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Executive Agencies

Executive agencies: what’s next?

Executive Agencies: the mobilisation of staff has borne fruit, but the problems are far from being resolved

The joint mobilisation on 6 June 2023 in front of the Berlaymont building was undoubtedly a success. At the initiative of the trade union Common Front, it presented a platform of demands for the executive agencies, incorporating all the open questions, from buildings to working conditions and its essential corollary, career development, agency restructuring, including the critical situation of the EISMEA agency, which could lose a quarter of its staff.

It also highlighted the shortcomings of agency governance, which operated on an “à la carte” basis and disregarded the principles of accountability and transparency worthy of a modern civil service.

In the absence of any real social dialogue, we put forward the need for comprehensive negotiations with all the players involved: agency directors, staff representatives, the Directors-General of the supervisory DGs and the Commission’s central human resources departments.

To this end, on 6 June we sent a letter to Commissioner Hahn in charge of budget and personnel, to which we received a reply on 20 July. In his letter, Commissioner Hahn delivers three main messages beyond the usual rhetoric on the commitment to offer attractive career prospects to agency staff.

Firstly, while recalling some relatively symbolic new initiatives (integration of agency staff into the JPP, pilot exchange programme between the Commission and the Agencies), he recognises the need for “more flexibility in terms of career and mobility between the Commission and the Agencies”.

Secondly, with regard to the situation of EISMEA, and in particular the planned reduction in staff numbers between now and 2027, it simply notes that “DG HR, in consultation with DG RTD, the main supervisory DG, has had discussions with the Agencies, which have confirmed their solidarity and willingness to implement and evaluate concrete measures to support EISMEA staff”. This overture is to be welcomed, and would probably not have been possible without the unitary mobilisation. In essence, it means that there will be no redundancies in this agency, but that staff will be redeployed to other agencies or to the supervisory DGs.

Finally, on the subject of buildings policy and the choice of North Light, the errors of which we had repeatedly denounced, the Commissioner confined himself to recalling the general principles and justifying such choices in terms of flexible working arrangements (with the generalisation of Dynamic Collaborative Space) and greening. Despite the resistance of the staff, the relocation of the three agencies concerned will take place according to the pre-established timetable, without any real preparation having been put in place (except at the REA agency). Despite certain openings that have yet to materialise, the problems are far from resolved. Mobilisation continues.

Executive agencies : The 6 June mobilisation was a great success, but our action must continue

After two unified rallies in Covent Garden, Place Rogier, on 13 December 2022 and 31 January 2023, the long-awaited Berlaymont rally finally took place on 6 June 2023. This was the result of a lot of hard work, accompanied in the home stretch by visits to workplaces in all branches and numerous discussions to mobilise colleagues around concrete demands. The Common Front’s united call for this demonstration was actively supported by the representatives of the staff committees of the executive agencies.

It was a success in many ways. Not only because of the number of colleagues present, around 450, but above all because the mobilisation focused on the real issues affecting working conditions and staff welfare. During the rally at the Berlaymont building, a trade union delegation handed the member of Hahn’s cabinet a file containing a letter to Commissioner Hahn with our main demands.

Firstly, we insist on a reform of the governance of the social dialogue in the agencies. The forced move to the North Light building has highlighted the shortcomings of a system in which the responsibilities of the main decision-makers (the directors of the executive agencies, the directors general of the supervisory DGs, the OIB) are not clearly defined, to the point of asking who is ultimately responsible for the action in question and for the use of public money. If the legal basis is unclear, how can Community money be spent and be accountable to the budgetary authority and therefore to the European taxpayer? The operation was carried out by the OIB in conditions of financial opacity and without any real consultation of the staff concerned. The staff representatives have consistently expressed their dissatisfaction with this move, which we have always denounced as a political operation with no real economic or even environmental justification, as well as with its direct consequence – the Dynamic Collaborative Space or DCS – whose declared aim is not well-being at work but short-term budgetary savings. In order to avoid any resistance, the OIB is speeding up the process for the three sectors concerned, at least two of which are unprepared for such short deadlines.  It is therefore essential that the social dialogue now involves all the actors concerned, including DG HR and the supervisory DGs.

Secondly, job security. This is an issue that concerns all agencies, even if only one is currently affected. In this one agency alone, EISMEIA, 13 staff have been transferred to the parent DG following an IAS report and 90 jobs are at risk of being lost by 2027, i.e. almost a third of the total staff of 350. This is an unacceptable situation, especially as the agency faces an increased workload and a large budget (including the flagship €10 billion European Innovation Council programme) to manage with fewer staff. Hence the stress and anxiety among staff wondering about their future. Solutions need to be found in the framework of the social dialogue to ensure that there are no net job losses, in particular through inter-agency mobility, but also with the supervisory DGs.  This is also in the interest of the Commission, which will benefit from qualified staff in its services.  At the same time, colleagues who are transferred to DG RTD, albeit on a voluntary basis, should benefit from more favourable conditions in terms of status and rights.

Finally, career development. At present, these opportunities are very limited, as the reclassification rates are very low – for example, a GFII contract agent has to wait 8 years to be promoted to a GF III post. In addition, contract and temporary agents do not have access to the Commission’s internal competitions. Here too, we need to examine and propose a range of viable solutions – including the possibility of internal competitions based on objective criteria – to meet the legitimate aspirations of the staff concerned in the executive agencies.

We therefore want to participate in comprehensive negotiations on working conditions and welfare as part of a real and constructive social dialogue involving all stakeholders, including DG Personnel and the supervising DGs.  We are also defending the entire European civil service and its future by fighting for the rights of our colleagues in the executive agencies.

Deteriorating working conditions in executive agencies: mobilisation is needed

There are six executive agencies of the European Commission. They represent a steadily growing number of staff, now totalling 3,300 employees.

Since the beginning of their existence, they have been able to demonstrate with each new multi-annual financial framework their great agility and adaptability, both structurally and in terms of their staff. Demonstrating their high added value and efficiency in programme management, with each new framework programme they have received additional delegations. However, these new delegations have not always been accompanied by measures to ensure equal treatment with the Directorates General, or even between the agencies themselves.

This raises 4 specific issues for the staff of the Executive Agencies:

1. The recurrent and permanent issue for their staff has always been the very limited career progression;

2. The second issue is the lack of mobility opportunities;

3. Thirdly, the staff of the Agencies do not have the opportunity to access higher promotions at the statutory level;

4. Finally, the exclusion of their staff from internal competitions and other career development programmes (certification).

These issues have been raised in the framework of the European Commission’s social dialogue, to which the agencies’ staff committees and all the trade unions have been invited since this year 2022. However, they have already been discussed at length in the framework of the social dialogue established since January 2019 between the directors of the agencies and the trade union representation organisations.

Moreover, over the last two years, with the introduction of the last multi-annual financial framework and the resulting programme reforms, the working lives of staff have been profoundly affected. The working conditions of colleagues in the Executive Agencies have continued to deteriorate and the workload has increased disproportionately to the resources allocated.

A situation that U4U, like other trade unions, has never ceased to denounce. But today we are witnessing an unprecedented and unacceptable accumulation of decisions that are deteriorating in a very alarming way the working conditions of colleagues in the Agencies.

In particular:

1/ A reduction in posts, which for some agencies such as EISMEA can amount to 20% of the full-time equivalent, while the budgets to be managed are ever larger.

The EISMEA agency will lose 83 full-time equivalents (FTEs) by 2027 (331 FTEs) out of 408 FTEs in 2022.

This is a historic downsizing, which has a very significant impact on the workload of the teams as well as on the possibilities for mobility and career progression (promotion system) within the agency.

2/ In addition, the OIB is planning to force three of the four agencies (EISMEA, REA, HaDEA, ERCEA) to move from their current premises at Covent Garden, Place Rogier in Brussels (+/- 2,500 colleagues) to the North Light building at the Gare du Nord. This is despite the fact that the directors of the three agencies concerned have proposed an alternative plan, more ambitious in terms of compression of square metres than that of the OIB, asking to remain in Covent Garden. This proposal was defended in the CPPT and in social dialogue at the Commission. It is supported by the staff committees, the unions and the parent DGs. The Agencies’ staff committees have launched a petition to ask the OIB and the Commission to listen to this request. More than two thirds of the staff in the Agencies have signed the petition.

Despite all these proposals and requests for conciliation, the whole thing was dismissed out of hand by the OIB. The OIB does not listen, does not take seriously the arguments and figures put forward, imposes and forces its way through, with the Commission’s approval.

3/ Mention should also be made of the non-reopening of the very popular canteen in the Convent Garden building. Closed since the COVID, it is essential for the quality of working life of colleagues who are returning to the building in large numbers because of the sharp rise in energy prices. It is equally important for the proper functioning of the agencies’ work, with the reception in the best conditions of the many experts who come to do their evaluation work. The price of a decent and balanced lunch is now more than €20 around Rogier Square, while many shops have closed due to the crisis. The hundred or so valuation experts who visit the buildings every month cannot eat in a short time and at affordable prices either. They are disturbed and slowed down in their work; the efficiency of the agencies’ work is endangered.

All this despite the fact that the staff committees, the joint staff committee, the CPPT and the directors have repeatedly called for the reopening of this canteen.

4/ The request for a fixed monthly contribution (lump sum) to cover part of the costs incurred for telework is currently being postponed by the administration.

This option is provided for in Article 13 of the Commission’s decision on the hybrid working arrangements. The staff of the Executive Agencies is composed of CAs and TAs whose remuneration is significantly lower than that of the Commission. Thus, the decision to authorise the lump sum foreseen becomes an urgent matter. It should be noted that such a monthly lump sum of 50 euros exists in the European Parliament.

5/ Because of budget cuts, we are witnessing a desire on the part of management to limit these PCCs – despite the rights of staff guaranteed by the Staff Regulations and the GIPs. While management’s reasoning may also be linked to a better functioning of the Executive Agencies, such a gain should never be at the expense of the health and well-being of staff.

6/ Finally, it is the new human resources strategies that have been steadily eroding the rights of agency workers to progress in their careers more quickly and to impose the arrival of colleagues from central services.

Such an inter-agency HR strategy is currently being developed. Although it was conceived with the idea of being innovative and addressing the rights of the staff of the Executive Agencies (75% CA and 25% TA), it is constantly hamstrung by the imposition of provisions and rules that are supposed to apply to the seconded staff of the Commission. Thus, a specific HR strategy is needed in view of the constant development of the Executive Agencies and their high-performing staff.

Given all the efforts that have been made by all the staff, their representatives in the staff committees, by the trade unions, but also by the directors of the executive agencies, and the general systematic tendency not to listen to them and to impose budget cuts with dramatic effects on the working conditions of the staff of the agencies, we are working with other trade unions on the organisation of a unitary response. We will come back to this.


OIB briefing note on the North Light building (March 2023 – FR)

See the Appeal

Building policy

General meeting of U4U members of the European Commission’s executive agencies

Let’s fight together against the deterioration of working conditions in executive agencies

Let’s work for a united and inter-union mobilization of all staff through general assemblies in executive agencies

See the appeal

Keynote speech for the General Meeting of Staff of Regulatory Agencies on 5/03/2021

Good afternoon, Dear colleagues,

This general meeting is organized by U4U, one of European Civil Service trade unions

Sharing the platform with me today are:

  • Gregor Schneider from EUIPO
  • Fabrice Andreone from the European Commission
  • Eric Sivel from EASA
  • Stavros Chatzipanagiotou from F4E
  • Paul Wouters from F4E

Our organization is aware of the difficulties faced by colleagues in many different agencies. That’s why U4U has written to the president of European Commission MS von der Leyen, who is responsible for the supervision of the decentralized or regulatory agencies. We note that the Commission’s services have already been alerted to the situation there in various meetings.

In the letter to the Commission President, which was published in our newspaper The Link, we underline that:

  • the irregularities and practices reported in the press which have been brought to our attention, for instance in the case of Frontex;
  • the mismanagement which not only affects Frontex but also other agencies too.
  • the lack of control within the agencies, which is not a new issue
  • the weakness of social dialogue
  • the absence of regulatory instruments such as investigative or mediation bodies.

We know that the Commission is now preparing an answer. So it is the moment to push our case. That’s why we have proposed this meeting.

Together we must, in the context of the difficulties faced by colleagues from several agencies, but also of the adoption of the new 7 year European budget, insist on obtaining improvements to a number of our demands, including the following:

  1. We wish to see a rapid and significant improvement in Social dialogue in agencies, collective bargaining between agencies management and their staff.
  2. The issue of Commission supervision of Agencies and the presence of its representatives on the agencies’ management boards:
    This supervision needs to be improved both at the management board level and also in the supervision of the application of the statutory regulations.
  3. Human resources issues: recruitment, careers, mobility towards the institutions, European schools, social aspects etc. :
    We want to see improvements in all these aspects. There is already evidence of good practice such as that in the EUIPO agency.
  4. Issues relating to investigative bodies (IDOC, OLAF) and mediation bodies : We wish to see either agreements with the Commission regulatory bodies (OLAF, IDOC, Mediator) or specific common services for all the agencies.
  5. The improvement of human resources management rules, e.g. on professional incompetence or evaluation: We want to see established a rule on these matters as we are attempting to do in the F4E agency.
  6. Finally, we need to assess the consequences of the 2.5 billion euro cuts in the human resources budget: in some agencies, promotions have been cancelled for two years and school allowances have also been reduced: We demand that these financial benefits be maintained; we also demand that an improved social dialogue on this subject.

After this “prolegomena” or extended introduction, I propose that we start the discussion. So, please feel free to come forward with your contributions, questions, and suggestions. My colleagues will help us to understand the main issues more clearly. In the end, we have to adopt a clear message to send to those in the positions of responsibility within our organizations.

Over to you, thank you.

G. Vlandas, President

Letter sent to the President of the Commission pursuant to the General Meeting (13/03/2021)

EU Regulatory Agencies: U4U letter to the President of the Commission Mrs Ursula von der Leyen.

U4U expresses its concern about the deteriorating situation in the agencies. This has been echoed in the European press in several countries. The agencies help shape and implement EU policies. Located in the EU countries, they provide local public visibility. For the same reason, they pose a reputational risk to the EU in case of malfunctioning.

For the attention of the President of the Commission, Ms Ursula von der Leyen

Dear President,
Dear Ms von der Leyen,

We would like to share with you our concerns about the Regulatory Agency FRONTEX. In an article published on 21 January 2021, Politico reports mismanagement and irregularities in FRONTEX (“EU border force plagued by chaotic recruitment, COVID outbreaks and an investigation by anti fraud watchdog“). Other articles followed in the European press (DER SPIEGEL 05/02: Scandals Plunge Europe’s Border Agency into Turmoil).

U4U, a European trade union, maintains close links with the European Regulatory Agencies. We are represented and involved in social dialogue in many of these agencies, either through staff committees or in our trade union capacity. We are also directly contacted by the agencies’ staff.

Many of the irregularities and practices reported in the press have been brought to our attention by Frontex staff. What has been reported to us seems to confirm the facts published in the press. We have tried to intervene through Frontex staff representatives. We are concerned by the fact that the internal problems of Frontex give a despicable image of the EU action at a time when the EU could do much better avoiding further controversy about its effectiveness. Even if only from a communication point of view, this episode is regrettable and must be urgently remedied.

Mismanagement do not only affect Frontex, but other agencies too. Commission’s services have been alerted. Main problems are related to the lack of mediation bodies and insufficient social dialogue. On the latter subject, the control carried out by the Commission is purely formal: Commission’s services ask the directors of the agencies to simply state that the committees have been consulted, without examining whether the social dialogue has been carried out effectively and without consulting and acknowledging its content.

The authoritarian practices of a significant number of Regulatory Agencies are damaging the reputation and the public image of the European Administration. For instance, did the Cologne agency (EASA) consult the Commission’s services before dismissing British colleagues? This practice is opposed to the commitments adopted by the three main institutions to keep our British colleagues in office, save in a few exceptions. Likewise, the irregularities noticed in recruitment procedures request more effective control mechanisms to avoid a negative impact on the image of the European Administration.

Lack of control within the agencies is not a new issue. In 2012, following an in-depth review, the Commission adopted a reform of the agencies’ governance structure. This reform has not achieved all its objectives, given the recent reports of mismanagement. New and more effective control measures are needed. To mention a few: an enhanced representation of the Commission in the boards of the agencies, an increase of the influence of DG HR, a common policy against conflicts of interest linked to exchanges of posts between the board and the management of the agencies, the competence of the IDOC (Investigation and Disciplinary Office of the Commission) to investigate also the agencies, an improved human resources management policy, a enhanced social dialogue, etc.

The EU’s decentralised agencies help shape and implement EU policies. Located in the Member States, they increase the EU local public visibility. For this very reason, they could entail a reputational risk for the EU in case of mismanagement.

The EU should act promptly to solve the problems we have just mentioned. We would like to bring our experience and ideas to help reassess the governance of the decentralised agencies and to establish an early warning mechanism in case of mismanagement.

We look forward to your reply.
Yours sincerely,

Georges Vlandas         Gregor Schneider
President                       Vice-president Regulatory Agencies


Answer of DG HR to the message from U4U on irregularities in the functioning of the regulatory agencies and the concerns and demands of the personnel. (29 Apr 2021)

Answer from DG HR


Subject: The situation of the EU’s decentralized agencies

Thank you for your letter of February 8, 2021 concerning the situation of the EU’s decentralized agencies.

President von der Leyen has asked me to reply on her behalf. I would like to assure you that the Commission takes the good governance of decentralized agencies very seriously. However, the EU’s decentralized agencies are autonomous bodies with their own legal personality and appointing authorities. They are independent of the Commission in legal and financial terms, and in the performance of their obligations. As far as the governance of decentralized agencies is concerned, the Commission has only a limited influence on the governance of the agencies through its representative on their Management Boards. Consequently, the Commission is not in a position to intervene directly in the human resources issues of each agency.

In your note, you refer to a reform of the governance structure of the decentralized agencies by the Commission in 2012. The reform of these agencies was agreed in 2012 by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on decentralized agencies in the Common Approach (1), which remains the Union’s policy framework for agencies and defines the principles for the creation, governance and operation of decentralized agencies. Since 2012, major efforts have been made to align the founding acts with the common approach and also to ensure its implementation in many respects, including budget and resource allocation, programming, management appointment, staff and ethics rules, communication and several other governance issues.

While the Parliament and the Council play a decisive role as legislators for the agencies’ founding acts, the Commission has put in place a series of instruments and measures to strengthen the governance framework and harmonize the human resources policies of the EU’s decentralized agencies.

Firstly, in its proposals for founding acts creating new agencies or amending existing ones, the Commission stresses that the powers of the appointing authority under the Staff Regulations are vested in the Management Board, which delegates them to the Executive Director and may therefore, in exceptional circumstances, exercise these powers itself.

Secondly, the Commission recalls that Article 110 of the Staff Regulations aims to harmonize HR rules between agencies, the guiding principle being the application by analogy of Commission rules. In this context, the Commission has approved model decisions covering, among other things, staff recruitment, appraisal, promotion and reclassification, working conditions, middle management, harassment and whistleblowing, has prepared a model policy on conflicts of interest and is about to launch a model decision on administrative investigations and discipline. DG HR also runs a helpdesk which answers over 1,000 questions a year on HR-related topics, and provides agencies with standardized HR services via a service level agreement, including a helpdesk for administrative investigations and discipline. In addition, the Commission has set up a special procedure for examining requests from Executive Directors for post-service activity authorizations, involving the Secretariat General, the Legal Service and DG HR.

Thirdly, the new Framework Financial Regulation for Agencies (2) (FFR) has further improved and harmonized governance rules. In order to adequately detect and manage the risks of real or potential conflicts of interest, decentralized agencies must adopt rules on the prevention and management of conflicts of interest, including with regard to members of the Management Board, and publish the declaration of interests of Management Board members on their website every year. They must also report cases of fraud, financial irregularities and investigations immediately to the Commission. The agency’s annual work program must include an anti-fraud strategy. All decentralized agencies have adapted their financial rules to the FFR in 2019 and 2020, without deviating from the governance and performance framework defined therein.

This framework is complemented by the Commission’s Communication on strengthening the governance of EU bodies and guidelines for the single programming document and consolidated annual activity report (3), which further supports harmonized planning and reporting by all decentralized agencies. The Commission will monitor its implementation by the agencies.

Finally, decentralized agencies have their own discharge procedure, and issues concerning the EU’s decentralized agencies are subject to the opinions that the Commission adopts on the basis of their draft single programming documents.

The Commission agrees that social dialogue is important for the management of all EU institutions, agencies and bodies. It fully supports high-quality social dialogue in all agencies, and insists that agencies systematically consult their staff committees before adopting new HR implementing rules. Any comments from the respective staff committees can be brought to the Commission’s attention via the permanent working group responsible for adopting HR rules for the agencies.

As you rightly note, the reputation of the decentralized agencies is – despite their institutional autonomy – closely linked to that of the Commission, and all Commission services will continue to help the agencies improve their governance in line with their founding acts.

Gertrud Ingestad 16/04/2021


(2) Règlement délégué (UE) 2019/715 de la Commission du 18 décembre 2018 portant règlement financier-cadre des organismes créés en vertu du traité FUE et du traité Euratom et visés à l’article 70 du règlement (UE, Euratom) 2018/1046 du Parlement européen et du Conseil (JO L 122 du 10.5.2019, p. 1-38).

(3) Communication C(2020)2297 de la Commission sur le renforcement de la gouvernance des organes de l’Union et sur les orientations relatives au document unique de programmation et au rapport annuel d’activité consolidé.

Social dialogue in executive agencies

The last quarter of 2020 saw the start of a social dialogue within the Commission’s executive agencies, which will be restructured and whose work will rise in strenght.

This should provide an opportunity for a social dialogue covering not only the ongoing restructuring but also the management of staff in terms of workload (the Commission transfers part of its activities to the agencies while wishing to make savings in terms of human resources), and in terms of career development. This dialogue, in order to be productive, must use all the opportunities provided by the Staff Regulations, since we want act in the framework of the current staff regulation.

U4U advocates a number of measures for the staff of executive agencies: Organisation of mobility between agencies, between agencies and central Commission departments, and between agencies and other inter institutional services. This mobility is positive both for the agencies and for staff who can diversify and enrich their career paths. In addition, it will allow CAs in mobility within the central services of the Commission to have even limited access to internal competitions for CAs. Finally, U4U advocates an increase in promotion rates (reclassification) and a route enabling the CAs to access temporary staff positions at the end of a period to be determined. We will come back on all our demands and on the conduct of the social dialogue in a near future.


Note à l’attention de la DG HR : Les conditions de travail au sein des Agences Exécutives – le projet de départ du « Covent Garden » (Avril 2021)

Regulatory agencies: administrative inquiries

At the beginning of the year, the regulatory agencies were invited to contribute to a draft decision aimed at establishing a legal basis for the conduct of administrative investigations within the agencies: the “Decision laying down general implementing provisions for the conduct of administrative investigations and disciplinary procedures”.

A draft text has been sent for consultation to the local staff committees of the regulatory agencies. On this occasion, in the agencies where our organization is present on the Staff Committee, U4U was able to make substantial comments and suggestions aimed at better protecting the staff concerned by these investigations.

In particular, U4U wished to :

  • limit the intrusive nature of certain investigative techniques ;
  • limit the powers that certain investigators may assume;
  • ensure that investigations are not carried out by people working in the same agency as those being investigated, under the authority of the line manager.

For U4U, the conduct of investigations must be carried out by persons trained in such investigations and independent of the management of the agency. It is a question of respecting the fundamental rights of the defence. It is a question of impartiality and guarantee of independence.

The human resources departments of the agencies are not intended to carry out this type of investigation, and this is not desirable since they cannot guarantee their neutrality.

However, the agencies are considering setting up their own structure to deal with administrative investigations. But is the volume of investigations to be carried out sufficient to justify the creation of such a structure? Is it possible to set up a sufficiently independent team in agencies with no more than a few hundred staff? Where everyone knows each other and has already worked together? Why not instead mutualise existing structures that are already competent in terms of law and procedures and highly experienced? Agencies need operational reinforcement, flexibility to achieve their objectives and support for existing structures.

For U4U, there are already two structures available, capable and competent in the conduct of administrative investigations and disciplinary proceedings:

1: OLAF. The Anti-Fraud Office has an extensive system of procedural guarantees, trained investigators, operational tools and capacities and powers to act legally in all decentralised bodies in cases of suspected fraud, irrespective of the agency’s willingness to cooperate or not. The scope of competence and action of an investigative power is a key dimension here.

2. IDOC. The Commission’s Investigation and Disciplinary Office (IDOC) can conduct investigations and hearings in disciplinary proceedings, etc. It has extensive investigative experience, trained staff, a solid structure and operational capacity to operate in all decentralised agencies. This is already the case for the executive agencies, for example, the agreement between the agencies and IDOC is working perfectly.

OLAF has concluded a Memorandum of Understanding with IDOC on case sharing to avoid duplication of work. When OLAF considers that a case falls within the scope of IDOC, a clear exchange takes place and IDOC continues administrative investigations.

For U4U, these avenues should be explored, especially as they also guarantee harmonised treatment within the institutional family and, as far as the right of defence is concerned, this is fundamental.

With regard to the content of the draft decision “laying down general implementing provisions for the conduct of administrative investigations and disciplinary proceedings”, U4U has identified areas of concern in the first 26 articles of the decision, which deal with administrative investigations:

  • The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights seems to have been deeply forgotten in both the recitals and the articles of the text. For a text intended to instruct people without any experience in conducting administrative investigations, this is surprising. For example, the principle of the presumption of innocence, its implications and limits, are absent from the text.
  • The “Duty of loyalty” (to the Agency) is not clearly defined and no limits are set: this could open the way to misinterpretation of its scope, or even arbitrariness.
  • The way in which data protection and data processing is described will certainly be a matter of concern for those responsible for applying it, at least for any staff representative. It is very difficult to understand where the balance between the conduct of administrative investigations and the protection of privacy, which can only be involved in minor matters, has been placed. For example, hearings via video, audio recordings and the use of multimedia in the context of administrative investigations are a real concern in all their aspects (collection of evidence, possession of evidence, power relations between stakeholders, admissibility of evidence in subsequent proceedings, etc.).
  • The role of defence and staff accompaniment is also unclear and unbalanced, the decision seems to be drafted in such a way as to discourage defence and staff accompaniment by making the role of the defence very difficult.

What is at stake is staff confidence in the results of administrative investigations. Entrusting them to independent bodies is undoubtedly a first step towards building this confidence.

The other dimension of confidence would be to involve the trade unions present in the agencies and the staff committees in the preparation of the decision, through a genuine social dialogue.

Since the draft decision was presented to the Staff Committees several months ago, time seems to have stood still….


Social Dialogue in the Agencies

Closure of CHAFEA

Restructuring of implementing agencies: CHAFEA closes in Luxembourg

The central services are working on the mapping of the executive agencies for the 2021-2027 financial programmes. Plans are now close to being finalised and will have many implications for colleagues in the parent DGs concerned and for our colleagues in the executive agencies. In particular for CHAFEA, in Luxembourg, whose director announced to its staff last Friday that it will be closed in 2021 (provided the scenario and the MFF are approved by then).

The executive agencies, all located in Brussels, should be created or restructured to allow for synergies and efficiency gains, and to have a set of executive agencies more balanced in size with more focused portfolios.

On 28 April, the College is expected to give its opinion on the envisaged new architecture before submitting it to the Executive Agencies for a final decision. This is therefore a large-scale restructuring which will not be without consequences for the staff who have only just been informed. This restructuring will affect the Commission DGs working with the Executive Agencies, since a significant part of their staff will be led to join them.

However, in January 2020, 6 executive agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Commission’s trade union organisations, including CHAFEA. This agreement stipulates that any decision concerning staff is first discussed with staff representatives. The Director of CHAFEA is a signatory of this agreement, and his signature is a commitment on his part.

The restructuring in progress is therefore carried out without consulting the staff involved or their representatives: this is degree zero of social dialogue.

Without going back over the brutal way in which the agency’s staff was informed of its closure, which it is hoped will be the last of its kind, U4U asks that full information be presented to staff representatives prior to a social dialogue.

U4U calls for the opening of immediate negotiations in order to guarantee the defence of the rights of the staff who will be affected by these changes. In a context of health crisis which already favours an anxiety-provoking environment, U4U asks that our employers show exemplary behaviour in the conduct of these restructurings and the social dialogue necessary for their implementation.

U4U will play its role in protecting the rights and defending the interests of all staff affected by these restructurings, especially those who are most vulnerable due to their status as contract or temporary staff. It will contact other unions to promote action in unity.

BACKGROUND : The CHAFEA director yesterday announced to staff the closure of CHAFEA by 2021. CHAFEA, based in Luxemburg, is the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency.

The DG of SANTE announced the closure today, with relocation of staff to Brussel’ based agencies (REA, EASME, …). To all staff, this comes out of a sudden, this option of closing CHAFEA has never been discussed as a realistic option for the next MFF. Therefore, you can imagine the astonishment of staff, even more given the current situation of lockdown and teleworking.
Also the CHAFEA staff committee has not been involved at any stage of this process.


Common Staff Committee of the Executive Agencies : Open letter to Dr von der Leyen (President of the European Commission) and Dr Hahn (Commissioner for Budget and Administration) regarding the proposal on the future delegation of portfolios to Executive Agencies under the next MFF

New delegation of programs to executive agencies: a total lack of transparency, respect for colleagues and even a semblance of social dialogue!

Answer by Gertrud Ingestad and Gert Jan Koopman to the above note (12/06/2020)

Major changes announced in the field of research (17/09/2020)

Agencies Horizon Europe

Draft document

Delegation of implementation tasks to executive agencies for the 2021-27 EU programmes (April 2020)

Georges Vlandas about EU agencies

(21-minute video taken during a visit to the EUIPO Alicante office in February 2017)

Mediation service: why don’t agencies benefit from it?

The Mediation Service is a facilitator in the resolution of conflicts that may arise in the context of labor relations. Although it has no decision-making powers, its role is that of an intermediary between staff members and the administration.

By offering objective and impartial advice to two parties who may be in confrontation, its main objective is to contribute actively to conflict resolution in our institution, based on the principles of ethics, respect for the law, the spirit of service and good administration.

This professional service works on an informal basis, respecting confidentiality, independence and impartiality. The Mediation Service can therefore intervene in any case referred to it by a member of staff or a department, to facilitate the settlement, in individual cases, of any difficulty that may arise in the context of working relations, such as disputes over statutory rights and obligations and conflicts between colleagues or with the hierarchical line, as well as relational problems or those affecting personal dignity (moral harassment, sexual harassment, etc.).

Finally, it should be remembered that this Service works independently; the Mediators neither receive nor accept any instructions with regard to their mediation work.

A similar service exists at the Commission. When the EEAS was created, its own mediation service was set up. Nothing of the kind exists for the executive or regulatory agencies. A service agreement between the Commission and the agencies could have been signed, as is customary in other fields, to extend the competence of the Commission’s ombudsman to the agencies. U4U will act to ensure that this gap in the law is filled.


Appeal from Alicante staff to regulation agency staff: let’s take control of our professional fate

As we moved from the old century into the new, we witnessed a surge in regulation and execution agencies. While the execution agencies are merely Commission departments who dare not say their name, so that they can employ staff on lower salaries and with no real career prospects, the role of the regulation agencies, on the other hand, does matter, since it reflects the new missions which the Union is adopting.

Both agency types are experiencing similar problems in terms of careers and pay. The regulation agencies are scattered willy-nilly throughout the whole of the EU, usually at vast distances from the decision-making centres of the institutions, with the result that their work is more difficult, more expensive at operational level, and is provided with fewer services, mainly at the educational level.

It is for this reason that U4U/RS, as the staff association with a presence in the largest number of agencies, having had talks with a number of colleagues posted to the agencies to assess staff needs, is proposing that work factors should be the subject of discussion for all the regulation agency staff.

U4U/RS would like to stimulate a serious discussion on this subject with staff, staff representatives, and the other staff associations present with a view to achieving a pan-European regulation agency platform. Here are the subjects we suggest should be the topics of debate:

Confirm positions and reduce insecurity

  • Move contract agents onto open-ended contracts as quickly as possible.
  • Seek temporary agent positions with budgetary authority to recruit TAs and allow for career development for interns.

Further the careers of agents in decentralised EU agencies

  • Organise re-categorisation procedures for CAs and TAs, on a regular basis;
  • Also organise inter-function group re-categorisation procedures for the CAs, as the Commission does for certain professions or position types;
  • Organise specialised external competitive examinations.

Organise mobility within agencies and between agencies

Set up an “inter-agency” job exchange for contract agents and temporary agents.

Develop and boost social dialogue within the agencies

  • Establish framework agreements between professional and staff associations in each of the agencies;
  • Protect colleagues standing for CDP elections or who run the professional and staff associations;
  • Provide operating resources for the CDPs and PSAs (mail boxes, meeting rooms, secondments, mission expenses).

Act together and maintain staff unity

  • Voice demands which are of interest to all Agency staff, to avoid staff schisms and allow for successful action on a united front.
  • In the longer term, Agencies will need to be positioned in fewer locations, thus improving the services provided for staff in terms of social and educational structures (crèches and schools etc.).
  • Define the roles and career paths of the AD12/AD13 and AD14 and the AST9, AST10 and AST 11.


The Court of Justice extends the powers of agencies.

In January 2014, the Court of Justice handed down a ruling that gives a broader interpretation of the “Meroni” case law. This case law drastically limited delegations of powers to clearly delimited executive powers, to avoid any shift of responsibility from the bodies provided for in the Treaties to delegating authorities. The Court now recognizes the legislator’s right to delegate its powers to legally established entities, provided that particular professional and technical expertise is required and that a reactive capacity is needed.

See the judgment and commentary.

Program management delegated to executive agencies

Conference-debate of November 8, 2013: boards presented during the session

DG HR information: IntraComm Agencies website

Attractiveness of working in the Executive Agencies – discussion paper – March 2013
NEASC reaction to the discussion paper – March 2013

Note “chapeau” (Sept 2013)

Document: Focusing on Policy Development and Impact – Re-defining the profile of DG RTD (26/10/2012)

Le 13 juillet 2012, la DG HR a annoncé une inflexion de politique concernant la gestion des programmes européens.

Le prochain cadre financier pluriannuel 2014-2020 actuellement en discussion au Parlement et au Conseil prévoit une augmentation importante des budgets alloués à certains programmes européens (50 milliards d’euros sont actuellement demandés pour Connecting Europe Facility…), dans le cadre du budget global qui, lui, ne sera qu’en faible augmentation.

La Commission propose de recourir davantage aux agences exécutives. En effet, l’évaluation de leurs performances est très positive, elles sont considérées comme un instrument de succès pour gérer ces programmes efficacement. Ceci n’induirait pas la création de nouvelles agences, mais un développement de l’action des agences existantes.

Bien entendu, il faut un accord législatif pour ce faire ainsi qu’une décision concernant le cadre financier pluriannuel, ce qui reporte à janvier 2014 la mise en œuvre de ces décisions. Néanmoins, la Commission prépare ce mouvement en :

  • providing for a cost/benefit analysis
  • proposing a common framework for agency management in the draft reform of the Staff Regulations
  • preparing a program for the secondment of civil servants to the agencies. This program would affect DGs CLIMA, CONNECT, COMM, DEVCO, EAC, ELARG, ENER, ENTR, ENV, MOVE, RTD and SANCO.

the increased use of executive agencies will lead to changes in the organization of the services concerned. Some functions will simply be transferred to the agencies, others will be reshaped or abolished, while supervisory functions will have to be introduced. As a result, some posts will be eliminated in return for a substantial increase in the number of agency staff (from 50% to 60%).

No civil servant will be forced to accept a secondment, but this could constitute a career opportunity.

This announcement by the Commission, immediately confirmed by an e-mail from C. Day and I. Souka to all staff, poses a major challenge. Souka to all staff, raises several questions:

  • Will staff be involved, in accordance with the principles of participative management, in studies to review processes and structures?
  • What are the real career prospects for seconded officials? How will their eventual return to the Commission be organized?
  • How can agency staff be represented on the Central Personnel Committee?
  • How can we better manage the inter-agency and inter-institutional mobility of CAs, while preserving the benefit of their grade and seniority?
  • What is the boundary between program execution and the political definition of that same program? There is an obvious interaction between these two aspects, particularly in terms of feedback from the field, which must feed into periodic policy adjustments.
  • Similarly, we need to organize staff rotation to ensure that the two worlds (policy definition and execution) are not totally separated, and that expertise is as comprehensive as possible.

This is an essential debate. Until now, employee consultation on these subjects has been very weak, when it has taken place at all.

EU agencies do not manage conflict of interest situations appropriately

In recent years, the press has reported on a number of cases of alleged conflict of interest involving EU agencies. The European Parliament invited the European Court of Auditors to “undertake a global analysis of the approaches adopted by the agencies to manage situations of potential conflict of interest”.

The audit consisted of an assessment of the policies and procedures for managing situations of conflict of interest in four selected agencies that take decisions crucial to consumer health and safety: the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The European Court of Auditors concluded that none of the agencies audited managed conflict-of-interest situations appropriately. A number of shortcomings, of varying severity, were identified in the agencies’ specific policies and procedures, as well as in their implementation.

Press releaseFull report

What are agencies?

Agencies are decentralized bodies whose purpose is to provide the Commission (or sometimes the Member States directly) with assistance in the form of opinions, reports, data collection and interpretation, to carry out operational activities (including the ability to take decisions applicable to third parties), to manage European programs (for research, in particular), and to provide a common technical service to the Institutions.

Agencies can be categorized as follows:

  • 33 regulatory agencies (not including 3 CFSP agencies with non-statutory staff) ;
  • 7 joint undertakings (in the R&D field);
  • 6 executive agencies.

Agency staff are subject to the Staff Regulations or Conditions of Employment applicable to other employees. Each Agency has its own personnel committee.

Agency staff are made up of :

  • temporary staff (64%);
  • contract staff (28%), who account for 74% of executive agency personnel;
  • officials (8%). Commission officials may be seconded to the agencies.

Temporary and contract staff are eligible for open-ended contracts (usually after two fixed-term contracts). Temporary staff, like civil servants, occupy a post on the staffing table.

To find out more: Typology and legal framework of European Union agencies

The Commission’s role in implementing the Staff Regulations in agencies

Agencies staff representation

Each branch has its own Personnel Committee.

However, we are aware that :

a) Agency representation is not very effective.

b) Agency committees should be represented on the Commission’s CCP (central committee).

U4U has undertaken several actions:

  1. Be present in the agencies (we are starting to create local union sections).
  2. Defend the staff of regulatory and executive agencies.
  3. Bring the voice of agency staff to the CCP, and demand that their committee delegations become full members.

You can help us do this. First of all, by becoming a member. But above all by agreeing to work with us by taking part in our working meetings or, better still, by agreeing to become one of our representatives in your Agency.

NEASC (Common staff committee of Executive Agencies) meeting several Trade-Unions on 28 May 2019 on a proposal for establishing a social dialogue in the Executive Agencies.U4U was represented by G. Vlandas.

Agency for Fundamental Rights

The European court of justice just made judicial history by ruling in favour of an employee of the European Union agency for human rights sited in Vienna, Austria. The ruling shows intense atmosphere of fear in the agency.