Resignation of director DG GROW I

Brussels, 29 November 2018

 

Note to the attention of Mr Martin Selmayr,

 Secretary-General of the European Commission

 

Subject: Resignation of director DG GROW I in charge of Space, Corpernicus and Defence, reporting “a lack of confidence and an absolute ignorance of the files that led to recent decisions in the essential area of security” 

Nothing new actually: we have a long history of highlighting the difficulties that DG GROW’s colleagues had to face.

Disastrous reorganization whose consequences are still being paid by the staff members…

On 22 April 2015, the College, at the beginning of the mandate, adopted a first decision to reorganize the Commission’s departments in order to achieve better performance and synergies.

The current DG GROW was the first Directorate-General to pay for this exercise, which consisted in merging DG ENTR with the services section of DG MARKT, the Medical Instruments Unit of DG SANTE and the relocation of the Security Unit with DG HOME… This reorganization was orchestrated without prior consultation of staff and without any structured information. The colleagues concerned, presented with a fait accompli, have been victims of the consequences of a lack of analysis, of thoughtless decisions and of restructuring mismanagement, which should be seen as the example never to follow again.

In response to our actions supported by undeniable facts including the results of a satisfaction survey highlighting the problems encountered by colleagues, the ritual response received was that everything was going to be solved, that appropriate action would be taken and that there was nothing to worry about (please see: Survey on staff satisfaction – Reorganisation of DG GROW ;  Survey DG GROW – Final reportSpecific indicators drawn from the results of the survey launched by R&D-Renard Déchaîné, p. 40-41

Under these conditions, it was obvious that such approaches could only amplify the demotivation and generate the disappointment of colleagues (please read: DG GROW… and the colleagues left the room).

Nevertheless, it is reassuring to note that, given the magnitude of the negative consequences of such a reorganisation for both colleagues and the good functioning of the services within DG GROW, DG HR had to propose new rules on this matter, precisely to prevent such disaster from happening again in the future.

From this point of view, we take the opportunity to confirm that we have appreciated the spirit of openness and the willingness to dialogue that you demonstrated during the meeting with the Unions to announce and illustrate the reorganization of the Secretariat-General. In particular, we appreciated your decision to set up a Chambre d’écoute, whereas DG HR had always refused it in the context of a reorganization affecting a single DG, invoking as usual merely bureaucratic arguments.

Trauma resulting from the tragic act of a colleague

Moreover, DG GROW’s staff has been and still is overwhelmed by the suicide of a colleague. In the opinion of many colleagues, this act was not unrelated to the difficulties, at times serious, he had encountered in his service, as he was confronted to “management techniques” which, according to the many reactions we received, sometimes seemed to be still part of the “culture of service” of some members from the senior management of the DG.

In view of the provisions put in place following such a terrible event, while still appreciating the sensitivity shown by several other managers of the DG, colleagues also expressed their belief that no concrete measures would have been taken at DG level and that it was mainly about measures aiming at calming the situation without really tackling the real underlying problems, because obviously some “avatars” remained untouchable.

Generally speaking, while it is reassuring to note the improvements achieved in several services of this DG, many colleagues often reported us to be still and always called to perform their tasks, acting in cooperation with their heads of unit, and sometimes also with their directors, while being confronted with diverging instructions, contradictory political approaches, over exhausting round-trips of the files, no longer knowing in fine who decides what, to what level and… on which floor of the Berlaymont.

The resignation of the Director in charge of Space, Corpernicus and Defence

As if it was not enough, while Europe of defence is the subject of all the attentions within the European Union with the launch of a new structure of cooperation and that political reactions at the highest level, including across the Atlantic, keep reminding the importance and sensitivity of the subject, we learn that the director in charge of Space, Corpernicus and Defence just resigned, asking to be assigned to non-management tasks without delay!

Wishing to cut short to rumours and as duty of transparency, he expressed his inability to continue to perform his tasks because of a lack of confidence and an absolute ignorance of the files that led to the recent decisions intervening in the essential area of security!

He thanked his collaborators for the important achievements of his Directorate, all the more noteworthy given the constraints and problems which some had constantly opposed, before paying tribute to the commitment of his teams and to recognizing the fruits of their labour.

No need to confirm that, as soon as this decision was announced, we were addressed by both colleagues and external actors confirming the deep unease within these services, asking that these things be investigated fully without delay, in particular on the aspects invoked by our colleague as grounds motivating his decision. This while confirming their strong belief that once again DG GROW was only just trying to “put the matter to rest”, avoiding once again to tackle the aforementioned “avatars”.

Faced with the gravity of this stance and the reasons given to motivate it, clarity should be reached without delay and we don’t believe for a second that DG GROW has the slightest intention to do so!

Indeed, as it was easy to foresee, and acting in compliance with its usual practice,  DG GROW is apparently already considering once again to go back to its ritualistic yet painful strategy, aiming once again at denying the scope of this decision, at trying at its discretion to explain it by merely personal motivations of our colleague, by his so-called career advancement expectations, by discrediting to reduce the impact of his positions and avoiding to deal with the very serious dysfunctions he is reporting.

In short, to continue business as usual, hoping that things will finally calm down!

However, both citizens and staff are entitled to know the real reasons that have prompted a colleague, responsible for such an important dossier, with such a long and solid experience in our institution in several services and at all levels of such political management as head of cabinet, to find himself in a so serious awkward situation, challenging his skills and his sense of the general interest, that he has felt obliged to withdraw.

We all know that defence policy is largely a national competence and that, if we can observe an intensified cooperation, the differences between Member States on these subjects remain nevertheless strong and that geopolitical interests are too divergent to allow for a fuller strategic integration.

And yet decisions have been taken and are imposed on the Commission.

We cannot remain unresponsive and unexplained about these events which call into question the defence of the general interest incumbent on the European Commission.

We are therefore kindly asking you, as Secretary-General of our institution, responsible for ensuring coordination but also for the proper functioning of the services, to instruct the competent services to make all the clarity through a formal investigation on this case concerning the serious malfunctions which our colleague has pointed out to motivate his resignation, and to provide a clear answer in particular to the following questions:

1. Has there been pressure from lobbyists or Member States and on which files?

2. Who, within DG GROW, would have been constantly constraining, and creating complications?

3. Who finally took the decisions on this matter and, in particular in the essential area of security, what are their consequences?

We can certainly guarantee that we are not going to accept that once again everything ends up with an umpteenth generic and falsely reassuring response, without the drifts of this DG being finally tackled and in particular the hitherto untouchable ‘ avatars ‘.

We need drastic change, not again a profusion of empty slogans and a brand new collection of good intentions.

Cristiano Sebastiani

President

 

 

Copy to:

Mr J-C Juncker, President of the European Commission, Mrs C. Martines, Head of the President’s cabinet

Mrs E. Bieńkowska, Commissioner for the internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs

Mr G. Oettinger, Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources

Mrs L. Evans, Mr P. Delsaux DG GROW

Mrs I. Souka, DG HR

Mr V. Itala, OLAF

Ms. K. Williams, Director of IDOC

The staff

 

 

 

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