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Decision in case 559/2016/MDC on the European Investment Bank’s refusal to initiate the conciliation procedure with regard to the complainant

Mardi | 31 octobre 2017

The case concerned a former employee’s alleged unfair dismissal from and harassment at the European Investment Bank (EIB).

The Ombudsman’s inquiry focused on the issue that the EIB had allegedly wrongly denied the complainant the benefit of what is known as the ‘conciliation procedure’ provided for under Article 41 of the EIB’s Staff Regulations (which lays down that staff members may bring proceedings before the Court of Justice of the EU when a dispute arises with the EIB and that, prior to doing so, they should seek an amicable settlement, through the conciliation procedure). The Ombudsman made the preliminary finding that, by considering that the conciliation procedure could not be applied to a former member of staff who was not in receipt of an EIB pension, the EIB had committed maladministration. The Ombudsman therefore proposed that the EIB initiate the conciliation procedure without delay, as regards both the dismissal and the harassment issues. The Bank agreed to initiate the conciliation procedure as regards the dismissal issue, and referred the complainant to another procedure concerning the issue of harassment.

The Ombudsman concluded that, following her intervention, a solution had been found. She therefore closed the case.

Decision in case 515/2016/JAP on the European Asylum Support Office’s probationary assessment of a temporary agent

Vendredi | 28 avril 2017

The case concerned the assessment of the probationary period of a temporary agent at the European Asylum Support Office (‘EASO’). The complainant, who was dismissed at the end of her probationary period, argued that there were a number of procedural shortcomings in her assessment. Moreover, the EASO failed to reply to her complaints made under the EU Staff Regulations.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and requested the EASO to reply to the complaints. She found that the EASO had taken the necessary steps to ensure an impartial assessment of the complainant’s probationary period and had respected the complainant’s right to be heard before taking the final decision on her further employment. The Ombudsman thus closed the case.

Decision in case 2033/2015/ZA on the European Personnel Selection Office’s (EPSO) handling of a request for review of a language proficiency exam

Mercredi | 14 décembre 2016

EU officials are required to demonstrate the ability to work in a third language before their first promotion. When the complainant, who works in an EU Agency, failed a language proficiency exam in his third language, he asked EPSO to give him reasons for the relatively low grade in the writing test of the exam and also inform him of possible review mechanisms. In his view, EPSO’s explanations concerning his grade seemed inconsistent, while its initial reply about review possibilities was incorrect. Following the complainant’s insistence, EPSO agreed to reassess his writing test. The second evaluator confirmed the initial grade.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue. She examined the complainant’s test, as well as the assessments of the two evaluators. The Ombudsman did not find any manifest error or indications of partiality in the assessment of the complainant’s writing test. Concerning the erroneous information about the review possibilities, EPSO recognised its mistake and apologised to the complainant. The Ombudsman did not consider that further inquiries were necessary and closed the case. However, she made a suggestion for improvement concerning the information given to participants in language proficiency tests about the procedure and their review/appeal rights.

Décision de la Médiatrice européenne clôturant son enquête sur la plainte 52/2014/EIS concernant la décision de l’Office européen de sélection du personnel (EPSO) de prendre dûment en considération le principe de force majeure dans le cadre des concours généraux

Jeudi | 17 novembre 2016

La plaignante, qui travaille pour la Cour de justice de l’Union européenne en vertu d’un contrat temporaire, s’est inscrite à un concours EPSO pour le recrutement d’interprètes de conférence. L’avis de concours prévoyait que les candidatures complétées devaient être transmises au plus tard le 6 août 2013 à midi. La plaignante laisse passer ce délai. Le 7 août 2013, elle informe l’EPSO qu’elle a été hospitalisée les 5 et 6 août 2013 et qu’elle n’a donc pas été en mesure de compléter sa candidature dans le délai imparti. Le 7 août 2013, elle demande à l’EPSO de prolonger ce délai. L’EPSO refuse d’accéder à sa demande, le motif principal de ce refus étant que tous les candidats doivent être traités sur un pied d’égalité.

La Médiatrice examine ce dossier et arrive à la conclusion provisoire que l’EPSO n’a pas cherché à déterminer si les circonstances exposées par la plaignante correspondaient à une situation de force majeure. Elle recommande donc à l’EPSO i) de reconnaître qu’il existe des situations où, pour des raisons de force majeure, il est juste et adéquat que des candidats se voient accorder un nouveau délai; ii) de clarifier les circonstances dans lesquelles un nouveau délai devrait être fixé; et iii) d’en informer les candidats. L’EPSO rejette tout d’abord les recommandations de la Médiatrice et fait valoir qu’il serait difficile d’évaluer le bien-fondé des différentes justifications avancées par les candidats et de déterminer la manière dont les candidats doivent démontrer le cas de force majeure. L’EPSO ajoute que le fait d’autoriser les candidats à invoquer la force majeure mettrait en péril à la fois le bon déroulement des concours généraux et l’égalité de traitement des candidats. Il fait également référence aux statistiques, qui, selon l’EPSO, montrent que le traitement de toutes les demandes de prolongation de délai envoyées après l’expiration du délai représenterait une charge administrative pour l’EPSO.

Toutefois, à la suite de réunions entre la Médiatrice et le personnel de l’EPSO, l’EPSO marque finalement son accord de principe sur les recommandations de la Médiatrice. En ce qui concerne le dossier de la plaignante en particulier, la Médiatrice constate néanmoins que le concours en question est terminé. Elle fait également observer que la plaignante a choisi de ne pas formuler d’observations au sujet de la réponse de l’EPSO à ses recommandations. Compte tenu de ce qui précède, la Médiatrice considère qu’il n’y a pas lieu de poursuivre l’enquête pour déterminer si le dossier de la plaignante remplit les conditions de force majeure que l’EPSO accepte désormais, en principe, d’appliquer.

Décision dans l'affaire 726/2016/PMC - Décision dans l'affaire 726/2016/PMC relative au versement par le Conseil de l'Union européenne d'indemnités inférieures au salaire minimum à ses stagiaires

Jeudi | 29 septembre 2016

Un ancien stagiaire du Conseil de l'Union européenne s'est plaint de ce que l'indemnité versée par les institutions de l'UE à leurs stagiaires est inadaptée, en ce qu'elle est inférieure au salaire minimum et ne garantit donc pas aux stagiaires un niveau de vie décent.

La Médiatrice européenne a ouvert une enquête à ce sujet. Elle a estimé que le Conseil avait expliqué de manière suffisamment détaillée la manière dont le montant de l'indemnité de stage est calculé. La Médiatrice a estimé que la décision de verser une indemnité équivalant à 25 % du salaire d'un fonctionnaire de grade AD 5, échelon 1, était raisonnable. Le Conseil a pris cette décision en agissant dans les limites de son pouvoir d'appréciation, sur la base de ses besoins administratifs et du budget disponible.

La Médiatrice a noté que le Conseil établissait une distinction entre le stage et l'emploi. Partant, un stagiaire reçoit une indemnité et non un salaire, parce que les droits et obligations d'un stagiaire ne sont pas comparables à ceux d'un membre du personnel. La Médiatrice a considéré que l'explication du Conseil était raisonnable.

Par conséquent, elle a clôturé l'affaire en concluant que la pratique du Conseil ne constituait pas un cas de mauvaise administration.

Decision in case 629/2015/ANA concerning the decision of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) not to establish a temporary agent at the end of the probationary period

Lundi | 11 juillet 2016

The case concerned the decision of the ECDC to terminate the contract of a temporary agent at the end of a probationary period.

The Ombudsman conducted an inquiry into the matter and took the view that, in general terms, the explanations given by the ECDC about its decision not to retain the complainant in employment at the end of the probationary period were reasonable.

However, the Ombudsman considered that the ECDC had failed to make clear to the complainant, in good time, (a) that the problems identified in the Newcomers' Evaluation Dialogue were so serious as to warrant the termination of the complainant's contract, (b) the areas in which he needed to improve, through a specific and clear Action Plan. The failure to do so constituted maladministration. Moreover, the Ombudsman considers that, in circumstances in which an EU body does not have enough time to evaluate properly the work of a temporary agent, or where the temporary agent has not had an adequate opportunity to correct deficiencies in his or her performance, it would be good administration to examine if "exceptional circumstances" justifying the extension of the probationary period exist. As there is no evidence in the file that the ECDC seriously examined the option of extending the complainant's probation period, the Ombudsman made a corresponding suggestion for improvement for the future. Finally, given that it is good administration to apologise for any bad practice, the Ombudsman believes that the ECDC should acknowledge its mistakes in dealing with this case and apologise to the complainant for these mistakes.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 2041/2014/DK against the European Commission regarding transfer of pension rights

Mercredi | 25 mai 2016

The case concerned the Commission's decision to change its original proposal on the transfer in of the complainant's pension rights, acquired in the UK pension scheme, into the EU pension scheme.

The Commission argued that it was required to change its original proposal as it had been based on General Implementing Provisions which were already out of date at the time its proposal was made. The Commission's revised proposal, which was less favourable to the complainant, was based on the revised General Implementing Provisions actually in place at the date of the original proposal. The complainant argued that the Commission should honour its first proposal that he had already accepted.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the General Court had ruled that the Commission was not legally required to make proposals on the transfer in of pension rights acquired outside of the EU pension scheme and that, in fact, an actual determination of the worth of such transferred pension rights could be given only after the transfer had been made. In fact, this was a practice established by the Commission simply to better inform its officials about what they could expect once they actually decided to request the transfer in of their pension rights into the EU pension scheme.

The Ombudsman therefore closed the complaint with a conclusion that there was no maladministration by the Commission.

Decision in case 1023/2014/OV on the European Commission's handling of the 2013 promotion exercise concerning AST officials

Lundi | 15 février 2016

The complainant is a Commission official (AST) who was not promoted to the next grade in the course of the 2013 promotion exercise and complained about this to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman informed the complainant that there were no grounds for an inquiry. The complainant however also alleged that eight officials of the same grade as his, who had not been flagged for promotion purposes (on the basis of promotion points accumulated under the previous rules), had been promoted. The Ombudsman therefore opened an inquiry into the allegation that the Commission had failed to explain why eight officials who were not flagged were promoted to the next AST grade.

In its opinion, the Commission explained that the eight officials concerned had comparatively higher merits than the complainant with regard to the three criteria for assessment set out in the General Implementing Provisions and that the flagging only played a subsidiary role. The Ombudsman found that the applicable transitional provisions did not prevent non-flagged officials from being promoted. The Ombudsman therefore found no maladministration by the Commission and closed the case.

Decision in case 1306/2014/OV

Lundi | 11 janvier 2016

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 362/2011/KM against the European Commission

Mardi | 22 décembre 2015

The case concerned a request to the Commission, from one of its former officials, for detailed information relating to possible disciplinary proceedings against another former Commission official.

The Commission replied that it could not divulge the requested information. It also sought to reassure the complainant that it was dealing with the matter of the former official by taking all necessary measures.

The Ombudsman's inquiry into the issue included inspections of the Commission's files relating to the former official. The Ombudsman found that, while the institutions are required to maintain a high level of transparency, in the present case, the Commission was entitled to take the view it could not reveal details of its actions relating to the former official without harming the fair conduct of proceedings in general as well as the privacy of the official concerned.

The case was thus closed with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision in case 1958/2014/ANA against the European Commission concerning the transfer of national pension rights into the EU pension scheme

Mercredi | 02 décembre 2015

The case concerned the transfer of national pension rights into the EU pension scheme by a Commission official.

Following the Ombudsman's intervention, the Commission re-examined the file, identified the mistake and undertook to recalculate the number of pensionable years the complainant is entitled to.

The Ombudsman concluded that the case has been settled to the complainant's satisfaction and closed the case.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing her inquiry into complaint 63/2013/LP against [an EU Agency] concerning allegations of harassment

Mardi | 24 novembre 2015

The case concerned the investigation of an alleged case of psychological harassment in [an EU Agency][1] and whether the complainant, as the alleged victim, was entitled to the full version of the confidential administrative investigation report. The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the conclusion reached by [the Agency] that no such harassment could be established was reasonable. Moreover the Ombudsman found that the allegation that one of the members of the investigation panel had an actual or potential conflict of interest could not be established. The Ombudsman did however consider that disclosing to the complainant the parts of the investigation report that were treated at the time as confidential would not undermine the privacy of the persons heard and/or the working relationships and the smooth running of [the Agency's] services. The Ombudsman trusts that [the Agency] will disclose those parts to the complainant.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 1770/2013/JF against the European Economic and Social Committee

Mercredi | 18 novembre 2015

The case concerned the reassignment of an official of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) from his post of Head of Unit to that of an administrator. After the official complained, the Ombudsman investigated the matter and concluded that the reassignment was a covert disciplinary sanction following the official's reaction to a 'Merry Christmas' e-mail from the President of one of the EESC political groups. Because no disciplinary proceedings had taken place, the reassignment was a misuse of power. Since the official had had no opportunity to defend himself, this action was also contrary to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Ombudsman, therefore, found maladministration on the part of the EESC and put forward a number of proposals for a solution to the complaint.

The EESC agreed to reintegrate the official in a post similar to his former post once, and if, he becomes fit for work (the official had meanwhile been recognised as suffering from invalidity). It also agreed to compensate him for the management allowance that he had lost because of his reassignment. The Ombudsman welcomed this. However, the EESC refused to accept that its decision to reassign the complainant was wrong. It also refused to annul the reassignment decision and to apologise to the complainant. The Ombudsman did not find EESC's explanations to be convincing and therefore made a critical remark as regards this aspect of the case.