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Minister Byrne remarks - "A Career for EU" Launch Event

Good afternoon everyone. I am delighted to be with you today to launch “A Career for EU”, Ireland’s new strategy to increase our representation among the staff of the EU’s Institutions and Agencies.

I would like to begin by thanking Noelle and her colleagues for hosting today’s online event. I would also like to extend my thanks to Catherine Day for joining us today, and I look forward to hearing her views on this subject later on.

The importance of promoting careers in the EU Institutions

The promotion of careers in the European Union has been a key priority of mine since taking up my role as Minister of State for European Affairs last year.

Indeed, this is a key whole-of-government priority. We recognise that more needs to be done to encourage and help Irish people to successfully apply for posts in the EU’s Institutions. That is why the Programme for Government contained a commitment to develop this new strategy.

It is no secret that Ireland is facing a “demographic cliff” in its representation among the staff of the EU’s Institutions, as many senior Irish officials will soon retire. Put simply, not enough Irish people are applying for and securing permanent posts in the EU Institutions to make up for their departure.

It is very important that Irish citizens continue to serve in the EU Institutions at all levels and all policy areas. By doing so, Irish people will remain at the heart of Europe and use their unique experience and capabilities to contribute to the development of the Union.

Impact of Brexit

The UK’s departure from the EU reinforces the need for more Irish people to consider a career in the EU Institutions. Post-Brexit, Ireland will be the largest English-speaking EU Member State.

At the same time, English will remain an official EU language as well as the de facto working language of many of the EU’s Institutions. This means that official EU documents will continue to be drafted, amended and formatted in English long into the future. The EU will also continue to carry out much of its communications work through English.

As a result, Irish people should increasingly be in demand across the EU Institutions following the UK’s exit, provided they apply for and pass the recruitment competitions in sufficient numbers.

The new Strategy

Our new “A Career for EU” Strategy takes into account factors that currently affect the application and success rates of Irish people in competitions, including the language regime governing the recruitment process and the high level of competition for posts, with candidates for positions in the Institutions coming from across the EU’s 27 Member States.

Late last year I launched a public consultation which helped us to develop this new strategy. We received valuable feedback from many members of the public on some of the measures needed to ensure Irish people are recruited in bigger numbers than they have been in recent years. I would like to thank those listening in today who took the time to contribute to that consultation.

The headline measures included the new strategy stem from the feedback received as part of that consultation. These headline measures include commitments:

  • Expand the existing EU Jobs campaign, including increased promotion and outreach to second and third-level students.

It is really important that as many students as possible are aware of the fantastic career opportunities that are available to Irish people in Europe.

It is also very important that students understand fully the benefits that multilingualism brings more generally, and I hope this new strategy encourages more young Irish people to keep up their language skills when they leave school, even if they do not go on to have a career in the EU.

Furthermore, I want to make sure that the many Irish people who speak another EU language at home are aware of the opportunities their language skills can provide them with.

  • Provide tailored support and training to all Irish candidates applying for posts in the EU Institutions.

We aim to provide Irish candidates with training for each stage of the recruitment process, from the initial computer-based tests all the way through to the assessment centre and interview stages.

Those who speak Irish regularly and to a high-level are particularly well-placed to secure employment in the Institutions.

  • Provide additional resources dedicated to supporting the use of Irish as an official EU language, including by making training material available in Irish.

In this respect, the Government will be building on the good work already being done by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, which has successfully seen the recruitment of Irish-language linguists across the EU Institutions, ahead of Irish becoming a fully functioning EU working language next year.

  • Increase the funding of the Centrally Funded Scheme for Seconded National Experts to provide for the secondment of 50 Irish civil servants annually to the EU Institutions.

At present, the Centrally Funded Scheme funds 24 secondments per year, with civil servants from across Government Departments and Agencies placed in the EU Institutions for periods of up to four years at a time. This Scheme was established following Ireland’s EU Presidency in 2013, with the aim of supporting the placement of Irish Seconded National Experts in positions of strategic importance to Ireland in the EU Institutions. The Scheme is an important means of ensuring that each Government Department has the ability to build and maintain links with teams in the EU Institutions working on areas of relevance to them.  

  • Expand the current scholarship programme, to enable at least 10 Irish post-graduate students to study at the College of Europe in Bruges and Natolin.

Many of the College of Europe’s former students have gone on to have distinguished careers within the EU’s civil service, and there is a strong and healthy network of Irish alumni working in both the public and privates sectors around the world. Three scholarships have been awarded annually to Irish students studying at the College of Europe in recent years, but there are some students who are held back from studying at the college by financial constraints.  Increasing the number of scholarships will increase the number of Irish people who can benefit from the opportunities provided by the College.

  • Create a stream within the Irish civil service for EU specialists, who will be helped in applying for posts in the EU Institutions.

This new stream of officials would be well-placed to sit the EU concours, while also meeting Departments’ increased needs for highly-skilled officials in EU policy areas.

Our intention is for these officials to be assigned to posts in Ireland with a focus on EU and International Policy across the civil service. They would also be encouraged to take up placements abroad through civil service exchange programmes, secondments to EU Institutions and to Ireland’s Permanent Representation to the EU.

Officials taking part in the stream will be encouraged to apply for vacancies at EU level on a rolling basis. They will be granted study leave where appropriate and will be supported in their preparations through the provision of language classes, practice material and assessment centre training in advance of EU recruitment competitions.

Planning for the creation of this new stream has already begun and this work will be carried forward by the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Public Expenditure and Reform over the coming months.

Geographical Balance

The strategy focuses on the promotion of EU careers in Ireland and on the provision of supports to Irish candidates, with the aim of increasing the overall number of Irish officials working in the EU.

While we hope that these measures will go some way towards solving the problem of the “demographic cliff” we currently face in our representation, we are acutely aware that at its heart this is a structural issue. Ireland is not alone in being confronted with this issue. In fact, many other EU Member States also face the same problem.

We are of the view that nationality-based competitions for nationals of significantly underrepresented Member States offer the only viable way to address existing geographical imbalances.

That is why the strategy contains a commitment to work with like-minded Member States as well as the European Institutions to find solutions to a problem which is not solely confined to Ireland.


The ultimate aim of all of these measures is to ensure that we see an increase in the number of Irish people applying for and securing EU roles in the coming years.

The EU’s recruitment process is very competitive, with excellent applicants coming from 27 different Member States. Through the measures set out in this strategy we want to make sure that Irish people are prepared and ready to succeed in this competitive hiring process.

It is my hope that these supports and the actions that will flow from the new strategy ensure that a new generation of Irish graduates go on to have successful careers in the EU, as so many Irish people have done in the past.  And more importantly, to use the knowledge and capacities that only they have to make a better Union for all its citizens.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing your questions later on.