Unions ask commission chief to pause Chafea closure process


Representatives of staff at several EU organisations have written to European commissioners to express their opposition to the closure of an EU agency in Luxembourg. Pictured: Flags fly in front of a European Commission building in Kirchberg, 23 March 2011. Photo credit: Myri_bonnie (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) 

Labour leaders have sent a letter to the European Commission outlining their objections to plans on shuttering an EU agency based in Luxembourg.

They asked for the “suspension of the relocation” of the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency and for staff members to be able to “fully participate in the social dialogue concerning the reorganization of the executive agencies.”

The commission said in late April that Chafea’s functions would be shifted to a new outfit in Brussels in next year. Staff at Chafea have been told that they will be offered transfers to Brussels or another EU institution in Luxembourg, or possibly be made redundant.

Several trade unions and staff committees, representing employees at Chafea and several other EU institutions, criticised the plan in the letter sent last week. Among their points:

  • The Asselborn-Georgieva agreement (an arrangement between the European Commission and Luxembourg’s government on staffing levels in the grand duchy, signed in 2015) calls for “health” programmes to be based in Luxembourg;
  • The commission’s proposed new health programme will be run under its health directorate, which is based in Luxembourg, so it would not be more efficient (part of the commission’s rationale for the realignment) to locate a new health agency in Brussels;
  • Some 3,000 staff members at other executive agencies now fear for their own job security; and
  • Career prospects at executive agencies appear to have been “blocked”.

The staff representatives called for the relocation process to be immediately frozen and for a task force to be created that would address the reorganisation of executive agencies with social partners.

The letter was addressed to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, and Johannes Hahn, European budget and administration commissioner. Its signatories included the presidents of the Renouveau & Démocratie, Generation 2004, Union Syndicale Fédérale Luxembourg, Union for Unity and the European Civil Service Federation (FFPE) trade unions. It was also signed by the staff committees at Chafea, the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Innovation and Networks Executive Agency and Research Executive Agency. The letter was dated 8 May.

A European Commission official told Delano on Tuesday that staff concerns would be addressed during an internal meeting on 13 May. She reiterated that “Chafea staff will keep their jobs and be transferred to Brussels with their programmes” or the commission will try to find them another position in Luxembourg.

Updated with European Commission comment, 12 May at 11am