Friday, March 18, 2005

What to do with "F8&5£8g Luddites"

Following an exchange of emails between one Michael John Jones, EU translator, and Neil Herron(of the Metric Martyrs fame) the EU has sent out a missive that makes it very clear that they are unhappy.
The missive was sent out to, I understand all functionaries – or maybe just to the Departments effected by the Herron case.

Dear colleagues”, it starts, “We have recently had a major revision of the Staff Regulations which has made more explicit the rights and duties of individual officials, particularly in contacts with the public outside the Commission”.

Yes what they are talking about here is communication with the great unwashed. You lot.

It is worth noting the distinction now made between circumspection (being generally careful and keeping a sense of proportion in dealings with the world outside the Commission) and discretion (keeping quiet about facts and other information to which you have had privileged access as a Commission servant). The former would include not actively seeking contacts with journalists”.

Well any employer would no doubt prefer if their staff were cautious when talking to hacks, Take a look at what has been going on over at Apple Corp to see the mess you can get into.

"Articles 12 and 17 call for circumspection
First of all and as a general rule Articles 12 and 17 of the Staff Regulations imply that officials and other servants must observe circumspection in their behaviour. Circumspection calls in particular for a degree of moderation and for officials to conduct themselves at all times with a due sense of proportion and propriety.
It is more incumbent on the most senior officials to show self-control in what they say and write, as well as in their attitudes. Assessment is also based on the amount of publicity given to an expression of opinion or a particular action”.

So the response to Paul Belien’s article in which a senior official in the forward planning unit of the Foreign Affairs DG (RELEX), Mr Y Mollard La Bruyère, stated his opposition to the Iraq war. A war in which half of the member states of the EU were active supporters, would be in breach of this protocol (letter 4).

The obligation as regards circumspection is different from discretion with regard to facts and information to which officials or other servants have become privy while performing their duties."
I wonder if they are allowed to mention that the Stability pact is a failure, or that the Lisbon agenda has become the biggest standing joke of the International conference set?
But they key quote whenit comes to Mr Herron’s complaint seems to be this (my emphasis),

Particular attention should be drawn to the limits on freedom of expression, especially in view of the current period of ratification of the draft Treaty on a Constitution and the run-up to the referendums in France and some other countries and - eventually - the UK, when political tempers may be running high. Special caution needs to be exercised in using e-mail and in particular one's Commission mailbox for the dissemination of personal opinions”.

Now this definitely means that Mr Jones is in for a bit of stick from the internal enquiry into his behaviour, but does it also mean that those who have been blathering on in support for Margot’s musings should be similarly censured?

Although there is more explicit protection of whistleblowers in the new Staff Regulations and their implementing rules, everyone ought at least to have learned from the van Buitenen case that officials who believe they have uncovered untoward goings-on have a duty to inform their line manager and senior management first. If they think those persons may be implicated, there is an alternative pathway now set out in the implementing rules. Only after these avenues have been exhausted is it acceptable for officials to turn to the European Parliament or the public”.
And even then you get mullahed by the institutions – talk to Robert McCoy if you don’t believe me.

"Freedom of expression.
The Staff Regulations' hitherto stringent confidentiality requirement must be brought into line with the Commission's declared political intention to work as transparently as possible. Freedom of speech remains a fundamental right of every official. In order to function, however, the Commission has to be able to rely on a certain degree of confidentiality. In this respect the Commission must, as an employer, steer a careful course between divergent demands. As part of the reform, the areas in which officials must maintain confidentiality are therefore to be defined more precisely.
Officials are, as in the past, to be required to refrain from any public comment, which could adversely reflect on their position as officials. As in the past, officials are also to be required to preserve the confidentiality of all facts and matters of which they become aware in the course of their work. A new rule, however, is that the confidentiality principle is no longer to apply to information and documents which are publicly accessible.”

Don’t you love the new rule – it could be described as “the horse has bolted rule”. In an attempt to show that we are transparent, officials are allowed to talk about stuff that the public is already aware of. Bloody marvellous, thank you dear Commission, your humble serfs are forever grateful for your munificent generosity.
Oi! They pay your wages!!!

A fair procedure is established for officials wishing to publish information relating to the activities of the Institutions in a manner that is compatible with basic rights without compromising the legitimate interests of the Communities. Officials will be bound to inform the Appointing Authority of their intention to publish such material. If the Appointing Authority is able to demonstrate that the matter is liable to seriously prejudice the legitimate interests of the Communities, it must inform the official in writing within 30 working days or it will be deemed to have no objections."

I am fascinated by how and under what precise criteria the “the Appointing Authority is able to demonstrate that the matter is liable to seriously prejudice the legitimate interests of the Communities”? I think we should be told.

Here are some other useful references:

The webpage of DG ADMIN giving the Golden Rules on conduct in the service:

A note on circumspection:

Guidance on freedom of expression:

Integrity in general:

The Code of Good Administrative Behaviour (official dealings with the public):

These are all internal apart from the last. You see the note on integrity is only available on the intranet – which means it is undisclosed and it would be in breach of the integrity of staff aspect of the staff regulations to reveal what the staff mean by integrity.
Got that.

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