Thursday

23rd Sep 2021

Investigation

Commission accused of cherry picking job applicants

  • Unions say the fast-track scheme 'opens the door wide to favouritism and nepotism' (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Senior European Commission officials are hand-picking select candidates for lucrative jobs within the EU institution in a move that bypasses the normal lengthy selection procedures and exams reserved for everyone else.

The short-cutting has sparked protests among some existing commission staff and trade unions amid broader concerns that well-connected people are being given preferential treatment to land grade five administrative posts (AD5).

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Such jobs, which are one of entry-rung positions, start at around €4,500 per month and the entire application process normally takes around a year.

An open competition usually attracts applications from tens of thousands of hopefuls, requires several examinations before even being granted an interview, with only a few hundred making it to the reserve list.

But a new scheme, launched as a pilot project by the European Commission known as the Junior Professionals Programme (JPP) , skips most of those steps and fast-tracks people to the head of the job application queue. The JPP application started in June, with successful candidates starting work in November.

"The JPP process opens up the possibility for those in influential positions to put forward preferred people, giving them a fast-track, easy path to an EU career," Laszlo Zlatarov, co-founder of eutraining.eu, Budapest-based firm that trains people for EU institution job competitions, told EUobserver on Monday (9 July).

From Selmayr to JPP

The Junior Professionals Programme comes amid fallout over the dubious promotion of Martin Selmayr to secretary-general of the European Commission.

Selmayr was earlier this year promoted from Jean-Claude Juncker's cabinet chief to secretary-general of the commission in what some insiders described as a coup.

The new scheme was initially dubbed 'Jump Professional' and reserved for Blue Book trainees, an EU institutional paid internship programme.

But internal backlash forced the EU commission to open up the programme to temporary staff, contract agents and some officials. However, the vast majority of the some 6,000 contract agents won't be eligible given further restrictions imposed upon them.

The JPP programme applications were placed online internally for ten days in June. Each European Commission directorate general then hand-selected at least five candidates from those that applied.

'Favouritism and nepotism'

Most are Blue Book interns given that applicants cannot have more than three years of professional experience.

The European Commission has yet to respond to this website as of publication on whether any of the Blue Book interns turned candidates have relatives working at the institution.

But Renouveau and Democratie, a trade union representing EU institutional staff, says the scheme "opens the door wide to favouritism and nepotism."

A petition launched by TAO-AFI, another trade union, had also amassed some 1,200 EU commission staff signatures against the pilot project.

The petition, seen by this website, demands EU commissioner Guenther Oettinger, in charge of human resources, reconsider the programme and instead base recruitment on equality, competence and merit.

The candidates were pre-selected on 25 June and will undergo a computer-based test at the end of July, skipping the normal exhaustive testing process at the recruitment assessment centres in Brussels or Luxembourg.

The pre-selected candidates also only have to receive a 'pass mark' on the computer before going straight for the interview, unlike everyone else.

"The pass mark is relatively easy to achieve, many people achieve the pass mark in the open exams. The difficulty in the open exams is that the pass mark alone is not enough, you also need to be among the best of all to be able to proceed," said Zlatarov.

With the interview sorted, the chosen few under the pilot scheme will then work as AD5 temporary agents for two years before then obtaining, through an "exclusive" internal competition, the more sought after permanent status.

The junior pilot programme was open for 40 people or around 20 percent of the projected AD5 hires over two years.

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