EPSO Competitions: The tribunal supports R&D’s approach

The jury should remain at the centre of the selection procedure

By giving its judgement in the Pachtitis case, the Tribunal has restored the central role of staff representatives and the place of the jury in the competition procedures. R&D is very pleased to have discovered in the tribunal a weighty institutional ally to denounce the limits of a system introduced by Kinnock and his friends to weaken the Commission and limit its prerogatives, outsource certain key elements of administrative procedures, put the multilingualism of our European Civil Service back into question and to weaken the influence of staff representatives. With this judgement, the tribunal has applied the brakes to a small extent to the policy of indiscriminate budget cuts and replaces staff recruitment at the centre of the institutions’ personnel policy. R&D is keeping up the fight.

The context

EPSO was desired and created by Kinnock essentially to generate economies of scale in the selection procedures of the various institutions, but also – let us be honest – to put back some order into certain procedures which had become somewhat Byzantine, and were the source of a lot of contentious litigation, some of which had become the laughing stock of the European press. However, the continual search for savings to please Euro-sceptics, the willingness of EPSO’s former management to keep staff representatives outside the process under the pretext of “modernism“, and the lack of human and financial resources allowed to this new office were such that:

1) Some essential elements of the procedure were put out to external companies, in particular the phases of registration, preselection, reception of candidates, management of the secretariat, etc.

2) The role of the jury was limited to tasks which couldn’t be handled by computers, equal representation on juries could not always be respected because of an insufficient number of jury members, the lack of adequate recognition by DGs of tasks undertaken in the institution’s interest, etc

3) That certain tests were changed to make them compatible with computer based testing without any mention of the origins, the identity, the culture, the history, or the workings and purposes of Europe;

4) The limitation of tests to three languages to the detriment of multilingualism and cultural diversity;

5) The office’s credibility to conduct serious selection procedures was seriously questioned by certain institutions, the European Parliament among them;

6) The lack of any transparency in the preselection tests, as candidates were not able sensibly to obtain the corrections of their papers.

If R&D’s claims on multilingualism got a favourable response from EPSO’s new management in that the notices of competitions were published in 25 languages, the commitment to produce computer-based tests in a growing number of EU languages, and to conduct professional tests in the candidates’ native tongue, etc, the purely economic logic imposed by the budgetary authority and Member States held up any other progress … until the Pachtitis judgement.

Pachtitis: the facts

On June 15 just past, the Civil Service Tribunal declared its decision on case F 35/08, Pachtitis/Commission, in favour of Mr. Pachtitis. Mr. Pachtitis, who was a candidate in a competition organised in 2006-2007 with a view to establish a reserve list of Greek translators (AD 5) – was of the opinion that he should not have been refused entry to the competition on the basis of the results he had obtained in the preselection tests. In effect, these tests had been conducted by EPSO for the competition without any involvement of a competition jury. The Tribunal concluded that only the competition jury, and not EPSO, is qualified to choose the questions that will appear in the preselection tests and in consequence the results obtained by Mr. Pachtitis could not be declared valid.

Pachtitis: an historic decision

The case F 35/08, Pachtitis/Commission is an historic decision which to some extent restores “the church to the middle of the village” (at least in the fact that EPSO should be at the jury’s service, and not the contrary) and confirms the validity of our staff conditions and the battles that R&D has fought to have them respected. R&D draws attention to the fact that its representatives in the Administrative Councils of EPSO, COPAR and COPARCO, in the Permanent Juries and in all sorts of other bodies have always invited EPSO and the DG HR to respect the juries’ statutory rights, avoiding intrusion and withdrawal of competencies contrary to the statutory regulations. Underlying the judgement there are four fundamental aspects to emphasise:

1) The clear confirmation of the importance of equal representation (administration – staff representatives) in the procedure and in membership of the jury as it is the only solution which guarantees balance and guards against possible abuse by the administration or by EPSO. The jury’s management needs to be strengthened, because it must be capable of making sure the statutory rules are correctly applied, while maintaining the principles of transparency and impartiality in selection of candidates and to define the respective competencies of the jury as well as EPSO;

2) The jury must control the procedure from start to finish. Thanks to R&D’s action, the committee responsible for upholding the quality of CBT questions now has completely equal representation. The demand that some permanent jury members also sit on this committee has the aim of strengthening our action without removing any of the jury’s prerogatives which must be defended, thus ensuring a double control and a more coherent process;

3) The preselection tests are an essential element to guarantee equal opportunities and multilingualism, which needs to be greatly reinforced in the organisation of competitions, without taking anything away from the jury’s role and prerogatives;

4) Money and Euro-scepticism must not be allowed to call statutory principles and rights into question. For R&D, there cannot be and can never be any question of outsourcing to Member States and/or to an external company any phase of the procedure and even less the entire selection process. This decision also confirms, by the way, that R&D’s support for EPSO’s recent initiative on more professional jury members is well founded.

R&D supports those candidates who have been eliminated at the pre-selection tests:

Given the current state of jurisprudence, these candidates have the right to have their candidature carried forward to the later stages of the competition. To uphold their rights, they should, despite EPSO’s commitment to organise a specific competition, submit an appeal against the decision (see our model available on the R&D site) which notifies the test result, and to do this within the time limit of 3 months from the day they received their notification. EPSO has 4 months to reply.  After this time limit has passed, the lack of response implicitly invalidates their claim. At this stage, they will be informed of a possible appeal against the Pachtitis judgement (the Commission has 2 months from publication of the decision, that is until the end of August) and will be able to apply to the TFPUE for an appeal, suggesting suspension of the procedure while waiting for the Tribunal’s judgement on the appeal.

R&D will always be at the service of staff, to guarantee transparency and fairness in all the procedures.

Modèle de réclamation concours EPSO (fr) (en version will follow in September 2010)

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