EPSO competition cancelled – is this really the least-bad option?

*Update 21.02.2024, Politico picked up this story.* Original article: Here’s the story so far on the revamped, updated and not-quite-ready-for-general-release rollercoaster ride of recruitment to the European institutions that was AST/154/22.  From the launch of this competition (22.09.2022) to the opening of an ombudsman inquiry (OI/1/2023/VS, 15.03.2023[1]) and on to the unexpected (and abrupt) decision of the EPSO director to cancel the whole thing (31.03.2023), Generation 2004 and all OSPs have been inundated with requests for help on the many and various issues encountered by candidates (covering everything from technical aspects to poor instructions to odd and alarming experiences), and it’s not finished yet!

Now, with the decision by EPSO to take the ‘nuclear option’ and just delete all, there are even more (rightfully) unhappy people than before.

 “I did not realise the exam was in the middle of the night”. “I was asked to show my private body parts that I was not hiding anything”. “They took pictures of my ID and recorded my house”. “My cat entered the room, so I got disqualified”. “I had to lock my child in the bathroom during the exam”. “The system was blocking, and it was on their side”. “I had to call the helpdesk in the USA”. “Nobody picked up the phone”. “I had no reply for two weeks, then the deadline was over”. “I passed the competition, but still want to launch a complaint due to this highly stressful situation!” “I am happy, it was cancelled”. ”Why was the competition cancelled? I achieved fantastic results”.  

We believe these to be the tip of the iceberg. Imagine how many people might have considered simply that they had wasted enough time already without investing further time and energy in opening a complaint.

The number and size of the accumulated difficulties was enormous. We invited those who had difficulties to share their experiences and examples for potential action. OSPs across the Commission and other institutions as well as the Staff Committees were alerted to this issue. We realised that the negative impact on the candidates and the EU reputation was huge. This is why we decided to work together to take common action (‘Common Front’ e.g. 25.01.2023 note) to address the services in charge – DG HR and EPSO.

We also raised the matter in a meeting with the Head of Cabinet Commissioner Hahn – Mr Mueller (15.03.2023).  We raised your concerns through the Central Staff Committee (CSC) (15.12.2022, note + annex). The EPSO Director replied that there was nothing to worry about (17.01.2023) and the director HR.B Recruitment & Mobility stated at the 16.03.2023 CSC plenary that the issues raised had been solved and the affected candidates allowed to resit the test[2].

The unexpected end of the flagship experiment

A mere 9 working days after the last announcement that all was to be resolved, the EPSO director unexpectedly cancelled this competition with the support of the EPSO Management Board (extraordinary meeting, 29.03.2023).

‘This was the first large scale competition with computer-based testing being done exclusively online.’ (EU careers, Press release, 31.03.2023)

And the other options offered?

Notwithstanding all our efforts as staff representatives, our constructive criticism was at the end not admitted. Generation 2004 was very disappointed because there were at least 4 possible outcomes put forward (we insisted on documenting this in CSC note ARES(2023)2273159).

  1. do nothing
  2. cancel the whole thing
  3. everyone redoes the computer-based testing (CBT)
  4. retest for some candidates

Our colleagues dealing with this file were reiterating in every possible forum and meeting (CSC, Common Front, other institutions and the administration itself) the need to choose the best possible scenario, the one which would be the least damaging for all the candidates (whether experiencing any problems or not at all) and for the reputation of the capacities of the EU institutions to deal with difficulties in a fair, balanced and timely manner.

Nevertheless, based on a strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats (SWOT) analysis that was provided, the worst scenario was chosen, namely, to cancel the competition and launch a new one under the new competition model in September 2023.

Some of those weaknesses and threats

This decision was taken in spite of the inevitable:

  • significant delay in the delivery of laureates and a reserve list,
  • dissatisfaction among the candidates who made it through in the previous stage, to say nothing of the reputational damage for the EU institutions,
  • expenditure caused by the cancellation and relaunching of a new competition,
  • time for the translations and for the agreement among many EU institutions.

Unfortunately, the EPSO Management Board took the worst decision that will affect more people than in the case of the scenario of retesting fully or partially the candidates, without taking into consideration the human factor.

What now?

Generation 2004 is pushing for this decision to be reconsidered. EPSO should find an appropriate legal solution to retest the candidates who had difficulties for the various reasons listed (option 4 of the 4 offered above). We want EPSO to reconsider keeping the results of all those candidates that passed the first stage of EPSO/AST/154/22.

For the future, we repeat our requests to:

  • reconsider the new EPSO model recently announced against the lessons learned in latest competitions by ensuring the possibility for the candidates in future EPSO competitions to be able to take part in the tests even though they do not possess laptops or required equipment;
  • test in advance the new model, the proctoring methods and the proctors and to provide evidence of these tests to Generation 2004 in order not to face similar complaints again;
  • ensure that the data-protection regime is respected, and the candidate’s data will remain within the EU territory and no data will be transferred to 3rd countries;
  • offer testing slots to candidates within their normal working hours only and not during the night as happened here;
  • address the disproportionate burden of responsibility falling on the candidate for all the stages of the competition: a barrier to equal rights and equal opportunities in EPSO competitions;
  • to organise social dialogue to ensure a transparent way forward and equal treatment of all candidates.


Was option 2 really the least-bad option EPSO could find? What happens now with the ombudsman inquiry? What happens with the other competition: EPSO/AST/155/2022? What message is EPSO sending to potential future candidates? That you must accept whatever happens and trust to fate? If you complain or make any noise (via the press, the OSPs or the staff committees) or involve the ombudsman we’ll just cancel the whole competition? Is this the modern, flexible and inclusive European public administration we strive to be?

Generation 2004 has always been here for those in need facing injustice or discrimination.

The staff representation as a whole has not yet agreed on collective or Common Front/staff committee action on this cancellation.

At no point have we advocated for the cancellation of the competition.

Generation 2004 is here to support you, do not hesitate to contact us, whether you need help with an issue or even just to share your thoughts.

If you appreciate our work, please consider becoming a member of Generation 2004.

The Generation 2004 team

[1] Here is a summary and the complaint itself. We are unclear whether the cancellation of this competition means that the complaint is cancelled.

[2] 16.03.2023 CSC plenary: Director HR.B Recruitment & Mobility states: 4600 tests done and 4400 candidates were not unhappy with the process. Of the remaining 200, EPSO went through the complaints individually. 100 complaints were upheld and the candidates allowed to resit the test. 100 were not upheld: the issues were largely to do with connectivity and EPSO noted that 60 of those candidates had not done the pre-test connection. There are no published figures on this as yet.

Obsolete updates:

Leave a Reply