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What does it take to become an EU employee?

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On 9 February 2016 the National University of Public Service organized an EU career day for its students. Dr. Boglárka Koller, Vice Dean at the Faculty of International and European Studies said that the event was designed to meet the needs of the students who would like to get more familiar with the EU qualifying exams. On the occasion that new Concours-themed courses will start soon, dr. Gabor Zupkó, Head of Representation at the European Commission, dr. András Czeti, Counsellor at the Permanent Representation of Hungary to the EU and dr. Katalin Freier, former delegate of the European External Action Service shared their experiences on working for the EU.

As a start of the day, Gábor Zupkó encouraged the audience to play an active role in the life of the Union. “There is no such thing as the Union and Hungary: every Hungarian is the citizen of the Union”, he said, which results in inevitable benefits. In addition to the ability of accessing the common market or the opportunity of studying abroad, EU civil service positions become available as well. Jobs with the EU provide longer-lasting contracts, better working conditions and higher wages compared to the private sector. And what does it take to become an EU employee? First and foremost faith in Europe, knowledge and skills to pass the qualifying exams and a bit of luck – he said.

András Czeti gave a detailed description of the qualifying exams. The Corvinus University associate professor said that the current Concours exams consist of five parts. With a Bachelor’s degree in hand, applicants shall register on the website of the European Personnel Selection Office to complete a computerized test in a dedicated test centre. The test which lasts approximately two hours is made up of a verbal and a numerical reasoning part and is made complete with abstract reasoning and a situational judgement tasks. Candidates shall pass each part with a minimum of 50%. This is followed by the so-called E-tray, a simulated work task. Applicants have to decide between possible courses of actions based on an outline of emails, evaluating the opportunities on a relative scale. As the last stage of the exam, candidates are asked to prepare a case study in the assessment centre making use of 40-50 pages of given background material. The case study is followed by a group debate, a personal interview and a 10-minute small lecture that the candidate has to prepare on spot touching on given material again. Once the candidate succeeds in all steps, his name will appear in the central database allowing institutes to reach out regarding vacancies.

Katalin Freier warned the audience: the ability to speak different languages is one of the most important prerequisites of filling a position in the EU. Work is carried out mainly in English, but French and German language skills are also expected. In case of Brussels positions, one has to speak French fluently as it may be the official language of mailing. It is good to know however that following the Lisbon Treaty, EU employees may work outside the Union as well, holding a position in one of the 139 offices worldwide belonging to the European External Action Service. Delegates of the European External Action Service may work in a variety of countries such as Botswana, Ivory Coast or Thailand.

Currently, the European Commission employs roughly 45,000 officials and 10,000 contractual employees out of which approximately 1300 are Hungarian. Bearing the 1.97% EU population share in mind, one might say that this equals a 50% over-representation, but there are no reasons to worry, argued András Czeti, as there are no reserved places or quotas applying to officials within the Union.  March sees the next possibility to register for the Concours exams, while May-June will give space for the computerized tests. The tests of the assessment centre are expected to take place in September-October. Once a candidate receives positive feedback in all stages, he will be registered for work sometime around December. With a bit of luck, spring applications submitted this year can lead to job interviews and proposals in the beginning of 2017.

Text: Dorottya Pétery
Photos: Dénes Szilágyi
Tags: EU, career day, 2016