According to the Financial Times, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is considering easing the conditions of recruitment for European civil servants from the UK. The low number of British civil servants working for European bodies and organisations is one reason for this recent consideration. The population of the UK represents 12% of the European population, but only 1.5% of applicants who passed the entry exams were British. Many officials see this situation threatening the UK’s political weight in European decisions and therefore urge both their country and the commission to solve the problem.
According to Barroso, the main problem for British applicants is their lack of language skills. To successfully pass the European exam, future civil servants need to answer questions in their native language and another European tongue. They also have to show a good working knowledge of a third European language. These requirements often prove to be too much for regular British civil servants who are coming through an educational system that no longer requires students to learn a language.
Barroso, an Anglophile despite his use of French when working with the commission, has suggested creating a specific test for British nationals. This, however, was not welcomed by everyone. France fears that creating a different and specific test for English native speakers will undermine the influence of the French language within the different European institutions. Other countries question the fairness of creating a separate test and many feel that limited language skills of British employees could create difficulties from an administrative perspective. More importantly, many feel that encouraging applicants with limited language skills could undermine the emphasis the European institutions have always placed on the importance of language skills across Europe – both inside and outside of the organisations.
In an effort to improve the language skills and opportunities British citizens have, members of the government are starting to create a number of initiatives. British Foreign Secretary William Hague has decided to launch the “EU careers month” for example by creating websites and events promoting the different career paths for European civil servants and the skills required.
These initiatives combined with focused language training could help future applicants have a better chance of working in such a linguistically and culturally diverse organisation. In turn, the UK would have a higher number of people in place who could help to influence decision-making processes around any issues that affect it.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2011