Time’s up for about 40 percent of the managers at the European Commission’s competition department.
If DG COMP plays by the bloc’s HR rules, several bosses will have to pack their bags and leave the department’s Madou Tower headquarters next year.
POLITICO calculated that out of 59 managers (excluding advisers) at DG COMP, 10 heads of unit would have to leave and seven would have to change jobs (within or outside the department) by the end of this Commission’s mandate in 2019. Seven directors would also have to take on a different position.
Those who have come to the end of their permitted shelf life include big names such as Cecilio Madero Villarejo, Paul Csiszar, Nicholas Banasevic, Thomas Deisenhofer and Hubert de Broca. They could change jobs in the course of 2019.
Thankfully for the department, mobility is capped at 15 percent for middle management such as heads of unit. This is just as well, because more barnacle bosses would have to be scraped out of their jobs otherwise.
The Commission’s rules set tenures of five, seven and 10 years for managers depending on circumstances. While the Commission declined to give information on who would have to leave in 2019, POLITICO pulled together Commission organigrams since October 2006 to work out whose time is up.
The big question is whether the rule book will be followed. People in the Commission said that DG COMP is an anomaly internally and added that it has more leeway to bend the HR guidelines, mainly because its experts needed specific technical knowledge, usually gleaned over the course of long cases.
A Commission spokesperson said: “In the case of DG COMP, the specific expertise required to run competition cases and the complex nature of the investigations justifies that some officials stay in their position for a long time.”
Alfonso Lamadrid de Pablo, competition lawyer at Garrigues, agreed the department has specific needs for industry expertise: “DG COMP is a different animal.”
Other lawyers, however, argued that the competition department’s long-lasting bosses mean that its managers could become fossilized in their thinking.
“After a time, heads of unit can be intellectually exhausted. They tend to see everything under the same light, there is no more creativity,” Damien Géradin, partner at Euclid Law, said.
Rules, rules, rules
The broad rule is that all managers (both middle and senior-level) should change jobs every five years. In exceptional circumstances, they can receive a derogation allowing them to serve seven years.
Heads of unit (middle managers) are allowed to do two stints within one department but must move to another after 10 years, unless they are promoted.
The European Commission is sensitive about the HR rules. As one senior EU official put it, when asked for an explanation: “This is none of your business, it is an internal matter.”
Brussels points out that it only implements a mobility policy based on “benchmarks and general principles.” The year limits are, however, described as “rules” by the Commission’s own HR department (see here and here).
That debate should be cleared up when the rules become fully enforceable in January 1. That shift to fully enforceable rules means 2019 is going to be a big year for the department as many of its managers will blow through the official limits.
The Commission’s HR rule book makes no reference to any exemption for the competition department. Indeed, the Senior Officials Policy stresses: “Mobility is an important management tool.”
The policy adds that mobility allows staff to benefit from wider career opportunities; it also “tends to stimulate new thinking” and acts as a “safeguard for the Commission in policy areas where substantial budgets are managed.”
It is also a safeguard in rare policy areas where the Commission’s is ultra-powerful, such as the competition department.
A possible departure wave
To work out the number of officials in DG COMP that are in the relocation zone, POLITICO collected the department’s organigrams available online. There are 19 in total from October 2006 to August 2018.
We then tracked the moves of the heads of unit, directors, deputy directors general and directors general.
The analysis shows that by the end of 2019, 10 heads of units will have been in their post for more than 10 years. Consequently, they should be required to move out of the competition department.
At the head of unit level, the top four officials who have remained in DG COMP the longest are Corinne Dussart-Lefret (unit G4), Manuel Péréz Espín (unit R3), Ewoud Sakkers (unit C4) and Dominique Van der Wee (unit H1). They have already clocked up at least 11 years each at the department as unit chiefs.
By the end of 2019, we can also expect four heads of units to change position as they will reach their seven-year limit. These are Nicholas Banasevic (unit C3) and Daniel Boeshertz (unit F4), Hubert de Broca (unit F1), and Koen Van de Casteele (unit O3).
Three of their colleagues could potentially change post within DG COMP by 2019 if they do not get a derogation to extend their mandate to seven years.
This would be surprising because the department always seems to find a “valid and justified reason” to grant derogations, as the justification is defined under HR rules.
At the director level and higher, four officials will exceed the seven-year limit by the end of 2019, including Antitrust Deputy Director General Cecilio Madero Villarejo and Paul Csiszar. Csiszar was already director for the E unit (basic industries, manufacturing and agriculture) back in October 2006.
Three senior officials, including Merger Deputy Director General Carles Esteva Mosso (taking into account his time as acting deputy director general), should receive a derogation in the coming year if they want to stay in their jobs. They will celebrate more than five years at a senior manager position in DG COMP, unless they change jobs.
All in all, in 2019, directorate C (information, communication and media) could suffer a big hit, with four of the six heads of unit to replace.
Directorates E (basic industries, manufacturing and agriculture) and G (cartels) could be in the same boat: HR may have to replace their directors and two heads of unit in each.
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