British Exceptionalism at the EU Commission
Of all EU member states, the UK has the fewest citizens working in the Commission per capita; the British presence at the Commission has been declining over time
I recently came across some data on the number of citizens from each EU member state working in the Commission. Note that the Commission reportedly accounts for more than half of all civil servants employed by the EU. I calculated the number of citizens working in the Commission per capita (to be precise––per 100,000) for each EU member state:
Unsurprisingly, Belgium has by far the highest number of citizens working in the Commission per capita. Interestingly, the UK has the lowest, which is consistent with other evidence that the UK is in many respects the least well-integrated EU member state. Note that this is not a new phenomenon due to British staff quitting after the Brexit vote. A 2013 House of Commons report reported that:
the Government’s efforts are not so far reversing the decline in the UK presence. In relation to its share of the EU’s population (12.5%), the UK remains significantly under-represented among the staff of the major EU institutions, and its presence continues to shrink. We were seriously concerned to learn that the number of UK nationals on the staff of the European Commission has fallen by 24% in seven years, and now stands at 4.6% of the total
This article by Dr Christopher Huggins notes the following about why there are so few British staff at the Commission:
Prospective EU staff have to undertake a competitive exam, known as the concours. Although the government has worked to prepare prospective candidates, UK entrants to the concours remain relatively low.
It goes without saying that foreign language skills are a necessity for any EU employee. Yet the report showed that only 27% of UK secondary school students were studying French and German, compared to 93% of students in the rest of the EU learning English. Only 6% of British upper secondary students were learning two or more languages, compared to 60% across the EU. Awareness of EU job opportunities among university graduates is also low.