23rd Oct 2020

Ombudsman: EU entrance tests had language bias

  • A queue for the EU entrance exam in Brussels (Photo: EUobserver)

The EU ombudsman is to say the EU institutions' recruitment office, EPSO, has been guilty of "maladministration" over bias in favour of old EU languages. The decision could see failed candidates challenge results in court.

The opinion - due to be announced "shortly" and seen by Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza - relates to EU entrance exams between 2004 and mid to late-2006, when rules were changed to create a more level playing field.

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Under the previous system, candidates had to show knowledge of one of the 11 languages of old EU member states, as opposed to any EU language including the tongues of the 10 new member countries that joined in 2004.

Candidates from new states also had to sit a part of their tests in English, German or French, in a situation that saw them compete against people from old EU countries who were writing in their native tongue.

"With these obligations...EPSO broke the rules," the ombudsman, Nikiforos Diamandouros plans to say, following complaints from a Polish civil service alumni organisation, SAKSAP.

"Any exams organised now definitely don't have a discriminatory character," a European Commission spokesman told the Polish newspaper. "Participants in old competitions might turn to the courts to question the results," he added.

Landing a job in one of the EU institutions is the holy grail for many job seekers from new EU countries, with a university graduate able to earn up to €5,000 a month tax free in Brussels compared to €500 in Poland.

The European Commission alone employs 25,000 people, of whom just over 700 are Poles. By contrast, between 15,000 and 30,000 Poles are believed to live in Brussels, many of whom do unskilled work, such as cleaning and childcare, or provide cheap labour for construction firms.

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