Thursday, June 13, 2024

Too many boomers in Brussels? EU goes big on its age problem

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“[The concours] will be faster. It will be done in three months, ideally, not a year — which is a lot more acceptable if you leave university,” said the senior Commission official, speaking in a brand-new office tower with shiny glass windows and hi-tech facilities. 

Each department will directly pick its employees, giving it greater leeway to correct geographic imbalances and fill up any empty spots. The new rules also allow each manager to set different rules on working from home, creating competition around attractiveness between units and allowing each applicant to pick their preferred offer. 

Young Eurocrats praised the concept of shifting to digital testing but questioned whether the Commission can fully deliver on its reformist agenda. 

Young Eurocrats praised the shift to digital testing but questioned whether the Commission can fully deliver on its reformist agenda | Leon Neal/Getty Images

The first official said that the general objective amounts to a “step in the right direction.” However, she added, the key question is whether the Commission can manage to cut waiting times for the concours, given how it’s already struggling with delays on existing competitions. 

Meanwhile, critics argue that deeper cultural shifts are needed to change the work environment in Brussels. 

Sebastiani, the EU trade unionist, fears that intransigent managers will thwart the Commission’s attempts to modernize its work culture. 

“Some middle managers have a paramilitary culture, they believe in a culture of control,” he told POLITICO. He noted for example that some EU bosses introduced more flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic — but reverted immediately once the pandemic was over. 

“The real challenge is to either go forward … or go back to the old bureaucratic routine,” he said.  

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