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Decision of the European Ombudsman in the case 325/2021/KT on how the European Commission carried out a selection procedure for the post of Director-General of the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (vacancy notice COM/2020/10395)

Dear Mr X,

On 15 February 2021, you submitted a complaint to the European Ombudsman against the European Commission concerning the above selection procedure. You argue that the Commission acted with maladministration as regards how it published the relevant vacancy notice and how it treated your application.

In particular, you contend that the Commission ought to have published the vacancy internally or inter-institutionally only and to have clearly indicated that it was open only to candidates with management experience within the EU administration; in your view, only such candidates could meet the eligibility requirements regarding professional experience. You claim that the Commission should either admit you to the selection procedure or annul the selection procedure and pay to you compensation for the moral damages which, you say, you have suffered because of how the Commission carried out the selection procedure.

 After a careful analysis of all the information you provided with your complaint and with your subsequent submissions, we have decided to close the inquiry with the following conclusion:

There was no maladministration by the European Commission.[1]

In particular:

On how the Commission published the post

According to the vacancy notice[2], to be considered eligible, candidates should, among other things, have “at least 5 years of [...] post-graduate professional experience in a high-level management function [...] in a field relevant for th[e] position. We find nothing in the description of this requirement to suggest that only management experience within the EU administration would be taken into account or that the vacancy was open only to internal candidates. It was up to candidates to prove their experience in any management position in a field relevant for the position[3].

In reply to your request for clarifications regarding the requirement of professional experience at management level, the Commission replied that “it is not possible to provide benchmarks that could apply with absolute validity to all activities in the public and private sector. It must in any case be borne in mind that the position to be filled is a senior management function. [...] To give an indication, experience gathered at the Commission could not be recognised as experience in a high-level management function if it was acquired in a function below the level of Head of Unit”. The Commission’s reply does not in any way suggest that only management experience within the EU administration would be taken into account or that only Head of Unit experience in the Commission was to be meant. The reply referred to management experience within the Commission  only by way of example, which was appropriate, given that you are familiar with the Commission’s functions, having previously worked for it.

On the eligibility of your application

According to the vacancy notice, apart from the above minimum management experience, candidates should have an overall “postgraduate professional experience” of ”at least 15 years[4]. Having carefully examined your detailed CV, we find that your total postgraduate professional experience (regardless of relevance) is far less than 15 years, while none of this experience appears to be “in a high-level management function”. The Commission was thus correct in considering your application ineligible, as you did not meet any of the two eligibility requirements regarding professional experience.

In light of the above, your claims that the Commission admit you to the selection procedure or annul the selection procedure and pay you moral damages cannot be sustained.

We note that, since 2013, you have made several complaints to the Ombudsman regarding recruitment or staffing issues. In none of these cases has the Ombudsman found any indication of maladministration. In May 2019, having identified a risk of abuse of process, the Ombudsman alerted you that she might have to take steps in order properly to manage her Office’s resources[5]. On that occasion, you recognised that your previous communication to the Ombudsman was abusive, you apologised for that and you committed yourself not to repeat the abusive communication.

Given the content and reasoning of your latest complaint to the Ombudsman, we draw your attention to the fact that, according to the Ombudsman’s rules for handling abusive (including manifestly pointless) communications[6], any further abusive communication on your part regarding  recruitment matters may lead the Ombudsman to cease all communication with you on such matters.

Yours sincerely,[7]

 

Tina Nilsson
Head of the Case-handling Unit

Strasbourg, 16/03/2021

[1] Full information on the procedure and rights pertaining to complaints can be found at 

  https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/document/70707.

[2] See eligibility requirements on page 3 of the vacancy notice: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:C2020/292A/01&from=EN#page=3.

[3] See footnote 3 of the vacancy notice.

[4] See eligibility requirements on page 3 of the vacancy notice: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:C2020/292A/01&from=EN#page=3.

[5] Ombudsman’ letter to you of 25 May 2019, following your complaints 2377/2019/PB and 440/2019/PB.

[6] Decision establishing guidelines on how to deal with abusive communications and complaints which amount to an abuse of process, available at: https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/document/en/132700

[7] Although your complaint to the Ombudsman was in Italian, in order to provide you with a decision on your complaint as quickly as possible, we send you our decision in English, which is a language that we know you master. Please let us know if you wish to obtain a translation into Italian.