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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 21:02 GMT
EU widens search for staff

By Oana Lungescu
BBC European regional correspondent

Brussels is seeking 3,500 bright professionals from the former communist bloc to work for the European Commission after their countries join the European Union next year.

More than 1,000 will be recruited from Poland, the biggest future member state, and just 83 from the smallest newcomer, Malta.

Of the other 10 countries joining, the Czech Republic and Hungary will get just under 500 jobs each.

We thought we would get quite a large number of applications but 25,000 is really above all our expectations
Guy van Biesen
EU recruitment chief
So will there be a brain-drain from Central and Eastern Europe?

At the EU's busy recruitment office, EPSO, the staff have been wading through thousands of job applications.

'Above all expectations'

They advertised in 10 candidate countries for 500 staff. They got 25,000 applications.

"Usually the candidates are really high level, so it's going to be a tough competition for the concours (entrance exam)," says EPSO boss Guy van Biesen.

"We thought we would get quite a large number of applications because it's the first exercise in the enlargement process, but 25,000 is really above all our expectations."

It was no surprise that most applications - 10,000 - came from Poland.

But 6,000 applied from Slovakia, a country of just five million people.

It's a good sign, says Juraj Migas, Slovakia's head of mission to the EU, suggesting that lots of people are clearly interested in European integration.

Slowdown

But he admits it is not all good.

"There are some people, not only from institutions in Slovakia, but also from different government ministries and even here in the mission who will apply for the concours," he says.

PROSPECTIVE NEW MEMBERS
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Estonia
Hungary
Latvia
Lithuania
Malta
Poland
Slovakia
Slovenia

"So it could happen naturally that some of the people will leave institutions in Slovakia and I think that they are now more needed in Slovakia especially in the time of preparation to become a full member."

At the missions of some applicant countries, as many as one in five diplomats have already applied for EU jobs.

And work in many ministries back home is said to have slowed down because officials are busy studying for the next exams.

There will be 50 this year altogether for interpreters, translators, assistants and civil servants.

There is no age limit and European institutions say they make no discrimination whatsoever.

The new Eurocrats will be university graduates who can work in a multicultural environment and are perfectly fluent in at least two EU official languages.

High salaries

And they will be rich, at least by Central European standards.

"Salaries on the top grades will be around 4,000 euros a month and I think that's quite higher than what's currently in most accession countries," says Guy van Biesen.

In fact, it may be much higher than what most prime ministers earn in Central Europe. It will take years if not decades to match that level of wages.

The only comfort for countries like Slovakia is that the figures are relatively small - there will be only 279 Slovak Eurocrats, recruited over seven years.

Officials are also stressing that the appointment procedure will be rigorous and fair.

"No-one, no government, no one in the leadership of government, no other appointee, no senior manager will have the right, in any shape or form, to make any appointments on the basis of personal preference, unless people coming in have satisfied the rigorous qualification requirements," said Neil Kinnock, the European Commissioner in charge of administrative reform.

A stern warning from Mr Kinnock. But, like with so much in the expanded EU, only time will tell.


SEE ALSO:
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18 Feb 03 |  Europe
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18 Feb 03 |  Europe
EU faces East-West poverty gap
29 Mar 02 |  Europe


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