The sheer number of comments at the main post ‘So I Won’t Be A Commission Official‘ has been causing problems, so all the old comments are here instead, and hence searchable.


  1. Sitting A5 in law next week and preparing for the essay topics. Any estimates of what topics are likely to come up?

    I guess the relationship between ECHR and ECJ or EU and HR in general are plausible topics.

  2. Hi.
    Does anybody know what were the subjects like for the EU10 written exam in Microeconomics/business administration?

    Thank you.

  3. @Kiwi

    coming back to our discussion about shortage of English translators, chances of getting recruited etc.

    So looking at the reserve list, you can see that the number included in the reserve list is much smaller than the target number. This is in line with what I have said earlier – shortage of potential candidates for translators among English native speakers.
    The questions would be – why are some people waiting so long on the lists? But then again, you got your invitation for an interview just a few days after becoming “a person on the list”. I have no idea how to explain this. Perhaps you will be able to explain this after getting inside… We count on you! Unless we get in earlier, then we’ll try to figure out ourselves. :-)))

    By the way, how are the things with you recruitment going?

  4. As you can see things look a bit different around here as a result of a number of changes I’ve made to the blog over the New Year. A summary of the changes is here.

    Essentially as regards this discussion all comments are now grouped into pages of 25 comments, and the layout is now much clearer and easier to follow.

    A few comments left here were lost when the server move was completed, so here they all are for you:

    Author : frustrated

    it has become a hallowed tradition by now:

    “Best of wishes for the New Year and yet again I wish you all a sense of patience and a penchaant for absurdist humor. May we not spend many more years like this (in dubio/limbo that is).”

    Author : Stefano

    You have one month after pubblication of the competition result.
    In this case keep in mind that you have no right to know who passed, you have only the right to reply to the sender including your complain. The procedure is always defined “secret”.
    This is also valid if during the procedure a grade was assigned (eg. all the competitions from AD6 to AD9 where there is no fix grade assigned).
    E-Mail is acceptable, but I suggest to use registered Mail in addition.
    Any change to this rule should be in the copetition call which you should have (I use to save them together with the application form).



    Author : A
    3 Comment:
    Happy New Year to Jon and all readers and contributors of the “so i won’t be a commission official” comment!


    I refer to your comment about writing to epso regarding revising your application. Do you know if there is a deadline for doing it? To whom one should write and how? Did you write by email? To the person who signed the initial letter about your non-admission to the written stage?

    Thanks for replying!

    Kiwi, thanks for your useful account of your interview!
    You had some serious questions. Congratulations!

  5. jerome

    yes, i agree with your last post and that’s part of frustration i felt 5 years ago. being belgian does not help when it comes to recruitment in these kind of organisations… (it’s such a small country though ;P)

  6. frustrated

    Just re-read it… important element I should stress: your nationality won’t be a problem for becoming a laureate, it just gets real ugly once you are looking to be recruited. Heads-of-unit factor “geographic diversity” into the equation… and you can bet your pretty arse Belgians come 2p a dozen and the odd UK national will be wooed by all heads-of-unit… all in the game.

  7. frustrated


    The more contestants, the more luck will play a part, certainly in those first eliminary rounds. The more luck plays a part, the less any day you study beyond a good basic level will stand to help you. If you are generally interested in politcies, read a newspaper, perhaps are subscribed to a weely like The Economist, I would say cramming a few books just before the exams should suffice.

    As far as being Belgian is concerned, I can garantuee you this is a(n extra given you are EU15) handicap at AD level. They won’t put this in writing, but heads-of-unit and HR people will bluntly put it to you like that over the phone. Things are a bit less bleak if you aim for Luxemburg and not Brussels (and even then…).

    I’m just honnest here… It’s been 4 years since I first heard an open AD comp would be organized (the one preceding that was even before I graduated, it really was a twice-in-generation kind of thing)… 3.5 years since I sent my inscription, 3 years since the written exam, almost 2 years since the oral exam and 20 months or so on a reserve list.

    Trust me…. think of it as a lottery ticket; not just the exams, but also the recruitment once you’d get to that stage. In the mean time, get on with your life…. plenty of opportunities out there.

  8. jerome


    thanks for the honest opinion. it just seems that the test is so competitive that you would need that much to study. plus, i wouldn’t be doing this full time since i have a regular job.

    as for my nationality, how much do you think it affects the selection process? anyone else has thoughts/experiences with this?

    merry christmas to all! J.

  9. frustrated


    1) 10 months is absurdly long; 1 month should do nicely…. Please do bear in mind there’s also a fair share of luck involved.

    2) I don’t want to rain on your parade, but if you are a male Belgian applying for an AD comp, you better have some serious inside contacts or buckle up for a very long, frustrating march through the dessert.

    My take on things: get on with your life as if there were no commission; just see it as a lottery ticket.

  10. Misericordia


    Yes they definitely announced it right at the beginning because I remember musing about what this extra sheet could possibly contain. But you’re right, that’s not the ideal time and the written instructions are ambiguous.

    On the one hand I hope they’re lenient towards you because your complaint is very reasonable – literally thinking outside the box ho ho (sorry). On the other hand, I squeezed my answers into those tiny spaces, which obviously meant I had to answer in less detail and the presentation was appalling. Anyway, it’s all over now… calm thoughts 🙂

  11. Pedder

    @ Misericordia

    Did they announce it at the beginning?? I must have missed that! (might have been a good option to announce it again after about 15 minutes or so, when people actually read the tasks) I was totally surprised when they asked to submit the attached sheet at the end of the test… I used the attached form as a scratch paper – so I did note some stuff on there (my initial thoughts, which I then transferred to the “real” answer sheet paper in full sentences) – but doubt they are able to read that.

    I also wondered why they did not do any announcements in German… Would be interesting to know if anyone took it in German at all.

  12. @ Caro
    Back when I worked for the Council of Europe it was on temporary contracts (which they don’t do any more) so one language was fine, and now it’s freelance so again fine.

    If you decide to try again, I think you’ll have a better chance as your children will be older etc. Perhaps you could work on your French now through evening classes etc and maybe combine a language course with a family holiday sometime?

    Good luck and thanks for your good wishes…

  13. @Kiwi

    Thanks for trying to find out about your marks, what a shame they don’t reveal them. In the letter extract at the top of this page they also revealed the successful candidates’ minimum score, so perhaps they’ve changed their policy. If anyone else can shed any light on this subject, I’d be interested to hear their comments!

    It’s interesting to hear you have a language background, in a previous post you mentioned doing French at school and ‘adding Italian’, so I was wondering where you acquired your languages! I am impressed that you managed to build up your Italian so quickly, though. I myself did two years of Open University French a couple of years ago to build on my school French, then I started doing practice translations this year after the competition was announced, but I have been so busy with working and family that I just couldn’t put in enough time practising. I was taking a gamble on having more time in the summer and was disappointed to hear in May that the exams were already in June! I think your approach of doing lots of translations must have helped a lot. My main problem now with French is just my linguistic competence – I think my translation experience helps me compensate for my lack of a “feel” for the language, but only up to a point! But with a young family I can’t get away to spend some time in a French-speaking country to do some really intensive language learning.

    I love your story about having to run back to breastfeed, I can really identify with that! We drove back to the UK via Brussels (I live in Berlin) so that I could take my test and not have to leave the baby – 9 months old at the time – and while I took the tests my husband drove around Brussels hoping the kids wouldn’t wake up from their nap! I flew to Brussels for a day to take the exam, which worked out ok, but I can’t really leave the kids for a whole week yet (I work a 30-hour week so they already have a mummy deficit), maybe in a few years.

    That’s interesting that you worked for the Council of Europe, I thought they wanted more than one language? I know they want excellent French, which has stopped me applying there in the past. I work for a German ministry and I have to translate quite a lot for ECHR cases, I must say I really enjoy that side of my job.

    Well, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you this afternoon! All the best, caro

  14. Hi Caro!

    I guess your unsuccessful experience with the EU concours inspired you to be such a generous contributor to this blog! But that is good.
    Coming back to your question…
    I will not do any special searching in order to find out when the last concour for English translator took place, but I think that there was at least one between the one in 2002 that you mention and the one taking place at the moment. So it is more frequent than you say. Now, the latest concour did not give as many prospective translators as planned (again, it does not make sense to make any obsessive investigation; I just remember that I had a look at some official statistics and the number was much smaller than they wanted).
    As you stated, EU translator concours are open to all EU citizens, but, as you observed, non-native speakers usually fail. This is true not only for English, but for all languages. It is rare that non-native speakers draft correctly and have vocabulary that is rich enough to express the whole meaning. Certainly there are people fluent enough to do this and I am sure there are such people in the translation services of the EU, but they are exceptions. And we are talking about the usual trends.
    Had the previous English translator concour “produce” enough translators, perhaps the present concour would not be taking place. Perhaps there would be one next year or in two years etc.

    Now, I can add more to that. I read in some English local newspaper that the EU is afraid that it could not recruit enough English translators as there are not so many Brits with sufficient knowledge of foreign languages that apply. And that this is due to poor standard of foreign languages in the UK. But remember, the journalist was not talking about the translators who exist, are active etc. He was talking about the relatively small number of potential translators who mastered two foreign languages (two languages of 23 EU official tongues, so unfortunately your Russian is out in this case) on the scale of the whole big United Kingdom. I guess this journalist based his knowledge on some comments made by the EU staff involved in competition planning.

    I think this is all I wanted to say. I hope I shed some light on the subject.
    By the way, I took part in the admission test of the current concours, did well, but got just a little less point than required to move on to the next stage. So unfortunately I could not come to the written test. I would have loved to test myself at this stage when you have to translate, so I am sorry to have missed it this time.

    Now, a question to you: on the basis of what I said above, do you think that I am a native speaker or not? Tell me please what you think.


  15. @Kiwi

    BTW, did you manage to find out about your marks?

    Also, you mentioned that you had French at school and added Italian since deciding to do a concours – can I ask how you prepared (i.e. have you studied languages?) and do you have any experience as a translator?

    All the best for your interview, it must be coming up pretty soon now!

  16. Thanks sebastian.

    So they’re recruiting the insiders who didn’t have to sit through the 3 grueling rounds of testing, before they actually recruit people who are on the reserve lists? I know there are quite a few people still on the reserve lists who haven’t even been contacted. So what should a person who is on the reserve list do?

  17. @Christos
    Thanks for that, I’ll take it as a positive sign then since there are 40 places on the reserve list and only 7 days of interviews.

    I found your book extremely helpful, by the way, though time will tell whether I get the result I’m hoping for!

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