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Sunday, 24. January 2021

Our actions before real courts after Complaints Board decision

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Bringing our action before the Complaints Board was important because it made a clear, public statement that we do not accept discrimination. The school authorities cannot now express any surprise or confusion when the school fails to attract new parents.

When we proposed bringing the action everybody, including our lawyer, said that it was probably not possible – the Board had declined jurisdiction before, we had no legal standing, it had already been ruled on, etc. It was only by paying for legal research that we discovered that the law had evolved, that the action was admissible and that we did have legal standing. The School was forced to look at the issue and then had to deliver its Orwellian blackwhite decision. The fact that we took that action  and made that case will have to be taken into account in future Board of Governors deliberations.

If we can achieve that procedural result, and put the discrimination issues before a real court, rather than the rubber stamping operation that is the Complaints Board, we can win the case.

The first step must be to obtain good legal advice on the remedies we may have before the following courts:

1. The Civil Service Tribunal. A widening gap has opened up between the treatment of EU institution workers from the south eastern ‘Mamer’ bloc of countries and workers from elsewhere in the EU. Workers from the Baltic countries have all the privileges of Lux I and those from the remaining ‘vehicular’ languages can still make use of national and private schools that cater for their national languages. Staff from the Mamer bloc countries might think of bringing individual actions before the Civil Service Tribunal because many have been forced to go on 80% time to cope with the imposed commuting. They have already started to lose promotion points, in addition to their loss of sleep, leisure hours, money from petrol, fares, bus fees etc. But we would be better off acting collectively.

Be ready to hear arguments from staff reps (who do not have children at Lux II) that there is no action against the institutions because, they say, the institutions did not cause the problem. This is fallacious: the institutions do have a duty under the Staff Regulations to protect staff against discriminatory treatment.

2. The European Court of Human Rights. The Luxembourg government has causal responsibility for the current problem because it, alone, through its representative on the Board of Governors, insisted on the vertical split of the school. It did this to promote local private interests that run contrary to the interests of the EU institutions and their staff. The Luxembourg state bodies, which have binding responsibility under the Lisbon Treaty to enforce non-discrimination, now refuse to become involved. We believe, therefore, that Luxembourg can be successfully prosecuted before the ECHR.

3. The national courts. Again, staff might start taking individual actions for negligence against the school as school-related accidents and incidents become more frequent and serious, but it is better if these issues are taken on collectively now, to prevent tragedies.

This legal advice should be obtained from a prestigious, non-Luxemburgish firm of lawyers and be presented in English. That way, the issue can be publicised at international level and will be more easily debated at all levels within the institutions. There is also less danger of potential conflicts of interest.

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Aim of the European Schools

Educated side by side, untroubled from infancy by divisive prejudices, acquainted with all that is great and good in the different cultures, it will be borne in upon them as they mature that they belong together. Without ceasing to look to their own lands with love and pride, they will become in mind Europeans, schooled and ready to complete and consolidate the work of their fathers before them, to bring into being a united and thriving Europe.

Marcel Decombis, Head of European School, Luxembourg between 1953 and 1960