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EPO: It’s Like a Family Business – Part III

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The golden rule: people in the Establishment protect people in the Establishment

John Brennan

Summary: A look at how the EPO’s management (Željko Topić in particular) defended the unprecedented promotion of Ms Bergot (wife of the president’s close assistant), even in the face of outcry from EPO staff

THIS is the third part of a four-part series. In part one and in part two we focused on the case of Ms Bergot, who was promoted under very dubious circumstances. Now is a good time to proceed to part three, only two days after the protests that we covered here earlier on. SUEPO’s Web site has just said: “The suspension of three staff representatives in Munich and the attacks on two more in The Hague, attracted quite some attention, most of it rather critical of the EPO.”

“Ms Bergot’s promotion from grade A3 to grade A6 occurred before she had received a standard two-year performance report following her recruitment to the EPO on the 1st of December, 2010.”As a result of these shameful attacks on staff representatives we are only going to accelerate our coverage of EPO scandals, starting with this third part of our latest series (there are more series to come in the future).

In accordance with the requirements of Article 49 Service Regulations, it is established practice at the EPO that for promotion of internal candidates, the competent Selection Board takes into consideration the candidate’s staff reports and remarks (recommendations) made by his/her direct superior.

Ms Bergot’s promotion from grade A3 to grade A6 occurred before she had received a standard two-year performance report following her recruitment to the EPO on the 1st of December, 2010. The first two year reporting period beginning after the end of her probation period would have ended in December 2013.

This means that Ms Bergot, who was initially appointed as administrator at grade A3 with main duties to support her Director (of grade A5) and senior management, was promoted to grade A6 without the competent Selection Board having taken into consideration a single full two-year staff report.

“By the standards of international administrative law, the Vice-President Mr Topić who was Ms Bergot’s direct superior at the time in question could not be an impartial and independent Chairman of the Selection Board which recommended Ms Bergot’s promotion.”The Chairman of the Selection Board recommending the promotion of Ms Bergot was none other than her immediate superior, Mr Željko Topić, who is said to be facing many criminal charges in his home country. The other members of the Selection Board nominated by the President were the Vice-Presidents of Directorates General 1 and 2, Guillaume Minnoye (warning: link to epo.org, so tracking may be possible by EPO management) and Alberto Casado Cerviño (warning: link to epo.org, so tracking may be possible by EPO management).

By the standards of international administrative law, the Vice-President Mr Topić who was Ms Bergot’s direct superior at the time in question could not be an impartial and independent Chairman of the Selection Board which recommended Ms Bergot’s promotion.

Following the announcement of Ms Bergot’s promotion by Mr Topić on the 30th of January (the same year), the EPO Staff Committee voiced strong criticism of the appointment.

Mr Topić immediately responded with an internal Communiqué addressed to all EPO staff in which he claimed that the procedure for the appointment of a new Principal Director 4.3 “was launched and conducted in strict accordance with the applicable rules and included use of an assessment centre and interviews.”

To quote the original:

Elodie Bergot new Principal Director HR


New Principal Director Human Resources as of 1 February 2013

I am pleased to announce that, with effect from 1 February 2013, Elodie Bergot is appointed Principal Director Human Resources (PD 4.3).

Ms Bergot will report directly to me. I wish her every success in her new role.

Željko Topić
Vice-President DG 4

And from the following day (probably because he could not keep silent anymore):

Communiqué from Vice-President DG 4


Email to all staff from the CSC regarding new Principal Director HR

Dear Colleagues,

one of the less edifying aspects of the internal culture of the EPO – very striking to a newcomer such as myself – is the habit of staff representatives of contesting systematically nominations to senior positions.

There have been innumerable challenges over the years, though the post of Principal Director 4.3, Head of Human Resources, seems to attract sustained fire.

Such incidents do not normally call for an individual response. However, this time a highly personalised attack on the new Principal Director 4.3 has been made which crosses the bounds of acceptable discourse and which calls for an immediate rebuttal.

The procedure for the appointment of a new Principal Director 4.3 was launched and conducted in strict accordance with the applicable rules and included use of an assessment centre and interviews. Ms Bergot emerged very clearly as the strongest candidate, a substantive judgement which was reached unanimously by the five members of the selection board.

Indeed, the strict adherence to the rules accounts for the delay in filling the post; in the interim, I performed the functions of PD 4.3 myself.

Those who are appointed to senior positions of responsibility can be expected to carry a heavier burden than most. They should not, however, become the target of dishonest campaigns of vilification. I am confident that the vast majority of staff at the EPO share this view and that there will be no repetition of this lamentable behaviour.

Željko Topić
Vice-President DG 4

Topić further claimed that the decision to select Ms Bergot “was reached unanimously by the five members of the selection board.”

“Bergot’s promotion is still the subject of an appeal at the already-upset (at EPO) International Labour Organisation.”Due to the fact that the members of the selection board are bound to respect the confidentiality of the procedure, it is impossible to verify the claim made by Topić that the decision was “unanimous.”

As we stated in part two, this isn’t over. Bergot’s promotion is still the subject of an appeal at the already-upset (at EPO) International Labour Organisation.

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