Monday

23rd Apr 2018

Magazine

Lessons learned from EU police academy's soft Brexit

  • The police academy's former British home in Bramshill. (Photo: Leonard Bentley)

Theresa May has already presided over a Brexit. It was a small dress rehearsal for what is coming in March 2019, when the UK leaves the EU, and holds some valuable lessons for the real deal.

May, during her time as home office secretary, decided to sell the land in Bramshill where Cepol, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training, was located, forcing the agency and its staff to find a new home on the continent.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • "The transition is traumatic, but it is also a novelty - it can bring new things, new experiences into one's life that could be life changing," said Cepol deputy head of training and research, Stefano Failla. (Photo: Daniel Horvath)

May notified Cepol, a small agency dealing with police training, of her intentions in December 2012 and the news soon was relayed to employees.

A long legislative process ensued in the EU, as the European Commission was hoping that the move could give impetus to an earlier plan of merging Cepol with Europol, the EU's police agency. But that came to nothing.

Soon after, seven member states scrambled to relocate Cepol, with only Hungary's capital, Budapest, applying from the "new" member states.

Based on an earlier understanding that new member states receive preference to host EU agencies whenever possible, and because Hungarian authorities practically offered the site for free, Budapest won.

The Council of the EU, the body representing national governments, agreed in 2013 and, with the European Parliament's consent, the official decision was made in 2014.

There were debates in the EU parliament on whether a country like Hungary, with a patchy track record on the rule of law, should be the host for the policy academy. But those political concerns were dismissed.

Based on the latest EU parliament audit, the relocation from Bramshill to Budapest costed approximately €1,006,515.

Some €570,283 was financed by the UK and the EU commission equally, and the rest of the money came from Cepol via savings from its budget in the new low-cost location. The move to Hungary meant reductions in wages of EU workers, due to the so-called correction coefficient which requires wages to align with the local cost of living.

Soft exit and landing

Although the decision was known for years, legislative and political wrangling left Cepol employees with little time to prepare for the move.

"It is a big move in everybody's life," Dr Stefano Failla, the deputy head of training and research at Cepol, told EUobserver. He had been involved in the agency's relocation from Budapest.

Several staff meetings were held in 2012 and 2013 about the relocation, but the precise timeline was only given in 2014 - the year the decision and move were officially announced.

Seven employees filed a complaint before the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Four struck an amicable deal but three went to trial - partly because their salaries were cut to match Hungary's lower cost of living.

But they also argued that the month notice they were given to make a decision on whether they wanted to move was insufficient.

The employees lost their case when the ECJ ruled in 2016 that reassignment of an EU official or staff member does not constitute an "abnormal and unforeseeable" event in his or her career. The EU rules also provided for extra money to move - a reimbursement of relocation and travel costs.

The three, who still work at the agency, appealed the decision.

Personal complexities

The court case highlighted the personal complexities for moving an entire agency, which was recently evident when news emerged that between 19 and 94 percent of the staff at the London-based European Medicines Agency (EMA) would not want to leave the British capital, depending on the selected new host city.

The EMA and the other London-based agency slated for relocation, the European Banking Authority (EBA), employ 1,050 people who will need to move to the continent.

Cepol only has 52 staff members from 19 different countries. Three of their staff members clearly indicated their opposition to moving with the agency to Budapest and stayed in the UK when it relocated, citing family and financial reasons, Cepol's press officer told EUobserver.

To prevent fallout, Failla said that Cepol designed a very detailed relocation plan ahead of time, which aimed for the minimum negative impact on staff. "It didn't come out of the blue," he said of the decision, noting that the preparations had begun in 2012.

He added that while it is not unusual for civil servants to be asked to move from country to country, the fact that people's lives and families are involved has to be taken into account.

"The most precious resource is the team, so make sure to have the least possible negative impact on them, the rest is logistics," he said, when asked what advice he would give to the other agencies facing relocation.

"Everybody needs to have a soft exit and landing," he stated, saying that working on school arrangements and addressing diplomatic privileges with the host government are top priorities.

Planning ahead is crucial and employees should try to approach the move positively, he argued. "The transition is traumatic, but it is also a novelty - it can bring new things, new experiences into one's life that could be life changing."

Failla suggested that people try to get to know the local culture before they arrive. Cepol's new headquarter, for instance, is in the heart of Budapest, only a few steps away from the magnificent Opera building.

From an institutional point of view, good infrastructure, logistics, a good connection to the airport, good schooling, flexibility for the staff and transparency are all priorities.

This story was originally published in EUobserver's 2017 Regions & Cities Magazine.

Click here to access EUobserver's entire magazine collection.

Magazine

The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

Magazine

Decision day for EU agencies relocation race

EU ministers will decide on the future location of two London-based EU agencies on Monday. In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies.

Magazine

The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

News in Brief

  1. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  2. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  3. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  4. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  5. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  6. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  7. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  8. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  2. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  3. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  4. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  5. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  6. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  7. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  8. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  2. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?
  3. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  4. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  5. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  6. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  7. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  9. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  10. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  11. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries