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Decision in case 322/2017/JUF on the European Commission’s decision not to select a candidate for the position of Long-Term Observer for an Election Observation Mission

Available languages: en
  • Case: 322/2017/JUF
    Opened on 08 Jun 2017 - Decision on 08 Jun 2017
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Commission

The case concerned the European Commission’s rejection of an application to become a Long-Term Observer in the EU Election Observation Mission to Timor-Leste. The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the Commission had applied the criteria for selecting candidates and that it had replied to the complaint about the non-selection within a reasonable time. There was thus no maladministration by the Commission.

The background to the complaint

1. In January 2017, the complainant applied to participate as a Long-Term Observer in an EU Election Observation Mission[1] to Timor-Leste with the support of his home country. In February 2017, the European Commission informed the complainant that he had not been selected for the position.

2. The complainant made a complaint to the EU High Representative against the decision not to select him, as he considered that he met all the requirements to become a Long-Term Observer. Ten days later, the Commission replied confirming its decision not to select him and setting out the reasons for its decision.

3. Dissatisfied with the reply, the complainant turned to the Ombudsman.

The inquiry

4. The Ombudsman opened an inquiry into the complaint that the European Commission was wrong not to select the complainant for the position of Long-Term Observer, given his experience. The complainant was also concerned that the Commission had failed to reply within a reasonable time-limit to his complaint about not being selected.

5.  In the course of the inquiry, the Ombudsman’s inquiry team duly considered the information provided in the complaint. In particular, the inquiry team carried out a thorough analysis of the correspondence that had taken place between the Commission and the complainant before the complainant turned to the Ombudsman.

Allegation that the European Commission was wrong not to select the complainant for the position as Long-Term Observer

Arguments presented by the complainant and the European Commission

6. In its reply to the complainant’s concern about not having been selected, the Commission stated that all the 123 applications, including his, had been examined against the same criteria. The selection committee did appreciate his experience as a Short-Term Observer with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. However, his lack of experience in EU Election Observation Missions and/or EU Election Expert Missions was a considerable impediment to him being selected for the EU Election Observation Mission to Timor-Leste. Professional experience in EU Election Observation Missions and/or EU Election Expert Missions was taken into consideration, in line with the relevant Call for Candidatures[2]. The selection committee considered that other applicants had stronger experience on the basis of the selection criteria. Therefore, the Commission advised the complainant to apply for a Short-Term Observer position in order to strengthen his candidacy for positions as a Long-Term Observer in future EU Election Observation Missions.

7. The complainant stated that his previous work experience was not properly taken into account in the assessment of his application to become a Long-Term Observer in the EU Election Observation Mission. More specifically, he claimed that he fulfilled the first requirement of point 2.3 in the Call for Candidates and that the selection committee therefore could not have rejected him on the basis of the second requirement in point 2.3. The complainant considered these clauses to be dubious and contradictory.

The Ombudsman's assessment

8. Point 2.3 in the Call for Candidates sets out the following regarding the desired candidate profile:

3. Previous electoral observation experience and/or other relevant experience including electoral training, technical assistance or experience in the region in relevant fields:

Minimum one (1) observation mission as an observer or Core Team member (this may include EOMs organised by other organisations) or relevant electoral training (preferably by EODS/NEEDS).

A number of LTO positions will be reserved for newcomers with relevant skills. Member States are invited to propose one newcomer LTO (necessary to have experience as STO in EU EOMs).

9. Point 2.3 in the Call for Candidates thus required all candidates to have participated in at least one previous observation mission, EU or non-EU. Point 2.3 also set out that some positions were reserved for candidates not previously having done a Long-Term Observation mission. However, in order to be considered for one of these reserved positions, the candidate had to have done a Short-Term Observer mission with the EU.  These provisions cannot be considered as contradictory or dubious, as argued by the complainant.  

10. Although the complainant could not be chosen for one of the reserved positions, as he did not have experience as Short-Term Observer in an EU Election Observation Mission, he did indeed have experience from at least one (non-EU) observation mission as an observer. The complainant was thus an eligible candidate to become a Long-Term Observer.

11. It is clear from the formulation of the Commission’s letter to the complainant that his application was not rejected because he was not considered eligible under Point 2.3 in the Call for Candidates. However, following a comparison of merits, including the complainant’s experience as as Short-Term Observer with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, other candidates were considered more suitable. The complainant has not put forward anything to substantiate his argument that his previous experience was not properly taken into account.

12. It was entirely reasonable for the Commission to suggest to the complainant to first apply for a Short-Term Observer position in an EU Election Observation Mission, as such experience would allow him to be considered for one of the positions as a Long-Term Observer that are reserved for newcomers. 

13. On the basis of the above, there was no maladministration by the Commission in not selecting the complainant for a position as Long-Term Observer in the EU Election Observation Mission to Timor-Leste.

Allegation that the European Commission failed to respond within a reasonable time to the complaint

Arguments presented by the complainant

14. The complainant argued that the Commission’s delay in replying to his complaint against the decision not to select him as a Long-Term Observer made it practically impossible for him to turn to ‘higher authorities of justice’ as the departure was planned for the day after he received the Commission’s reply.

The Ombudsman's assessment

15. Given the short time period between the publication of the Call for Candidatures and the departure for the mission, it is commendable that the Commission managed to reply to the complaint before the departure, even if it was by one day only. Requiring the Commission to await the outcome of potential complaints to the Ombudsman would have been unreasonable as it would have made it impossible to deploy the Election Observation Mission.

16. There was thus no maladministration by the Commission when replying to the complaint in ten days.

Conclusion(s)

On the basis of the inquiry into this complaint, the Ombudsman closes it with the following conclusion:

There was no maladministration by the European Commission.

The complainant and the European Commission will be informed of this decision.


Strasbourg, 08/06/2017

 

Tina Nilsson
Head of Inquiries - Unit 4

 

[1] https://eeas.europa.eu/topics/water-diplomacy/421/election-observation-missions-eueoms_en

[2] Call for Candidatures for Long-Term Observers for an EU Election Observation Mission to Timor-Leste (Brussels, 12 January 2017)