Harassment at the EESC: Withdrawal of Mr Krawczyk’s candidacy …

Brussels, 21 September 2020

Note for the attention of M. Gianluca Brunetti

Secretary General of the European Economic and Social Committee

Subject : Harassment at the European Economic and Social Committee: Withdrawal of Mr Krawczyk’s candidacy for the presidency of the EESC and lack of concrete assistance measures for victims on the part of the EESC administration
Réf : My note of 7 July 2020 (https://www.renouveau-democratie.eu/2020/09/harassment-of-the-european-economic-and-social-committee-the-belgian-public-prosecutor-refers-the-matter-to-the-criminal-court-in-brussels/)
  My note of 17 June 2020 ( https://www.renouveau-democratie.eu/2020/06/decision-of-the-eesc-bureau-of-10-june-2020-concerning-cases-of-harassment)
  My note of 15 May 2020 (https://www.renouveau-democratie.eu/fr/2020/05/Harassment at the EESC : R&D has denounced it – OLAF has confirmed it – EP refuses the 2018 discharge to the EESC! Never seen before !)
  My note of 3 March 2020 (https://www.renouveau-democratie.eu/2020/03/eesc-refusal-by-the-parliaments-committee-on-budgetary-control-cont/ )
  My note of 11 February 2020 (https://www.renouveau-democratie.eu/2020/02/harassment-at-the-eesc/)
  My note of 28 January 2020 : (www.renouveau-democratie.eu/2020/01/olaf-report-on-several-cases-of-harassment-at-the-european-economic-and-social-committee-eesc/)
  My note of 13 May 2019  (www.renouveau-democratie.eu/2019/05/new-organizational-chart-of-the-eesc-note-for-the-attention-of-mr-luca-jahier/ )
  My note of 12 April  2019  (https://www.renouveau-democratie.eu/fr/2019/04/note-a-lattention-de-m-luca-jahier/ )
  My note of 12 February 2019  ( https://www.renouveau-democratie.eu/fr/2019/04/note-a-lattention-de-m-luca-jahier/ )
  My note of 17 December 2018 (http://www.renouveau-democratie.eu/2018/12/note-for-the-attention-of-mr-brunetti-management-of-harassment-cases-in-eesc-2/ )
  My note of 26 November 2018 : ( http://www.renouveau-democratie.eu/fr/2018/11/absence-dune-veritable-politique-de-gestion-des-cas-de-harcelement-au-sein-des-institutions/ )

M. Krawczyk announces the withdrawal of his candidacy for the presidency of the EESC

We can only take note of this decision which in our view was inevitable and which avoids plunging the EESC into even deeper chaos.

We can imagine that Mr Krawczyk, who initially refused to resign, was led to adopt this position following the decision of the President of the Tribunal to reject his application for interim measures ( link ).

Chaos is reigning more and more within the EESC

However, the withdrawal of Mr Krawczyk’s candidacy for the presidency of the EESC is far from having resolved the very serious problems which persist within the EESC and which we continue to denounce.

As the press has reported, it is indisputable that the EESC has been in a deeply chaotic situation for a long time ( link ).

By his desperate and hopeless attempt to deny the obvious of what everyone can easily see, President Jahier has come to indicate that indeed there is chaos but… only within Group 1 ( link ) !

As if that were not enough, the HR Director of the EESC, during his now memorable speech at the CONT Committee meeting on 3 September, came to deny outright the existence of some chaos!

The Report on the Human Resources and Staffing Policy of the EESC General Secretariat, that is to say the triumph of the denial of reality and truth and the umpteenth insult to the victims!

Indeed, the Annual Report on the Human Resources and Staffing Policy of the EESC General Secretariat for the year 2019, that has just been presented, does not mention the seriousness of the facts that the EESC is facing. Three miserable paragraphs devoted to “Dignity at Work” which doesn’t even cover half a page of an 87-page report.

And what do we find in these three paragraphs? “The EESC continues to demonstrate a firm commitment to preventing and combating harassment and promoting a respectful workplace at all levels; therefore, it has put in place a network of confidential counsellors already in 2015… In 2019, the administration opened two administrative enquiries on harassment related issues, following whistleblowing reports. Appropriate measures have been taken, where necessary to protect potential victims and whistleblowers.

And that’s it: no mention of the OLAF investigation, let alone everything that followed. Are we are dreaming here ?

Such a report and such comments whilst the EESC is:

· The ONLY European institution to have been the subject of rather serious findings of ill-treatment at work stated in the OLAF report, including proven cases of harassment, seriously inappropriate behaviour and other inappropriate behaviour… which took place for several years;

· The ONLY European institution with files to its credit relating to harassment cases forwarded to the judicial authority of the host Member State that immediately opened proceedings;

· The ONLY European institution to be refused discharge by the CONT Committee and possibly by the European Parliament following the very serious findings of several cases of harassment and other seriously inappropriate behaviours.

“There is no one more blind than he who does not wish to see. There is none so deaf as he who will not hear.”

The intervention of the EESC HR Director and the aforementioned report fit perfectly into the systematic and painful denial of reality on the part of the EESC and its administration.

We must not forget that when we highlighted the facts that had been brought to our knowledge, facts which subsequently showed all their pathetic nature, you denied, with a threatening tone, the merits of our steps, you accused us of casting shame on the EESC and even urged us not to disturb its members any longer.

This with the obvious and ineffective aim of intimidating us and above all of intimidating colleagues.

To put an end to this disgusting masquerade, the victims supported by R&D had finally brought their cases to OLAF for the damage suffered to be finally recognized with the same arguments that they had been unable to put forward within the EESC.

In short, it is because we did not give up in the face of injustice and iniquity and that we showed perseverance, together with the victims, that the procedures were able to be initiated and that it was possible to start breaking the “law of silence” which had reigned for too long within the EESC.

No real and effective care for victims has been provided by the EESC !

The very last example of this deceptively reassuring attitude was the astonishing and impassioned statement of your Human Resources Director during his aforementioned participation in the meeting of the CONT Committee on 3 September.

On this occasion, he notably confirmed that all measures had been put in place to ensure the protection of victims. This is simply not true!

However, what the Human Resources Director of the EESC failed to mention during his hearing before the CONT Committee was that the victims received so little assistance and protection that they were forced to formally complaint to contest the lack of response and follow-up reserved for their requests!

On the one hand, it is particularly worrying that incorrect or at least incomplete information was thus provided to a Committee of the European Parliament.

On the other hand, on the contrary, among the failings in the EESC’s action, should be emphasized again and again the lack of any real concern for the victims. After the withdrawal of Mr Krawczyk’s candidacy, as President of the EESC, this remains the most unacceptable aspect of this painful affair.

Indeed, unfortunately, despite all the assurances given by the EESC, in reality the victims have not really been taken care of.

Apart from words, very little has been done in practice and victims are still waiting for answers and concrete action.

It should be noted that:

· NO VICTIM has so far received recognition as a victim by the administration, rehabilitation or compensation while these colleagues have seen their careers destroyed with serious consequences also on their health!

· while the EESC claims that the thirteen victims were all heard, at least one of them was NEVER APPROACHED, contacted or offered help;

· several other victims had to initiate contact with the administration themselves and  ̶  it should be confirmed  ̶  were even forced to lodge formal complaints!

Not to mention the lack of full coverage of health costs and therapeutic monitoring generated by the acts of harassment and other inappropriate behaviours …

Only legal assistance was finally granted

This is because it was obviously simply impossible to refuse it since, like the EESC constitution in civil action, it had been expressly demanded by the EP, and its granting had become essential in order to hope to secure the EP’s 2018 discharge, which, it should be repeated, is in our view the only real objective pursued by the EESC.

And even legal assistance has not been given unhindered

Indeed, legal assistance to one of the victims of harassment recognized by OLAF was only granted in July 2020, after the refusal of requests made twice in December 2018 and in January 2020.

And it took the intervention of the European Ombudsman for it to be finally granted almost two years after the first request without the EESC deigning to provide any reason for the first refusal.

Under these conditions, it is easy to foresee that the little assistance and listening which were provided to the victims risk quickly disappearing as soon as the EESC is able to obtain the EP discharge.

The current lack of assistance to victims is only the result of the unfortunately consolidated practices of the EESC administration

Regarding the lack of assistance provided to victims, it should not be forgotten that upon receipt in July 2018 of 8 damning whistleblowing reports against the acts of harassment, which were subsequently confirmed in the OLAF report, the file was not sent immediately to OLAF!

Worse yet, it will have taken you several months and several reminders to simply acknowledge receipt of the complaints that had been sent to you!

And faced with your silence and your inaction, the victims were forced to seize OLAF themselves!

And subsequently the measures adopted to protect both the victims and the whistleblowers until the end of the investigation by OLAF were clearly improvised and insufficient.

And as if this was not enough, parallel administrative inquiries were launched in January 2019 at the risk of interfering with OLAF’s work.

The alleged stalker in charge of training his victims!

As an outlier, in January 2019 you suggested “training to manage conflict”. A training guided by Mr Krawczyk with the member of the staff of Group 1… namely, in a somewhat “homeopathic” approach, “a training” given to his victims by the one who, according to the OLAF report, turned out to be their stalker and the responsible person for other inappropriate behaviours…

These approaches and positions, in our view absolutely inadequate and unacceptable, were quite naturally perceived by colleagues as a lack of concern for them and an invitation, even an injunction, to stop complaining.

 “A tunderbolt from a blue sky”

The best proof of the inaction and omissions of the EESC and its administration, of the climate of impunity which reigns within the EESC and of the assurances which Mr Krawczyk has always had, is perfectly illustrated by his recent statements to the press ( link ).

On the one hand, we would like to express to Mr Krawczyk our best wishes for a speedy and full recovery from the health concerns he mentioned. We would have liked him to show the same sensitivity regarding the state of health of the victims.

On the other hand, it does not seem necessary to us to stress the absolutely grotesque nature of Mr Krawczyk’s allegations against OLAF colleagues and the alleged procedural violations committed in the context of the investigation carried out, which would be worthy of a totalitarian regime.

In this respect, we would like to pay tribute again and again to the rigour and professionalism of the OLAF services in their investigation and to thank them most sincerely for the absolutely exemplary welcome and attentiveness they have given to victims and witnesses.   

It is useful to point out that, in his statements to the press, Mr Krawczyk confirmed that the OLAF investigation “hit me and members of the group like a tunderbolt from a blue sky“.

However, despite the seriousness of the facts that we kept on denouncing, subsequently confirmed by OLAF and which had persisted for years within the EESC, the sky for Mr Krawczyk and within Group 1 was until then still very “blue” and it took the intervention of OLAF and then of the CONT Committee to finally break the law of silence.

If the sky for Mr Krawczyk was blue, it was above all because the EESC administration had not dared to nor highlight the absolutely unacceptable nature of this behaviour, nor want to put an end to it.

Indeed, the overwhelming findings drawn up by OLAF in its report show indisputably that, contrary to what you have always claimed, the PREVENTION mechanism set up within the EESC and the action of its administration have not been able to avoid them.

Under these conditions, in view of your responsibilities within the EESC, as Director of Human Resources since 2010 and Secretary General since 2018, we have the right to ask you for the umpteenth time to explain how facts of such gravity could take place for so long without the EESC and its administration having been able to prevent, recognize and put an end to them!

We are all the more entitled to ask you to account for what was not done or the ineffectiveness of what should have been done to prevent these misdeeds, as in the judgment of the Court of 12 May 2016 (Case F-50/15 FS against CESE), an investigation report had already been mentioned within the EESC which specified that:

“Mr K.’s management style is not necessarily unusual, particularly in comparison with the private sector, but it does not fully correspond, in certain aspects, to the administrative culture of the European public service. On this point, as well as on the problem of illegality of work during maternity leave… it would be desirable for the EESC administration to consider a mechanism… to familiarise the AHCCs of the EESC groups with the essential principles and rules of the Union’s administrative culture, as well as with the main problems that arise.”[1]. (p. 10, point 58, 4th paragraph).

And, despite such a ruling by the Court, while for so many years within the EESC, the sky for Mr Krawczyk was always blue, the sky for the victims was getting darker and darker!

This is also thanks to an administration that, in the eyes of colleagues, was reduced ̶ or, worse still, indulged – to the role of a mere kingpin called upon to obediently carry out the wishes of the political appointees, who were not to be disturbed in any way. In short, no clouds were to darken the beautiful blue sky that Mr Krawczyk mentioned…

Thus, in my note of 26 November 2018 to the former president of COCOBU ( link ), I had stressed “the absolutely untenable situation within the EESC” and “the completely unhealthy climate of impunity aimed at making staff understand that certain officials, particularly politicians, are absolutely untouchable with an administration that has become a mere linchpin, clearly incapable of fully assuming its role as guardian of the proper application of the Staff Regulations. ». I had also added that “Under these conditions, everything seems to be done to dissuade people from going beyond this and lodging formal complaints within the framework of the EESC’s internal procedures. Nevertheless, the situation seems to have become so untenable since at least four cases would have been brought to OLAF’s attention in 2018“.  These are the investigations concerned by the report that OLAF has just submitted. 

The members of the Committee: new untouchables “legibus soluti? “

To justify its inaction, the EESC has always invoked the alleged legal limits preventing any questioning of Committee members who are responsible for acts of harassment or other inappropriate behaviours as if they were legibus soluti.

This is the thesis that your representative defended with deep ardour during his participation in the meeting of the CONT Committee on 3 September.

But while it is true that the provisions of the Staff Regulations do not apply to them, this fact has not, however, prevented other institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union from having specific, adequate and useful rules applicable to their members.

At the EESC there is an inadequate code of good conduct that must be reformed urgently without hiding behind pseudo-legal alibi!

By way of example, Article 8, part 4 of the Code of Conduct of the Committee of the Regions prohibits the member at fault from being elected as a holder of a function within the Committee and, if the member already holds such functions, results in its dismissal.

On the contrary, after having unnecessarily defended its exemplary character, the EESC was only able to say that it was ready to consider further improvements to its code of conduct… after a reflection which has now lasted more than two years… a period clearly unreasonably too long… without forgetting that, after this long reflection, the EESC seems only able to suggest awareness-raising and training measures for members, and this, despite the obvious need for additional measures, as indicated in the report of the European Ombudsman on Dignity at Work in EU Institutions and Agencies (SI / 2/2018 / AMF) and in Parliament’s recommendations.

The far-reaching anti-harassment reforms requested by the EP and which the EESC has been forced to commit itself to implement must be real changes at all levels and not false promises aimed solely at snatching the 2018 discharge from the European Parliament!

There can be no question, as unfortunately it seems to be the case, of “changing everything so that everything remains the same” 1

Indeed, concerning the far-reaching reforms requested by the EP, the EESC must not be the scene of a painful parody of “The Leopard”.

After all your positions and assurances concerning the exemplary nature of the internal procedures on harassment, we imagine the embarrassment of now being obliged to implement the EP’s recommendations concerning in particular the in-depth reform of these same procedures… which the facts have confirmed to be “so irreproachable” as you have always claimed! 

Without forgetting that, following the European Parliament’s refusal to adopt the EESC’s 2018 discharge, while strengthening Mr Krawczyk’s grotesque statements denouncing a so-called “political conspiracy” of which he was allegedly the victim, you explained to your staff that the current crisis was proof that the European Parliament was the “big bad wolf who wants to eat the poor sheep“, namely, the EESC.

It is worth recalling that even after the OLAF report was tabled, together with President Jahier, you dared to continue to claim that the EESC was still and always, “the spearhead in promoting a respectful working environment” and that it was only a question of “maintaining our current efforts” (sic!).

UNDER THESE CONDITIONS, WHO CAN STILL BELIEVE IN THE PROMISES AND COMMITTEMENTS MADE by the EESC with the obvious aim of wresting the 2018 discharge from the EP?

In this respect, we can only share the widespread scepticism and fears that have been so widely conveyed to us by staff that, despite the promises made to the EP, once the discharge is eventually cashed in, within the EESC, everything will start all over again as if nothing had happened.

In this context we can only support the members of the CONT Committee to claim again and again that “the EESC informs the discharge authority of the procedures and processes put in place or intends to put in place to avoid in the future cases of harassment or other similar problems concerning staff, in order to ensure that similar regrettable developments, which have caused negative publicity and damage to the reputation of the Committee, do not recur.”.

And it is not enough to force the EESC to promise these profound changes. We must first ensure that they are actually implemented and that they are applied effectively and flawlessly.

In this respect, we can only support with the utmost conviction the CONT Committee’s request that the EESC should “keep the discharge authority informed of all ongoing OLAF investigations and of the opening of new investigations concerning Committee members or staff regarding harassment or any other concerns”.

For our part, we will continue to support colleagues, to assist them in any steps they take or also to approach OLAF to defend their rights and denounce abuses. 

Conclusion

Defending the staff: this is our mission, our raison d’être, our reason for being, and today we take note of the resignation of Mr Krawczyk.

Naturally, we will continue to follow this case and to assist the victims of harassment and inappropriate behaviour so that their rights are finally recognised and the damage suffered is repaired.

And we naturally remain at the complete disposal of any other colleagues who would like to call on our assistance.

Much remains to be done, and we will do so with even greater determination.

Cristiano Sebastiani,

President

CC.

Mr Jahier, President of the EESC

Mr M. Krawczyk, President of Group I at the EESC

Mr Ropke, President of Group II at the EESC

Mr Metzler, President of Group III at the EESC

Ms Angelova, Group I, Vice-President of the EESC, responsible for CAF, Committee on Budgetary Affairs

Members of the EESC

Mr Sassoli, President of the EP

Ms Hohlmeier, President and Vice-Presidents and Members of the Budgetary Control Committee of the European Parliament

Ms. O’Reilly, European Ombudsman

Mr. Tranholm-Mikkelsen, Secretary-General of the Council of the EU

Mrs Juhansone, Secretary-General of the European Commission

Mr Itälä, Director General of OLAF

Ms. Nicolaie, IDOC Director

Staff of the Institutions

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1 « Tout changer pour que tout demeure ? »,  https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Guépard

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