Brussels, 23 June 2023
Note for the attention of Mr O. Röpke,
President of the EESC
Subject: Your nomination as new EESC President
We would like to congratulate you most sincerely on your long-awaited appointment as the new President of the EESC.
We are confident that, thanks to your long experience in relations with staff representation organisations, you will not only be able to implement the changes that the EESC so desperately needs, but also to give a whole new impetus to social dialogue by genuinely opening up to staff and their representatives.
In this context, and with the utmost respect for the roles of each party, we would like to say from the outset that we are fully prepared to make our contribution to the implementation of these long-awaited changes.
Publication of the post of EESC Secretary General
Among the first measures adopted, we welcome the publication of the post of Secretary-General of the EESC, and we are confident that you will ensure an exemplary management of this procedure, preventing it from giving rise once again to the questions raised by the EP on the last procedure carried out for this post.
A president who did not deliver on her promises, disguised as the pro deo lawyer of her General Secretary, and a Secretary-General with the Guépard 1 as his bedside book?
There is no need to go into all the shortcomings of the legacy left to you by your predecessor.
As you know, since we could no longer expect anything from the former President and her Secretary General, we reached out to you and to the other two Group Presidents, confirming that you were the only hope of finally bringing about change at the EESC. And while we fully understand your constraints, we appreciated the nods of attention you expressed, for which we would like to thank you once again.
It is worth pointing out that, as soon as she took office, Ms Schweng confirmed that she was perfectly aware of the urgent need to finally assist the victims of the harassment and inappropriate behaviour denounced by R&D, confirmed by OLAF and based on the EP’s decisions to postpone or even refuse the discharge to the EESC’s Secretary General.
We took her commitments seriously, all the more because as a long-standing member of the EESC, Ms Schweng had witnessed at first hand the seriousness of the problems identified.
How disappointed we were to find that, contrary to her promises, our expectations and the EP’s request, as President, she thought it was possible to kowtow completely to her administration’s approach and continue to follow the same disastrous scenario without any real change…causing disappointment among staff and fierce criticism from the EP.
In the context of the discharge procedures, she had fully endorsed the Secretary-General’s approach of denying everything that the EESC felt could still be denied, trivialising what could still stand, recognising only what had become impossible to deny… by promising to introduce new procedures… the perception being that it was in fact a case of “changing everything so that nothing changes”… the Guépard definitely seems to be her favourite bedside book…
This incomprehensible attitude, devoid of any recognition of responsibility and claiming never to be accountable to anyone, has done nothing but tarnish the EESC’s brand image with each passing day, worsening the political crisis, in particular with the European Parliament, which has thus seen all its criticisms, requests for explanations and proposals for action to be taken with regard to our colleagues who are victims of the very serious acts of harassment and other inappropriate behaviour denounced by R&D and confirmed by OLAF in its report, swept aside in a single stroke.
Let it suffice to point out that it took a whole raft of reminders both from us and from the EP before she finally deigned in May 2022 to apologise to the victims… in a message posted on the EESC’s intranet site. Not to mention the fact that there are still other cases of mistreatment that have not yet received the appropriate follow-up.
The result was that the EESC became subject to damning discharge procedures, so within the framework of that of 2021, which has just ended, the EP was forced, inter alia, to confirm, once again, that it:
“reiterates its concern that the Committee’s secretary-general still refuses to admit the internal shortcomings and responsibilities, leading to a breach of duty of care towards the staff of the Committee2 ”
The EESC’s handling of harassment and inappropriate behaviour, both prior to and following the OLAF investigation report, has been so flawed that we find ourselves faced with a school case that teaches us all the mistakes and bad practices that must absolutely be avoided if victims are to be effectively protected.
Our experience in the “EESC affair” is therefore also being duly taken into account in the ongoing negotiations within all the institutions and agencies with regard to the draft decision on the fight against all forms of harassment.
As the new President of the EESC, you face the challenge of finally being able to prove through clear actions and credible reforms, and not through empty slogans and promises never kept, that the EESC is NOT “the Zombie, which has lost its mission but is still alive” or “an expensive souvenir of a bygone era”, as described by many external observers.
Yours truly is the ” last chance presidency” if, as we very much hope, we want the EESC to regain without delay the role and credibility that this institution, its staff and the people of Europe deserve.
Ms Schweng former President of the EESC
Mr Brunetti, Secretary-General of the EESC
Mr Guillard, EESC Director of Human Resources
EESC Bureau members
Ms Hohlmeier, Chair, Vice-President and members of the EP Committee on Budgetary Control
Staff of the institutions
EESC Harassment – Our actions