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Decision in case 2267/2017/NF on the expiry of a ‘reserve list’ managed by the European Personnel Selection Office for recruiting EU civil servants

Dostupni jezici: en
  • Slučaj: 2267/2017/NF
    Otvoren 2018.05.02 - Odluka donesena 2018.05.02
  • Predmetna/e institucija/e: Europski ured za odabir osoblja

The case concerned a ‘reserve list’ of candidates suitable to be recruited as EU civil servants, which had been created in 2010, following a staff selection procedure organised by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO). After being extended by EPSO several times, the list expired at the end of 2017.

The complainant was on the reserve list but had not been recruited by any of the EU institutions when the list expired. In his view, it was unfair and discriminatory for EPSO not to extend the validity of the list further.

The Ombudsman found that EPSO had been justified in letting the reserve list expire, and closed her inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Background to the complaint

1. The complainant took part in a selection procedure for the recruitment of EU civil servants, which was organised by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO)[1] in 2008. The complainant passed the selection procedure and his name was placed on the reserve list from which EU civil servants could be recruited. The reserve list was published in the Official Journal of the EU in March 2010[2].

2. Initially, the reserve list was valid until 31 December 2011[3]. However, EPSO extended the validity of the reserve list for a number of years. In November 2016, EPSO announced on its website that the reserve list’s validity would be extended once more until 31 December 2017[4].

3. In November 2017, EPSO indicated on its website that the validity of a number of reserve lists would not be extended beyond 31 December 2017, among them the reserve list including the complainant[5].

4. The complainant wrote to EPSO to express his dissatisfaction and request that the reserve list be extended once more.

5. EPSO replied that the validity of the complainant’s reserve list would not be extended beyond 2017.

6. Dissatisfied with this response, the complainant turned to the Ombudsman in December 2017.

The inquiry

7. The Ombudsman opened an inquiry into the complainant’s position that EPSO was wrong not to extend the validity of his reserve list beyond 31 December 2017.

8. The decision in this case takes into account the arguments and views put forward by the parties.

Non-extension of the validity of the reserve list

Arguments made by the parties

9. The complainant argued that other reserve lists had been valid for a longer period of time than his and that this constituted unequal treatment of successful candidates in different selection procedures. The complainant also argued that it was unreasonable to let the reserve list expire, given that there were still available candidates on it who had not yet been recruited by the EU institutions.

10. More generally, the complainant expressed his view that the decision to close his reserve list had not been taken in a transparent manner since he had neither been consulted with respect to his availability for recruitment, nor been individually informed about the expiry date of the list.

11. The complainant considered that EPSO should refrain from organising new selection procedures for a particular job profile as long as there are valid reserve lists with available candidates on them. 

12. EPSO explained that the decision to close a reserve list is taken after consultation and in agreement with the recruiting services of the EU institutions, and that the same applies for the decision to organise new selection procedures for a particular job profile.

13. EPSO also stated that every selection procedure and every reserve list is independent from other procedures and reserve lists, which means that candidates on one reserve list cannot be compared with candidates on another reserve list. The duration of the validity of one reserve list has thus no bearing on the validity of another reserve list. Through EPSO’s website, the complainant had been informed of the expiry date of his reserve list more than a year in advance. The fact that the validity of his reserve list had been extended a number of times could not create any expectation that it would be extended further.

14. Finally, EPSO informed the complainant that reserve lists are meant to have more candidates on them than available posts. As a consequence, lists are regularly left to expire with still some listed candidates on them.

The Ombudsman's assessment

15. It is understandable that the complainant is disappointed. However, successfully passing an EPSO selection procedure, and thus being included on a reserve list from which EU institutions can recruit new civil servants, does not give rise to any right to be offered employment with the EU institutions. The ‘notice of competition’, which sets out the rules applying to the selection procedure in question, stated that recruitment will depend on posts and funds becoming available[6]. The EU Staff Regulations[7] moreover state that “the [reserve] list shall wherever possible contain at least twice as many names as the number of posts to be filled”. It is thus foreseen that not every candidate on a reserve list will be recruited as an EU civil servant.

16. The notice of competition also clearly informed candidates that the reserve list and its expiry date would be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and on the EPSO website[8]. The reserve list was published along with a statement that “[t]he validity of the reserve list shall expire on 31 December 2011 but may be extended[Ombudsman’s translation; emphasis-added].[9] Candidates could thus not have any expectation that the list would be valid after 31 December 2011.

17. EPSO extended the validity of the reserve list in question for six more years. The last extension, until 31 December 2017, was announced and published on EPSO’s website in November 2016[10]. The document is entitled “reserve lists valid beyond 31 December 2016” and it clearly indicates that the validity of the reserve list in question was to end on 31 December 2017.

18. Strictly speaking, EPSO thus did not take any decision to discontinue the reserve list. Rather, it let the list expire at the date indicated in the previous decision to extend it. This was a possibility of which all remaining candidates must be considered to have been aware. 

19. The fact that reserve lists have remained valid for longer than the complainant’s reserve list does not constitute unequal treatment of candidates, as candidates on different reserve lists are not in the same situation.

20.  The EU institutions created EPSO[11] to confer on it the power of organising staff selection procedures[12]. When organising selection procedures, EPSO is thus acting on behalf and in the interest of the EU institutions. However, the EU institutions have retained the power to choose which successful candidates to recruit as EU civil servants. The recruitment process is thus the sole responsibility of the EU institutions and does not involve EPSO.

21. It is within the EU institutions’ discretion to decide whether they are still interested in recruiting candidates from older reserve lists or whether they prefer to have EPSO organise a new selection procedure, with a corresponding new reserve list of candidates, to satisfy their recruitment needs.

22. Against this background, it was both reasonable and justified for EPSO to let the validity of the reserve list in question expire, in agreement with, and based on the recruitment needs of, the EU institutions[13].


Based on the inquiry, the Ombudsman closes this case with the following finding:

There was no maladministration by the European Personnel Selection Office in not extending the validity of the reserve list.

The complainant and EPSO will be informed of this decision.

Tina Nilsson

Head of Inquiries - Unit 4

Strasbourg, 02/05/2018


[1] Selection procedure EPSO/AD/142/08 for linguistic administrators with Spanish as a main language.

[2] “Lista de reserva”, OJ 2010 C 67 A, p.1: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/ES/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:C:2010:067A:FULL&from=EN

[3] Same as above, p. 2: “La vigencia de la lista de reserva expirará el 31 de diciembre de 2011, aunque podrá ser prorrogada”.

[4] See https://epso.europa.eu/sites/epso/files/documents/successful_candidates/reserve_lists/lists_to_be_extended_until_31_12_2017_en.pdf?utm_source=POLITICO.EU&utm_campaign=c93d719cc5-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_02&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_10959edeb5-c93d719cc5-189773033

[5] See https://epso.europa.eu/content/reserve-lists_en

[6] See point V. 6. ‘Recruitment conditions“ of the notice of competition: “La contratación se realizará en función de las disposiciones estatutarias y de las disponibilidades presupuestarias.

[7] Article 5 of Annex III to the Staff Regulations.

[8] See point III. 3. ‘Inclusion on the reserve list‘ of the notice of competition: “La lista de reserva y su fecha de expiración se publicarán (3) en el Diario Oficial de la Unión Europea y en el sitio web de EPSO (http://europa.eu/epso).

[9]La vigencia de la lista de reserva expirará el 31 de diciembre de 2011, aunque podrá ser prorrogada.”

[10] https://epso.europa.eu/sites/epso/files/documents/successful_candidates/reserve_lists/lists_to_be_extended_until_31_12_2017_en.pdf?utm_source=POLITICO.EU&utm_campaign=c93d719cc5-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_02&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_10959edeb5-c93d719cc5-189723637

[11] Decision 2002/620/EC establishing a European Communities Personnel Selection Office, OJ 2002 L 197, p. 53.

[12] Article 2(1) of Decision 2002/620.

[13] The institutions that jointly adopted the Decision establishing EPSO are represented on EPSO's Management Board. The Ombudsman is one of them.