Promotion system

The best promotion system is one based on the social dialogue


Unlike other civil services, ours is a career based system where each official progresses through a series of grades and sometimes categories each bringing higher levels of responsibilities, entitlement to certain posts and rewards.

 This career system does not in itself give any individual a right to promotion which is based on merit after comparison between staff of the same grade and category. The basis for that procedure is to be found in article 45 of the staff regulations which gives the elements on which the comparison of merit is to be based: the annual performance review, ability and conduct, responsibility and mastery of languages. 

The fact that there have been three different systems used over the last years shows how uncomfortable the Commission is. When faced with the pressures from certain Directors General who want to be able to promote whoever they want, often harming less high profile but equally deserving colleagues along the way, DG HR often exceeds the red lines in the staff regulations.

This always causes an avalanche of appeals by colleagues who object both to the result of their evaluation and to not being promoted. Of course, it is the general discontent which underlies most of these appeals but the administration prefers to address the symptoms rather than the cause and thus constantly tinkers with the evaluation and promotion procedure in the hope, comforted by certain unions, that this will stop the avalanche.

A recent ruling by the Civil Service Tribunal has just flagged up rather pointedly a couple of things which are generally ignored in the Commission, namely that reports have to be written in such a way as to ensure comparability and an actual comparison between those officials of the same category and grade who are eligible for promotion has to take place. Naturally, since the ruling concerned an official of the EEAS, the Commission doesn’t seem interested despite the fact that the promotion system in place there is the same as the Commission’s.

True, establishing a reporting and promotion system which genuinely ensures comparability isn’t easy but nor is it impossible. The points based system, since abandoned, was close. But many other approaches are possible: standardising certain parts of repots, introducing questionnaires or tests and possibly give assessors a better overall picture.

Of course, ensuring comparability across the board in grades where the number of officials can be numbered in the thousands is no easy task but shortcuts aren’t the solution. That’s why Union Syndicale has always been against quotas per DG which is the current system.

Assuming that no perfect system exists, we should at least seek a system which the bulk of colleagues can accept and that is transparent, predictable and fair. Such a system can only be possible after a genuine discussion between the administration and staff representatives taking account of past experience and respecting the staff regulations. The system needs to be agreed and not imposed.


To achieve that, the mind set in the administration has to be turned towards a  constructive dialogue but, sadly, that is far from being the case for a large part of the administrative hierarchy in the Commission.