the EESC staff have shown support for our programme of changes… without loopholes.
We can only hope that this massive electoral victory will help to dispel your doubts about the urgent and absolute need to launch a thorough overhaul of the EESC, which our colleagues deserve in order to overcome the internal resistance that has always been opposed to it.
We say “hope” because, unfortunately, we must remind the former President and your Secretary-General of the despicable and laughable efforts to deny obvious problems, denigrate our arguments and say, quite shamelessly, in such a threatening and pathetic tone that we would have “bullied EESC members” on an as threatening and pathetic tone as we would have “brutalised the EESC members”, making us responsible for “disinformation, unsubstantiated, inaccurate and unjust allegations of fake news...”, all of this all with threats of legal actions… one can only imagine… again at the expense of the European taxpayer…
Faced with the obvious arguments, they were then reduced to claiming that our actions came from an “external” trade union with no support from EESC staff…
The electoral results show once again how much our trade union is the leader in the European civil service, including, by a wide margin, in the EESC.
There are limits, even to dual language!
On the one hand, for too long, the EESC has been posturing, particularly vis-à-vis the EP, promising everything and its opposite, provided it gets budgetary discharge, and immediately ‘writing off’ its good intentions with the most absolute flippancy…
On the other hand, in its internal communication, of which your communication of 2 June is the latest example, the message has always been different, denying the problems and the need for any reform, even taking it to blame the same EP, before which so much hypocritical genuflexion is made, of being at the forefront of a political plot and of being the “wicked wolf that wants to eat the poor lost ewe”, i.e. the EESC.
Madam Chair, in view of your message to staff, we can only invite you to ask the EP to withdraw all its criticisms against your administration and your Secretary-General, to whom you demonstrate your unwavering trust!
Indeed, in order not to succumb to political schizophrenia or to give yourself the temptation to use the double-talk so that no one can think for a moment that you are in turn curtailed, to show yourself, somewhat, in line with your position of 2 June, you are left with little option but to contact the EP plenary and solemnly ask them to immediately withdraw their unqualified criticism and indignant demands, which are totally incompatible with the support you give to your SG and your administration.
In order to help you in this process, we will confine ourselves to recalling here a small sample of criticisms, in your view undoubtedly unfair and unjustified which, to remain credible, you must ask the EP to withdraw:
With regard to your Secretary-General and administration, the EP:
“(…) recalls that Parliament refused to grant discharge to the Secretary-General of the Committee for the financial year 2018, in particular on account of a blatant breach of duty of care and inaction on the part of the administration, as well as the financial consequences; Reminds the Committee that refusal of discharge is a serious matter requiring immediate action”;
“deeply regrets the lack of decisive action, in particular preventive and remedial measures, by the then Director for Human Resources and Finance, now Secretary-General, until the refusal of the 2018 discharge”;
And, as if these were not already enough:
“during the 2018 discharge procedure and part of the 2019 discharge procedure, the Secretary-General was unable to provide sufficient, transparent and reliable information to Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control, as shown by the number of times the information provided was refuted by reporting persons, the committee’s trade unions, the victim’s defence team or the author himself”.
The harsher and intolerable silence that you reserve for the victims in your message!
If we call for this consistency, it is because we have seen how consistent you are in not expressing your support to the victims or even mentioning them in your message.
Of course, it would have been difficult for you to express in the same message both your trust in your administration and your support for the victims.
As the EP rightly points out, our colleagues were also victims of the “blatant failure of the administration to exercise due diligence and inaction”, not to mention “the lack of decisive action, in particular preventive and remedial measures, on the part of the then Director of Human Resources and Finance, now Secretary-General”, the same administration and Secretary-General to whom you give now your full support.
Your silence towards the victims is even more worrying given that the EP had stressed the need and urgency for YOUR personal involvement instead of continuing to leave this matter in the hands of your administration with the consequences that the EP rightly regrets.
For in placing the victims very legitimately at the heart of its concerns, the EP has personally called on you to:
“rapidly reach a settlement agreement with victims of harassment and misconduct; Believes that the new Directorate should play an active role in negotiating a settlement with the victims, with the aim of reaching a fair and satisfactory agreement agreed by all parties, as well as to avoid any conflict of interest;
to be aware of the damage caused to victims and reporting persons, both materially and in moral terms, due to insufficient support and the lack of legitimate reintegration and compensation; is deeply concerned that the victims had to lodge a complaint due to the inaction of the Committee’s administration in the context of the reintegration procedure; reminds the Committee of its obligation to protect victims and reporting persons”.
And the same EP had rightly stated:
“deeply concerned that in April 2021 the EESC continues to be in breach of its duty of care towards victims of harassment and serious misconduct, as it has concluded amicable settlement agreements with only two of the four victims and has not yet published the public apologies promised and reiterates its call for clear and strong protection and support measures for victims of harassment”
“that the settlement with victims is based on the principles of transparency and decency and include public excuses, fair conditions for settlement, the full reintegration of victims into their working environment and the guarantee of protection against the adverse consequences of the case; strongly opposes any pressure on victims to sign non-disclosure clauses and prevent them from providing information on the Rules of Procedure in full confidentiality to Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control; Calls on the Committee to present a detailed report on the proposed protection and compensation measures; calls on the Committee to report on the current situation of the identified victims”.
The “EESC harassment” affair is not a detail that one can so easily try to forget “by playing for time” without drawing ALL the consequences and establishing the related responsibilities!
The pretence of simply “turning the page” by announcing lots of changes, forgetting, therefore, the past, avoiding to learn all the lessons of the mistakes made, which the EP rightly recalls, avoiding even more carefully to establish the related responsibilities which the EP pinpoints so clearly and with such severity… are so many omissions which will not guarantee that these same mistakes will never be repeated in the future.
This case and the extent of its consequences, both disciplinary and judicial and political for the EESC, will clearly have a dissuasive effect, will encourage the victims to defend their rights, will help to put an end to the climate of impunity which has already lasted for too long, to break the detestable law of silence and to prevent harassment and other inappropriate behaviour also within other institutions and Agencies.
Let us now turn to the recruitment procedures, the new drawer of the case against your EESC administration
In this regard, the European Parliament takes the trouble to state:
“…deeply concerned about the public unease about certain recruitment procedures employed by the Committee (…) Stresses the importance of strictly ensuring that each stage of the recruitment process (publication, selection, appointment and establishment) is carried out in a transparent manner, without exception, as provided for in the Committee’s Rules of Procedure and the Staff Regulations, in order to avoid any risk to the reputation not only of the Committee but also of all EU bodies”
Again, no need for a crystal ball to imagine that the response of your administration and your Secretary General to this legitimate concern that we fully share, as with all the other procedures organised by the EESC, will be that the recruitment procedures are above suspicion, and of course, only malicious and dishonest minds such as ours and those of certain jealous parliamentarians could criticise them, given that they are irreproachable and exemplary.
In this respect, some “malicious minds” are now pretending to already know in advance and well before the publication of the “vacancy notice” the name of the next “Director of Communication”… perhaps this is how the EESC thinks to apply the request of the EP concerning the need of insuring that the procedure “is carried out in a transparent manner without exception”.
And we don’t want to believe, as the same “malicious minds” are also pretending, that this post has been kept vacant for a long time in order to allow the winner to become eligible…
We can only look forward to the outcome of the procedure…
”Quisque parat sibi fortunam”
The EESC is sole artist of its own destiny and the EESC’s destiny is above all in your hands
Again, we would like to confirm that there can be no question of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” by charging an entire institution for the mismanagement of an administration which has repeatedly been highlighted by the EP for serious deficiencies and unforgivable omissions.
Again, it must never be forgotten that it is these unforgivable mistakes, the arrogant claim to never be accountable to anyone — and certainly not the well-founded criticisms of R&D, OLAF and the European Parliament — that have thrown the opprobes on the EESC, thus playing the enemies of the European project and our civil service.
We would like to remind you, Madam President, that it is your personal responsibility, again and again, to ensure that the EESC, FINALLY AND PERMANENTLY, turns the page, with the necessary far-reaching reforms.
This is without forgetting the obligation to conduct and monitor checks on the reason and responsibilities of the administration’s blatant failure to comply with the duty of care and inaction, as well as the very important financial consequences, namely the aspects that the EP rightly points out.
The need and urgency for a real change is also what your staff have sent you unequivocally during the elections that have just ended, as it massively didn’t vote for continuity, and the time has come for you to take note of it.
The time has come for you too, to finally recognise that the “Ancien Régime” is dead, to prove by clear actions that the EESC is not “the Zombie, which has lost his mission but still does not live” or “a costly relic of a past era”, as described by many outside observers.
Mr Brunetti, Secretary General of the EESC
Mr Mallia, President of Group I at the EESC
Mr Röpke, President of Group II at the EESC
Mr Boland, President of Group III at the EESC
Mr Krawczyk, EESC Member
Mr Guillard, EESC HR Director
Mr Sassoli, EP President
Ms Hohlmeier, President, Ms, Mr Vice-Presidents, and Members of the Budgetary Control Committee of the European Parliament
Mr Olivier Chastel, rapporteur for the EESC’s 2019 discharge
Ms O’Reilly, European Ombudsman
Mr Tranholm-Mikkelsen, Secretary General of the Council of the EU
Ms Juhansone, Secretary General of the European Commission
Mr Itälä, Director General of OLAF
Ms Nicolaie, Director IDOC
Staff of the Institutions