Working for the EU: “This job is the fulfilling of my dream”

Fabio Galatioto, Head of Unit for Personnel of the Directorate General for External Policies of the Union at the European Parliament, tells about his job and what is important if you want to work for the EU.

Mr. Galatioto, what exactly is your job at the European Parliament?

As Head of Unit for Personnel of the Directorate General for External Policies of the Union, I manage a team of HR specialists (human resources) in charge of supporting of the management or implementing directly different aspects of the staff policy and management. We deal with recruitments of newcomers, training and development, trainees, but also logistics and work-related travelling. 

What is the Directorate General for External policies of the Union?

DG EXPO, as we say, focuses on foreign policy and action providing expertise to the Parliament’s main actors in this field. It ensures the secretariat of the Parliamentary committees in the fields of foreign affairs, human rights, security and defence, development and international trade and supports the work of interparliamentary delegations and regional multilateral assemblies. It also ensures the organisation and follow up of European Parliament election observation missions and of facilitating initiatives for dialogue with and support for new and emerging democracies. The DG’s work aims to help the European Parliament drive and deliver the EU’s work on the international stage.

How many people work in DG EXPO?

Some 230 people within the Directorate General, of course much more are involved at the level of the whole EP Secretariat. [Editor's note: around 7.000 employees]

How the European Parliament works:

Where do your colleagues come from?

In my team, the most direct colleagues come from about half a dozen different countries (Belgium, Latvia, Netherlands, Romania etc), at the level of the Directorate General, I would say that all EU nationalities are represented, and more as some colleagues with several nationalities and a part of our trainees come from non-EU countries.

If you are looking for new companions, what in particular should he or she bring? What is particularly important in the application?

Skills, competences, but often also the accuracy and clarity of the profile is very important. If it comes to a more direct act of candidature (for a traineeship, for example) or in the framework of a further step of selection, besides the skills, the languages and the experience, it is important that the commitment, the vision and also a good degree of adaptability of the person to our quite special environment are visible and convincing.

How important is it for the job to be convinced of the European idea?

Maybe in the last years even more important than before. So many voices – often not well informed and maybe sometimes not willing to inform citizens properly – have raised in the last years against the EU, and its institutions sometimes also (rarely the EP though). So today even more you have to believe in the project and the importance of contributing to it.

What are the general requirements? For example, do you have to be a citizen of an EU country?

The minimum eligibility criteria for applying for an open competition or selection procedure and, therefore, to be chosen for filling a vacant post are:

  • being a citizen of an EU country
  • being entitled to full rights as an EU citizen
  • having fulfilled any obligations imposed by national laws concerning military service
  • having thorough knowledge of one of the official EU languages and satisfactory knowledge of a second official EU language

More details on this and how to apply to competitions can be found on the website of the European Personnel Selection Office, EPSO, the interinstitutional office responsible for selecting staff to work for all institutions and agencies of the EU.

What do you think about the applicant having a degree in European Studies? Is that helpful?

It is useful to keep in mind that when a service within an Institution looks for a new colleague, the HR will refer to databases of people who have passed a competition or a selection procedure. Selecting a candidate from this “reserve list”, as we call it, is for certain aspects a sort of a bet. When we identify the candidates that we would like to interview based on their profile, CV, etc. some elements can hint towards a certain degree of “guarantee” of knowledge and potential commitment, this is the case for European Studies. Previous experiences (traineeships and such) are also an important element. And let’s not forget the languages ... 

What is the situation with the other EU organisations? Are there certain conditions and requirements?

The general conditions of employment of the officials and contract-staff of all European Institutions are laid down in a regulation, the Staff Regulations, so they are the same. Furthermore, this allow starting a career in an Institution and then moving to another. Only for very specific kinds of job some special condition can apply.

About Fabio Galatioto

Fabio Galatioto, 47, lives in Brussels. He studied law in Rome and was awarded an Erasmus scholarship that took him to Mainz. He then completed his Master of Laws in European Law in Saarbrücken. He joined the European Parliament in 2000, first as a trainee, then as a contract employee and later as an official. Since 2019 he has been Head of the Personnel Unit of the Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union at the European Parliament.

How did you get your own job?

While I was a trainee in the European Parliament, I passed a competition for a job, which is very specific to the EU working environment, Lawyer-Linguist (lawyers who are proficient in a number of languages and are able to proof and enhance the exactitude of legislative texts). After having worked as such for a while, I became advisor to a Director-General, in that job I started dealing with a lot of internal administration rules and procedures, then also with staff matters and, with time, I specialised in HR. I was appointed after an internal selection Head of Unit in the Directorate-General for Personnel for the Reactions with EP staff 8 years ago and I moved, after an internal selection, to DG EXPO one year and a half ago.

Was it helpful to you that you had an Erasmus scholarship?

Definitely yes. Under two different points of view. Working in another EU-country outside your own comfort-zone, with people who do not necessarily talk, think, act like you is incredibly enriching and challenging, but not necessarily for all. An experience like this as a student and for a short period is a good test. It was for me, and I just loved it. And practicing foreign languages was of course very useful.

What does it mean to you to work for the European Parliament?

First of all the fulfilling of my dream-job (I studied European law), and beyond this, the discovery of a working environment which is hardly comparable to any other. It is challenging, it is very varied and never boring, it is supporting with competence, expertise and thorough impartial work the people that we all have chosen as representatives at European level. 

What would you advise our alumni who are interested in a job with the EU?

If studying, learning languages (good, and more than one when possible), acquiring specific technical skills are certainly necessary in order to get a job in an EU Institution, your social competences and adaptability shall not be neglected. As I mentioned, interacting with people who do not talk your language and do not have your socio-cultural background, living (maybe with your family) in a different country than yours, having to travel every time you want to see your parents or your old friends, can be a challenge. Exciting, enriching, but not necessarily easy for all of us. Testing this thorough studying or traineeships abroad, it is a good for you to discover if this kind of life would suit you and make you happy. And happy colleagues are the best colleagues...

Interview: Sabine Giehle

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September 2020

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