The Commission united behind its Vice-President Neil Kinnock in the discussions with staff organisations, while its President, Romano Prodi, took responsibility for the package by accompanying Mr Kinnock to the European Parliament and chairing a 3-hour information session with staff at the end of the day. Speaking to the European Parliament, Mr Prodi admitted that the very slow pace of reform had demoralised staff, but pointed out that they were pursuing a difficult project and it had been necessary to start from scratch which was why the whole process had dragged out so long. He indicated that he took responsibility for the delays and that they were not yet on the home strait. Mr Kinnock said that the reform process would need to be speeded up to prevent staff from becoming demoralised but acknowledged that the most important strands would not be "fully operational" until 2003.The Commission's proposed staff policy ranges from recruitment to retirement and aims to meet the following objectives:- Streamlined recruitment, following needs more precisely: While retaining the principle of recruitment by open competition, the Commission is intent on improving the effectiveness of its recruitment procedures. A rolling three-year forward-looking programme which takes into account the particular skills and qualification needs of the various Commission services would be established. Selection Board members would be seconded from their service of origin for a period of up to two years and trained for the task. When necessary, external recruitment experts would be brought in. Furthermore, the Commission is exploring the possibility of introducing computer-based testing, carried out by specialised test centres across Europe. Work is also progressing actively with the other European Institutions to test the potential of an inter-Institutional recruitment office, on the model of the existing Publications Office (OPOCE), so as to share costs and experience. Finally, in line with its commitment to ending ageism in the workplace, the Commission would abolish the age limit (currently 45) for recruitment for all recruitment competitions published from 1 July 2001.- A more linear career structure to encourage the professional advancement of those who take on new challenges and responsibilities. The new civil servant would have more freedom in moving across jobs in the Commission, depending on the qualifications and experience he/she acquires. Whereas currently progression beyond a certain level is hampered significantly, in future an official's career development would largely depend on his or her proven achievements, acquisition of new skills or qualifications, assumption of new responsibilities. Experience would still count, as is necessary in a public service, but "seniority" would not predominate. Internal barriers blocking upward promotion would be cut. Individual pay rises would also be more closely linked to performance and to taking on new responsibilities and less related to age or time served.- Officials assessed annually and promoted on the basis of their achievements. It is essential that an official's performance and potential are assessed objectively, rigorously, regularly and fairly. This is currently not the...

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