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Note to the Attention of Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament



Union syndicale
Ispra & Seville

Dear President Schulz,

First of all, Union Syndicale congratulates you for your re-election as President of the European Parliament. The large compromise you were able to achieve represents a needed asset in these times where the economic crisis triggers difficult living conditions ending in massive abstention and rise of the extremes. To that extent, your re-election is a positive sign for restoring the image of the European project among the EU citizens.

Deeply convinced that Science and Research are fundamental for the development of a peaceful, economically competitive and innovative Europe, Union Syndicale sent on 12 May 2014 an Open Letter to all candidates for the position of President of the Commission asking for their point of view about Science and Research and their main scientific and technical arm for EU policy-making: the Directorate General - Joint Research Centre (JRC).

In your response dated 19th May, you basically confirmed the importance of Science and Research for the economic revival of the European Union, mentioning that they are a "fundamental tool for the job creation and the increase of European competitiveness, essential for the social cohesion we wish for all".

Union Syndicale would like to thank you for your reply and consideration of the positive role the JRC has in the areas of Research, Science and Innovation within the European Commission and within Europe. The JRC staff highly appreciated your letter as you replied despite a heavy agenda.

Union Syndicale fully shares your view, in particular the importance to invest into Research and Development in these times of crisis, where on the contrary a reduction of the resources is under way with easily foreseeable drastic results.

Union Syndicale supports the vision you expressed on the need to reinforce the capacity of the JRC to provide its permanent daily support to the preparation, implementation and monitoring of EU policies and regulations; and, as you have pointed out, this vision makes it compulsory to preserve and develop the skills and facilities of the JRC in order to match the key competencies to the current needs and future requirements; and, with this purpose, it is essential to ensure a sufficient level of high-level Research.

As you, Union Syndicale deeply regrets the budget cuts made during the negotiation of the program Horizon 2020, which makes the task of DG JRC more difficult.

Union Syndicale is carefully following the political evolution, a consequence of the last European Parliament elections, and in particular the recently published proposal for the composition of the new Commission and the repartition of the portfolios. In this respect, Union Syndicale would like to voice to you the astonishment, disorientation and concerns of the JRC staff following the decision of removing the JRC from the portfolio of the Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, and its placement in the portfolio of the Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship.

Union Syndicale does not see any added value in excluding DG JRC from the Research, Science and Innovation portfolio. On the contrary, this change means the separation of DG JRC from its natural context: Research, Science and Innovation, in where our DG has always been. On the other hand, the remaining departments and entities in the "Research Family" that share the Research Budget, i.e. the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) of the Commission, as well as the Executive Agencies linked to Research stays within the Research, Science and Innovation portfolio.

The withdrawal of DG JRC from "Research, Science and Innovation" portfolio is not simply an administrative reorganisation of the Research Sector. In fact, the Project Team for Energy Union will not include the Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship. The question is whether this exclusion will also imply the exclusion of our DG from the participation in the Energy Union Project, which deals with all areas of research where the Joint Research Centre, through its dedicated Institutes, is active.

Unions Syndicale considers that there are many aspects of Institutional and budgetary nature, linked to this change, which need to be clarified, considering that the splitting of the well-established Research Sector will significantly impact the daily working life of thousands of Commission staff.

Last but not least, the staff of DG JRC has become aware of some extremely worrying declarations by a spokeswoman of President Juncker, which are reported in the Science and Business Special Report of 12 of September 2014(1), and that state that “The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is an agency that has a major role to play in prospective research that is related to the knowledge economy…".

This statement, which has created even more concerns among the staff, proves that it is fundamental, that all institutional actors are correctly informed about the broader institutional context including the JRC – which is a Directorate General and not an agency– before taking any decision about roles and policies. Union Syndicale is actually concerned that such confusion could jeopardise the well-structured Research Sector ending in wrong decisions and actions.

Taking into account the potential and unforeseen dramatic consequences of separating the JRC from the Research Sector of the Commission and positioning it in the "Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship" portfolio, Union Syndicale wants to ask you that this proposal is carefully scrutinised and eventually revised during the upcoming political hearings of the future Commissioners by the European Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

For Union Syndicale Ispra/Séville 
M. Crivelli, President

For Union Syndicale Petten
JP Schosger, President