You have a complaint against an EU institution or body?

Available languages:
  • ENEnglish

Decision of the European Ombudsman on complaint 598/2000/MM against the European Commission


Strasbourg, 21 August 2001

Dear Mrs Z.,

On 28 February 2000 you made a complaint to the European Ombudsman concerning your employment during 32 years as detached nursery school teacher at European Schools in Varese (Italy) and Luxembourg on the basis of short-term contracts and the resulting lack of sickness fund coverage at the European Communities and in Germany.

On 14 April 2000, your complaint 310/2000/MM was declared to be outside the mandate of the European Ombudsman on the basis of Article 2.1 of the European Ombudsman's Statute, as the European Schools are not Community institutions or bodies, but intergovernmental institutions.

On 2 May 2000, you gave new evidence on alleged administrative irregularities concerning the sickness coverage of the European Communities and forwarded your correspondence with the Personnel and Administration DG of the European Commission.

On 13 June 2000, I forwarded the complaint to the President of the European Commission. The European Commission sent its opinion on 18 October 2000. I forwarded it to you with an invitation to make observations. On 13 November 2000 you sent a letter declaring your intention to retain a lawyer.

On 30 November 2000, I sent you a letter to inform you that according to Article 2.7 of the European Ombudsman's Statute, the European Ombudsman would have to terminate consideration of your complaint if your were to begin legal proceedings on the matter. No reply was received from you to this letter nor to a fax dated 8 June 2001.

I am writing now to let you know the results of the inquiries that have been made.


THE COMPLAINT

According to the complainant, the relevant facts were as follows:

The complainant was seconded by the German State and worked for 32 years as nursery school teacher at the European Schools in Varese (Italy) and Luxembourg on the basis of short term contracts. Since her retirement in 1997, she has been covered neither by the German health insurance, nor by the EC sickness fund in line with the Regulations for Members for the Seconded Staff of the European Schools.

The complainant argued that she is a special case, since unlike her German colleagues, she was not seconded for only 9 but for 32 years at a European Sschool. This was only possible because she was not a German official and not directly assigned to a German Ministry. Unlike her German colleagues, she therefore never paid contributions to the German health insurance.

The complainant claimed that the sickness fund of the European Communities had made a mistake and insisted on her right to be insured with this sickness fund.

THE INQUIRY

The Commission's opinion

In its opinion, the Commission made the following comments:

According to the agreement signed on 12 April 1957, the European Schools are governed by a Board of Governors composed of the Ministers of Education and/or Cultural Relations of the Member States, as well as of a representative of the Commission. The European Schools are governed by their own regulations and Board of Appeal.

According to Article 66 of the Regulations for Members of the Seconded Staff of the European Schools, "Membership of the Sickness fund set up by the Board of Governors should be compulsory for every member of staff. (...) After secondment ends, the member of staff and the persons covered by his insurance may request to be continued to be insured against sickness for a period of six months from the date on which the member of staff terminates his service in the European Schools, and provided that they produce evidence showing that they cannot be covered by any other sickness insurance scheme. (...) The six-month limit laid down above shall not apply in the case of serious illness contracted before the member of staff's service terminated and throughout its duration."

The complainant was insured at the sickness fund of the European Sschools from 1 September 1965 to 8 September 1997. During this time, the complainant had the status of seconded staff.

Coverage by the sickness fund ceased with the complainant's retirement. On 12 May 1997, the complainant's request for 100% reimbursement on the grounds of serious illness was refused by the medical officer.

As the complainant's request to continue coverage by the sickness fund of the European Schools more than six months aftermonths after her retirement is contrary to the provisions in the Regulations for Members of the Seconded Staff of the European Schools, it cannot be granted.

Finally, the Commission drew the attention to the fact that the Board of Appeal would be the competent body of the European Schools to settle disputes with seconded staff. The Commission would not be able to annul decisions of the administrative bodies of these schools, nor revise decisions of its Board of Appeal .Appeal.

The complainant's observations

The complainant observed that the European Commission did not consider her arguments and that it continued insisting on the Regulations for Members of the Seconded Staff of the European Schools, although the Regulations were not followed in respect of her employment contract. According to these Regulations a member of staff could not continue to be seconded during 32 years.

THE DECISION

1 Scope of the Ombudsman's inquiry

1.1 Article 2.1 of the Statute provides that the Ombudsman may inquire only into the activities of the Community institutions and bodies. The European School is not a Community body, but an intergovernmental organisation established by an agreement signed on 12 April 1957 in Luxembourg. Its Board of Governors is composed of the national Ministers of Education and/or Cultural Relations and also a representative of the European Commission.

1.2 The Ombudsman considers that the European Commission has a general responsibility, arising from its representation on the Board of Governors and the provision of funding by the Communities but that this responsibility does not extend to matters of internal management. Therefore, the Ombudsman will limit his present inquiry to matters concerninggn the sickness fund of the European Communities.

1.3 For the reason explained above, the Ombudsman could not deal with the new allegation raised in the complainant's observations that her employment during 32 years as teacher at the European Schools, was contrary to the Regulations for Members of the Seconded Staff of the European Schools. The Ombudsman notes however that Title VII of the Regulations for Members of the Seconded Staff of the European Schools provides for the possibility to appeal against decisions adversely affecting a member of staff of the European Schools.

2 Coverage by the sickness fund of the European Communities

2.1 The complainant considers that the sickness fund of the European Communities committed a mistake by not prolonging her health insurance after her retirement, as she worked during 32 years at a European Sschool and is not covered by the German health insurance.

2.2 The Commission argued that the complainant had the status of seconded staff from 1 September 1965 to 8 September 1997. In accordance with the provisions under Article 66 of the Regulations for Members of the Seconded Staff of the European Schools, coverage could only be assured indefinitely in case of a serious illness. The medical officer refused her request in this respect. Therefore, a prolongation of the coverage by the sickness fund of the European Schools could not be granted.

2.3 The Ombudsman notes that seconded teachers at the European Schools were insured by the sickness fund of the European Communities. The conditions applicable to seconded teachers at the European Schools are laid down in Article 66 of the Regulations for Members of the Seconded Staff of the European Schools.

2.4 According to these provisions, "after secondment ends, the member of staff and the persons covered by his insurance may request to be continued to be insured against sickness for a period of six months from the date on which the member of staff terminates his service in the European Schools, and provided that they produce evidence showing that they cannot be covered by any other sickness insurance scheme (...). The six-month limit laid down above shall not apply in the case of serious illness contracted before the member of staff's service terminated and throughout its duration."

2.5 The European Schools employed the complainant as seconded staff from 1 September 1965 till 8 September 1997. Her request to prolong her insurance at the sickness fund of the European Communities due to a serious illness was refused by the medical officer. The European Commission put forward in its opinion that the European School acted according to the Regulations for Members of the Seconded Staff of the European Schools in refusing to prolong the complainant's insurance by the sickness fund of the European Communities.

2.6 The Ombudsman's inquiry has revealed no evidence to show that the European Commission was not entitled to reach this conclusion. The Ombudsman therefore finds no maladministration in relation to this aspect of the complaint.

3 Conclusion

On the basis of the Ombudsman's inquiries into this complaint, there appears to have been no maladministration by the European Commission. The Ombudsman therefore closes the case.

The President of the European Commission will also be informed of this decision.

Yours sincerely,

 

Jacob SÖDERMAN