“Panta rei” but some do not “rei” at all

© European Union , 2012

Irene Souka, Director-General of DG Human Resources and Security of the European Commission.

A tale of term-bound political leaders and the immovable leaders of the administration


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At the European Union’s executive, the European Commission, the department of administration is considering to extend its mobility exercise, currently applicable to middle and senior management, to all Administrators and the Assistants working for the European Commission.

The current rule for the middle and senior management provides that nobody can stay in the same post for more than five years (plus two years under extraordinary circumstances) and no more than ten years in the same Directorate-General (DG). Under this rule, about 250 middle managers are subject to become mobile, and change position or DG this year.

Immovable like a mausoleum, remains a protagonist of Mobility: the Director General of Human Resources, Eirini Souka. Souka is a Commission official who has served the institution on the same subject (personnel) under various hats, for some 15 years. Under the Commission’s own rules, this is unacceptable.

Even more unacceptable, is a tip a senior EU official gave to Kassandra – that in order serve the mobility principle, a “transfer of convenience” is being considered. This would involve Souka exchanging posts with the Director-General of Energy, Dominique Ristori.

Why would this be a transfer of convenience? Because Ristori and Souka are married.

The European Commission power games

The usual method of the puppet masters at Commission top levels of administration in order to keep selected managers in the same post forever, is to change slightly the subject-matter of the post by adding or removing irrelevant duties from the job description of the specific executive yet keeping the core duties and competences there. In this way, the chosen one will stay there forever, immovable, in the ultimate glorification of the mobility principles.

In this context, it would be wiser to rule that all political officials, from say the level of Director and up, be allowed to serve up to a maximum of five years in the same Directorate General. Full stop; no extensions, no exchanges.

Furthermore, Directors General should be chosen (and be fired at any time) by their respective Commissioner. Only in this way will the European Commission become truly political. Commissioners will once again rule, and the administration will be there to execute political will as dictated by the College. Today, the Directors-General rule and Commissioners, with a few exceptions of old hands and the most powerful figures in the College, devote themselves in public relations exercises and squabble over who is most visible in the Commission press events, missions, and conferences.

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