European Ombudsman: no maladministration in EPSO refusing participation in a selection procedure of a candidate that missed the deadline due to COVID-19 circumstances
The European Ombudsman has issued a decision in case 1445/2020/PL, finding no maladministration occurred by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) refusing to allow a candidate to take a test after the booking period had expired, having the candidate invoked force majeure reasons as a result of COVID-19.
According to the Ombudsman’s view, when adopting its decision EPSO took due account of the reasons why the applicant missed the relevant deadline, namely issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ombudsman’s resolution recalls that EU law clearly recognises that the principle of force majeure may call for flexibility in the application of procedural time limits. However, this principle is subject to very strict requirements, including that the person concerned must demonstrate the necessary diligence and care. Following an inquiry by the Ombudsman, EPSO agreed to assess, on a case-by-case basis, whether candidates are faced with circumstances of force majeure. It identified a number of factors to be considered, one of which is whether the candidate is incapacitated or unable to meet the obligations within the set deadline, due to serious and unforeseeable circumstances entirely out of their control, and to which they are unable to find a solution.
The Ombudsman noted that EPSO informed the applicant about the booking period more than a week before that period started, and that all applicants were duly informed that, if they did not book within the given period, their application would be considered withdrawn. The Ombudsman also found that although the applicant was overwhelmed by the situation caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, that situation can neither be considered unforeseeable or out of the applicant’s control, nor such that it was impossible to find a solution.
The Ombudsman’s decision closing the case is available here.