Secretariat and other EP staff
Who are they?
The European Parliament has about 6000 employees, a third of which sit in the linguistic services. Political advisors to the political groups are also employees of the Parliament.
The political groups have little or no influence on most of the European Parliament staff appointments, except for the higher levels (Director and Director-General) that are appointed by the Bureau of the Parliament, composed of MEPs of all political groups.
The civil servants that work in the general secretariat are supposed to carry out their duties in a politically neutral way. Oddly enough, they are however allowed to be members of political groups or even to stand for election, the only pre-condition for the latter being that they take a temporary leave!
Moreover, it is not unusual for staff from the political groups to go the general secretariat, and vice versa.
Where are they?
Members of the secretariat are true jet-setters, with individual offices in Luxembourg (official seat of the secretariat) or Brussels and shared offices in Strasbourg.
What do they do?
The staff includes interpreters, secretaries, administrators, translators, assistants, clerical staff and manual or service staff.
At the head is the Secretary-General, highest European Parliament official, appointed by the Bureau. Under him, the tasks are split up in eight Directorates-General (DGs) and a Legal Service, all headed by a Director General and sub-divided in Directorates.
Each European Parliament Committee has its own permanent staff or “secretariat” made up of 4 to 10 administrators and a Head of Unit.
A Committee’s secretariat can play a considerable role in shaping the work of that Committee. It is not unusual to see a Rapporteur rely more heavily on the staff of his Committee than on his own assistants, simply because of the experience the Committee staff often has in the areas the Committee specialises in.
Their tasks notably cover:
- Briefing MEPs on past positions of the Committee
- Conducting background research on a given Report
- Helping in the drafting of Reports.
Their assignment to certain tasks depends on the one hand on their expertise but also on their linguistic skills in relation to the languages spoken by a given Rapporteur.
Why would they care about your issue?
As Parliament officials are supposed to look at issues from a politically-neutral perspective, the main arguments to convince them are usually technical by nature, especially as regards the Committee secretariats. Coming with a well-argumented briefing that makes sense and takes into consideration the fact that they cover a broad range of topics and discussions on a day-to-day basis still works best!
Good to know
A recently introduced “mobility” policy entails that all parliament staff is supposed to change function on a regular basis, normally three years for the junior staff and seven years for the more senior posts. In other terms, once they finally got to grips with the issues they need to address, they are moved to another position! The other side of the coin is of course that this new policy has put an end to the practice whereby the same official would deal with the same function sometimes for decades.
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