European Civil Service: Wikis

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The European Civil Service is the civil service serving the institutions of the European Union. Most notably it serves the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union. It is the permanent bureaucracy that implements the decisions of the Union's government.

Civil servants are known by some as "European Mandarins" (usually referring to high ranking members) or, often more derogatively,[citation needed] as "Eurocrats" (a term coined by Richard Mayne, a journalist and personal assistant to the first Commission president, Walter Hallstein).[1] They are recruited directly into the institutions after being selected by competitions set by EPSO, the official selection office. In serving the institutions they are divided into departments, known as Directorates-General (DGs), covering certain policy areas. They have been criticised due to their power over Commissioners and for engaging in "turf wars" between DGs.

Contents

Directorates-General

The Commission is divided into departments known as Directorates-General (DGs or the services), each headed by a director-general, and various other services. Each covers a specific policy area or service such as External Relations or Translation responsible or a European Commissioner. DGs prepare proposals for their Commissioners which can then be put forward for voting in the college of Commissioners.[2]

While they can be likened to national departments or ministries, they are the product of a number of national administrative traditions rather than any single system. They are held together through this by a "common mission" which gives DGs a particularly enthusiastic attitude to the production of draft legislation regardless of the intentions of the Commissioner.[3] They are also notably bound by their common procedures, which have become a sacred rite in the absence of a common administrative culture. The Secretariat-General, knowing all on such procedures, hence have a semi divine status in the Commissions ranking, just below the President's cabinet.[4]

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Turf wars

There has been criticism from a number of people that the highly fragmented DG structure wastes a considerable amount of time in turf wars as the different departments and Commissioners compete with each other. Furthermore the DGs can exercise considerable control over a Commissioner with the Commissioner having little time to learn to assert control over his/her staff.[5][6]

The DG's also have to compete with the Commissioner's cabinet. While the DG has responsibility for preparation of work and documents, the cabinet has responsibility for giving the Commissioner political guidance. However, in practice both seek a share of each others work.[7] In particular, the DGs try to influence the decision making though providing Commissioners with briefing documents as late and large as possible, ensuring that the Commissioner has no time to do anything but accept the version of facts presented by the DG. In doing this the DG is competing with the cabinet, which acts as a "bodyguard" for the Commissioner.[8]

Under the Prodi Commission (1999-2004) the refurbishment of the Berlaymont building was not yet finished with headquarters transferred to the Breydel building. Previous Commissions had located the Commissioners and their cabinets in the headquarters, separate from the Directorates-General, however Prodi decided to move the Commissioners out to the same buildings as their DGs. This was in part to reduce contact, and hence conspiracy, between Commissioners against the President. Despite this being the usual organisation for national ministries it created a great deal of tension between the cabinets and DGs who increased their competition for influence over the Commissioner.[9]

Structure

The Directorates-General are divided into four groups: Policy DGs, External relations DGs, General Service DGs and Internal Service DGs. Internally, the DGs are referred to by their abbreviations; provided in parenthesis below.

Hierarchy

During the 1980s, the Commission was primarily dominated by French, German and Italian influences with a strict hierarchy. Commissioners and Directors-General were referred to by their title (in French) with greater prestige for those of higher ranks. As one former servant, Derk Jan Eppink has put it, even after new servants had passed the tough entrance exams: "Those at the top counted for everything. Those at the bottom counted for nothing."[10] The chef de cabinet of President Jacques Delors, Pascal Lamy, was particularly notable for his immense influence over other civil servants. He became known as the Beast of the Berlaymont, the Gendarme and the Exocet due to his habit of ordering civil servants, even Directors-General (head of departments) "precisely what to do - or else." He was seen as ruling Delors's office with a "rod of iron", with no-one able to bypass or manipulate him and those who tried being "banished to one of the less pleasant European postings".[11]

However, since enlargement there has been a relaxation in the civil service. New civil servants from northern and eastern states brought in new influences while the Commission's focus has shifted more to "participation" and "consultation". A more egalitarian culture took over with Commissioners no longer having a "status equivalent to a sun god" and with this new populism, the first women were appointed to the Commission in the 1990s and the service gained its first female secretary general in 2006 (Catherine Day). In stark contrast to the 1980s, it is not uncommon to see men without ties and children playing football in the corridors.[12]

Grades

Policy makers are divided into a set of grades: from AD 5, the most junior administrator grade, to AD 16, which is a director-general (AD = administrator). Below the AD category is AST (assistant). It is now possible for civil servants to be promoted from AST to AD grade, not previously possible in the original system (below), however in practice the grades remain entrenched.[13] While promotion is in theory according to merit, many management posts are now taken by officials 'parachuted' from member states. Moreover, staff reforms introduced in 2004 have severely reduced the possibilities for career progression and have created divisions within the service, with pre-2004 entrants enjoying greater pay and privileges. According to the Commission's own internal statistics, even though new officials possess an average of eight years work experience, it would take an average of over 40 years to climb from AD 5 to AD 16.

Prior to this new system, introduced in the 2000s, servants were traditionally divided into four categories. "A" was policy making (what is now AD), "B' was implementing, "C" was secretarial and "D" was drivers and messengers (B C and D are now all part of the AST category). There were various grades in each category. The major ranks used to be in the form of A7 (new appointment) to A1 (director-general).[13]

Staff

The Commission's civil service is headed by a Secretary General, currently Catherine Day.[14] According to figures published by the Commission, 23,043 persons were employed by the Commission as officials and temporary agents in April 2007. In addition to these, 9019 "external staff" (e.g. contractual agents, detached national experts, young experts etc) were employed. The single largest DG is the Directorate-General for Translation, with a 2186-strong staff.[15]

Nationality

There are servants from all member states with the largest group being Belgian (21.4%, no other nationality exceeds 10%), who are hence massively over represented, probably due to a majority (16,626) of staff being based in the country. Most administration is in the Belgian capital,[15] but Belgians are also allegedly preferred because of their adaptability.[16] Often, those states underrepresented in the service tend to have more of their nationals in the higher ranks.[17]

Qualifications

One of the entry qualifications for the civil service is that the candidate speaks at least two European languages, one of which must be English, French or German. Prior to first promotion, officials must demonstrate competence in a third EU official language.

Salary and allowances

EU civil servants work 37.5 hours a week, though they are theoretically available 24/7. They receive a minimum of 24 days of leave a year (maximum of 30), with additional leave on grounds of age, grade and distance from home country. The lowest grades receive between €2,325.33 and €2,630.96 each month, while the highest grade receives between €14,822.86 and €16,094.79 a month. This salary is taxed by the EU, rather than at the national level. Taxation varies between 8% and 45% depending on individual circumstances. This is paid into the Community budget.[18]

Earnings are augmented by allowances, such as allowances for those living outside their own country, those who are the principal earner in their household, those who have children and are educating them, and those who are moving home. Following this there are other benefits, such as the pension scheme. Employees contribute about 8.25% of their basic salary, and the maximum retirement pension is 70% of their final basic salary for 35 years' service. For a contribution of 2% basic salary, employees are provided with health insurance which covers a maximum of 85% of expenses (100% for serious injury).[18]

See also

References

  • Eppink, Derk-Jan; Ian Connerty (translator) (2007) (in English). Life of a European Mandarin: Inside the Commission (1st edition ed.). Tielt, Belgium: Lannoo. ISBN 978-9020970227. 
  1. ^ "Richard Mayne obituary". The Guardian: p. 30. 22 December 2009. http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2009/dec/21/richard-mayne-obituary. Retrieved 22 December 2009. 
  2. ^ "Institutions of the EU: The European Commission". Europa (web portal). http://europa.eu/institutions/inst/comm/index_en.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  3. ^ Eppink, 2007, p.111
  4. ^ Eppink, 2007, p.218
  5. ^ Amies, Nick (2007-09-21). "Former EU Mandarin Spills the Beans on Commission Intrigue". Deutsche Welle. http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,2790009,00.html. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  6. ^ Mahony, Honor (2007-10-17). "EU carefully manages PR through 1000s of press releases". EU Observer. http://euobserver.com/9/24971. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  7. ^ Eppink, 2007, p.109
  8. ^ Eppink, 2007, p.107-8
  9. ^ Eppink, 2007, p.106-7
  10. ^ Eppink, 2007, p.32
  11. ^ Eppink, 2007, p.22-3
  12. ^ Eppink, 2007, p.34-5
  13. ^ a b Eppink, 2007, p.37
  14. ^ "Interview with European Commission Secretary-General Catherine Day". EurActiv. 2006-09-25. http://www.euractiv.com/en/future-eu/interview-european-commission-secretary-general-catherine-day/article-158149. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  15. ^ a b "Civil Service: Staff figures.". Europa (web portal). http://ec.europa.eu/civil_service/about/figures/index_en.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  16. ^ Eppink, 2007, p.24
  17. ^ Eppink, 2007, p.35
  18. ^ a b COUNCIL REGULATION (EC, EURATOM) No 723/2004, Annex I, Amendment 60

Further reading

  • Eppink, Derk-Jan; Ian Connerty (translator) (2007) (in English). Life of a European Mandarin: Inside the Commission (1st edition ed.). Tielt, Belgium: Lannoo. ISBN 978-9020970227. 

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