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Friday, 13 March 2015

REVEALED - the Administrative Council prepares procedure for removal from office of members of the Boards of Appeal

Merpel posted recently minutes of the December 2014 meeting of the Administrative Council of the EPO  (here and here) and, in the comments, there were discussed the two means by which a member of the Board of Appeal of the EPO might be disciplined.

On the one hand Article 23 EPC states:
The members of the Enlarged Board of Appeal and of the Boards of Appeal shall be appointed for a term of five years and may not be removed from office during this term, except if there are serious grounds for such removal and if the Administrative Council, on a proposal from the Enlarged Board of Appeal, takes a decision to this effect
On the other hand, Article 11 EPC states:
The Administrative Council shall exercise disciplinary authority over the employees referred to in paragraphs 1 to 3 [which includes members of the Boards of Appeal].
while Article 10 EPC provides that the President of the EPO "may propose disciplinary action to the Administrative Council with regard to employees referred to in Article 11, paragraphs 2 and 3 [which also includes members of the Boards of Appeal]"

Now, it seems clear that the discipline according to Article 11 must stop short of "removal" according to Article 23, but there is disagreement between Merpel, who believes that this "removal" means permanent removal (so that a wide range of sanctions including suspension would be envisaged under Article 11), and a commenter who thinks that "removal" under Article 23 includes suspension, so that the Article 11 disciplinary provisions (which can be proposed by the President and do not need a proposal from the Enlarged Board of Appeal) must be rather limited in application.

 Another reader asked:
do you know if the suspended member of the BoA has the right to a defense and/or to provide his own arguments in front of the AC?
And exactly, who is the (independent) judge and/or jury here? Who decides what constitutes defamation?
Is there any chance to appeal the decision, internally or externally?
And Merpel replied "... This suggests to the Kat that such a Disciplinary Committee has never existed before so the procedure can be made up from scratch. The judge and jury is clearly the AC itself. But who is the prosecutor and what right of defence the accused has - I don't think anyone knows."

Well, it turns out that the Administrative Council has seen this legislative lacuna and had already done something about it.  Merpel has now seen a proposed amendment to the Rules of Procedure of the Enlarged Board of Appeal that may provide answers as to the procedure that would be followed to remove a BoA member from office.  This amendment was apparently drawn up by the Enlarged Board of Appeal and is being submitted to the Administrative Council by the Chairman of the Administrative Council for decision.  It appears that, contrary to what Merpel believed, the judge and jury in the case of removal from office under Article 23 EPC will be the Enlarged Board of Appeal (whose decision would be a "proposal" for removal that then presumably would be rubber stamped by the Administrative Council in a decision of removal).

In particular, new Article 12a is proposed as follows:
Article 12a
Proceedings under Article 23, paragraph 1, first sentence, EPC
(1) A request that the enlarged Board of Appeal make a proposal for the removal from office of a member under Article 23, paragraph 1, first sentence, EPC may be made to the Enlarged Board either by the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation or by the Vice-President of the European Patent Office in charge of the Boards of Appeal.
(2) In the case of such a request being made by the Administrative Council, the Administrative Council shall be a party to the proceedings. The Vice-President of the European Patent Office in charge of the Boards of Appeal shall also be entitled to be heard in such proceedings.
(3) In the case of such a request being made by the Vice-President in charge of the Boards of Appeal, he shall be a party to the proceedings. [so the prosecutor will be the Administrative Council or the Vice-President in charge of the Boards of Appeal]
(4) The member who is the subject of a request to make a proposal to their removal from office under Article 23 paragraph 1, first sentence, EPC shall be a party to the proceedings as respondent. [so the accused member of the Boards of Appeal has a right of defence]
(5) The request referred to in paragraph 1 shall set out all the facts, arguments and evidence relied on. All documents referred to shall be attached.
(6) The proceedings shall be conducted in writing, where necessary or requested supplemented by oral proceedings, according to Article 14, and may not be concluded without the respondent being informed of the facts, arguments and evidence underlying the request and having had the opportunity to be heard on them. The respondent may appoint a person to advise or represent him. [and the accused member of the Boards of Appeal has a right of representation
(7) Article 117, paragraph 1, EPC shall be applicable. [all means of giving evidence recognised by the EPC will be permitted]
Further, proposed new Article 2 of the Rules of Procedure of the Enlarged Board of Appeal, referring to Article 22 EPC, specifies that the composition of the Enlarged Board for these proceedings will be five legally and two technically qualified members, the Chairman will be replaced by his alternate, and two of the legally qualified members will be external members.  The document explains elsewhere that the Chairman is excluded for these purposes because as vice-president he represents the interests of the boards of appeal he administers and therefore he cannot be both judge and party.

Presumably this proposal will be considered at the next Administrative Council meeting in a couple of weeks, and if approved will become part of the Rules of Procedure.  Does this mean that the Administrative Council is intending to invoke the procedure?  Or is it to have around just in case?

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

It sounds a... resonable. So I am afraid that it will NOT be aproved.

Barbi

A fly on the wall said...

The AC could never come up with such a text for which they have neither neither the inclination nor the authority, and certainly not the intellivence.

The RPEBAs must originate at the EBA itself:

Art. 23(4) The Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal and the Enlarged Board of Appeal shall be adopted in accordance with the Implementing Regulations. They shall be subject to the approval of the Administrative Council.

Rule 13(1) Before the beginning of each working year, the members of the Enlarged Board of Appeal appointed under Article 11, paragraph 3, shall designate the regular and alternate members of the Enlarged Board of Appeal in proceedings under Article 22, paragraph 1(a) and (b), and the regular and alternate members in proceedings under Article 22, paragraph 1(c).

Rule (2) The members of the Enlarged Board of Appeal appointed under Article 11, paragraph 3, shall adopt the Rules of Procedure of the Enlarged Board of Appeal.

Rule (3) Decisions on matters mentioned in paragraphs 1 and 2 may only be taken if at least five members are present, including the Chairman of the Enlarged Board of Appeal or his deputy; in the event of parity of votes, the Chairman or his deputy shall have the casting vote. Abstentions shall not be considered as votes.

Are we the witnesses of a particularly brilliant chess move?

Merpel said...

Dear Fly on the Wall

As the above post says:

"This amendment was apparently drawn up by the Enlarged Board of Appeal and is being submitted to the Administrative Council by the Chairman of the Administrative Council for decision."

So you are correct, the text originated in the EBA itself. It is now, as required by Art 23(4), being submitted to the AC.

Hammurabi said...



Very nice. Very smart.

It hands on a silver plate to the Administrative Council an opportunity to save their face in this mostly embarrassing situation created by the President.

A proposal on which the President has no say - any attempt by Battistelli to shot it down or reclaim any role in it will only reinforce the feeling that he is trying to interfere with the independence of the (E)BoA.

"The respondent may appoint a person to advise or represent him" - which is not foreseen at the moment by the Investigative guidelines, and will introduce an important precedent which can used by non-members of the BoA to file an appeal on the basis of equal treatment - "why do they have right to a lawyer when I have to stand alone in front of the Investigative Unit?"

Bravi.

MaxDrei said...

WOW! Looks good. at first glance anyway. Gold star to whoever put this together.

If I see it right, AC Chair Kongstad did have a choice. He could have declined to put it to the AC. How gritted are his teeth, I wonder.

But hey, let's be charitable and assume he is doing it willingly. If so, thank you Jesper.

N°6 said...

And here what happens when you go to far : even UKip (yes you read well, UKip...) raises questions at EU parliament this week https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E79MpC1bR2c#t=30

R-Bear said...

Such proceeding, if adopted, should not be applicable to the "house ban" incident as this would require attributing to the underlying amended provision retroactive effect - which would be unlawful, at least under the rule of law.

New at this... said...

What jumped to my eyes is that according to the proposal the request to start proceedings under Art. 23(1) EPC may be filed only by the AC itself or by VP3. It seems noteworthy that the President may not file such a request directly, although in practice it would not be a problem for the President to order VP3 to file a request on his behalf...

Rule of Law said...

R-bear,

I don't think that your analysis is correct. The "underlying provision" has not been amended - it is and always has been Art 23(1) EPC which is completely unchanged, so there is no question of retroactive effect. Otherwise you are saying that the primary legislation has no meaning unless and until highly subordinate legislation exists, which cannot be right. Even though previously it was not specifically laid down how the EBA might come to a proposal under Art 23(1), it plainly has and always had had the power to do so.

Bye bye independence said...

The proposal is good because it comes from EBOA, which at the moment is the only organ that can propose amendments to its rules of procedure, and it will probably be adopted because the administrative council needs some rules for this procedure.

However, the President and the Chairman of the Councuil, are taking care that this will not happen again. According to the proposed reform, in the future the rules of procedure will be proposed by the BOAC (composed by Administrative Council and Friends) both for the EBOA (currently competence of the EBOA itself) and for the BOA (currently competence of the Presidium elected by the BOA members).

Bye bye independence

R-Bear said...

"Rule of Law", for clarification:

The "underlying provision" referred to in my comment is the planned Article 12a RoP. Applying a procedure newly established by said Art. 12a RoP to a situation concluded in the past - as it would be the case for the "house ban" event -, would mean using it with retroactive effect.

As a general principle deriving from the rule of law, changes made to the law have to apply with effect for the future, never for the past. The reasons are obvious.

Or do you say this does not apply to the RoP?

Rule of Law said...

Dear R-Bear

I don't say anything as black-and-white as "this does not apply to the RoP", but I also say that the supposed principle that a legal provision can never have retroactive effect is also not blindly applicable in all situations. Like many legal matters, it all depends.

Currently, there are no specific procedural rules under Art 23(1). Do you think that this means that the EBA cannot make a proposal under Art 23(1)? Of course it can. At the moment the EBA could use any procedural route that satisfies other legal norms (such as right to be heard). The setting of a single procedure for the future for the first time does not prevent that new procedure (or in fact one of many other procedures) being used for an alleged past infraction.

Otherwise, the effect of your legal interpretation is that Art 23(1) has no real effect up to now.

Anonymous said...

The new procedure must replace retroactively the old procedure already used, if the old procedure is legaly flawd. If the old procedure is not legaly flawed, than there is no need to apply the new procedure retroactively. Thus, a decision must be taken in respect of the question whether the procedure already used was legaly flawed or not.

Barbi

Rule of Law said...

Barbi - what do you think the "old procedure already used' was? When do you think it was used?

R-Bear said...

"Rule of Law", one last reply:

Please read my comments. What I have said is this: Applying a newly set up procedure to the "house ban" incident would involve giving it retroactive effect which would be problematic with regard to the rule of law. No more, no less.

Your reply comes down to saying that this position was not correct, because "it all depends" followed by a mere allegation that the opposite was the case which, of course, is a highly convincing style of argumention.

We will see.

Anonymous said...

I think that the suspension is clearly a step in a procedure that has as a possible outcome the removal of the member of the Boards. Moreover, the suspension has no other bases in the EPC. Thus, the suspension is clearly a part of already initiated procedure for removal of the Board member. Thus, if the suspenstion which is a part of the removal procedure is legaly flawed, it renders the initated reoval proedure legaly flawed.And if it is already initiated than it is already used.

Barbi

Rule of Law said...

Dear R-Bear

You misrepresent both what you said and what I said. You stated that it would be an amended provision for which it would be "unlawful" to apply in respect of the "house ban" incident. I argued that one needs to look more closely at the existing substantive provisions (which are unchanged) and procedural provisions (where currently none is prescribed) and showed how, if you consider those in a sensible manner, it would be perfectly sensible for the new procedural provisions to be used for the firs time in respect of a past event.

You are correct, we shall see. I predict that if the BoA member concerned is subject to any proceedings, they will be the new Art 12a ones (assuming the AC approves them, which seems highly likely).

Rule of Law said...

Dear Barbi

Thank you for the clarification. I now understand your point. However, I expect that both the AC and the EBA will consider that the already-conducted procedure is "disciplinary authority" under Art 11, not "removal" under Art 23. So they will not see it as "part of already initiated procedure".

Anonymous said...

But, if the AC takes the view that the suspension is exclusively a matter of Art. 11 EPC, than they must follow with the view that the president could not suspend the member of the Boards without a prior approval of the AC. Even, if it is considered that the president could propose any action he could not carry it out prior to explicit approval from the AC. Even an aproval from the Chairman of the AC alone would not be sufficinet.

Barbi.

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, I do not see the AC exercising Authority over the president according to Art. 11 EPC. For, even, if AC considers that the benefits from the Suspension by the president outweigh the harm of the law being borken by it, they must say it in order to actually be seen as exercising their Authority. Till now the AC has not sayed anything like that, havs it.

Barbi

Anonymous said...

This is just too reasonable and well done, far above the quality of what the AC could ever deliver. So it is clearly the work of people who know how to deal with law and know what they are doing: the EBoA. That kind of people is of course highly dangerous for the president and his cronies, so the first thing the BOAC will do after the unanimous AC acceptation of the legally flawed, unclear and inconsistent reform proposal by the president will be to change the RoP of the (E)BoA.

This is the opinion of Freebeee

Rule of Law said...

Barbi what the AC said in their December meeting was that irrespective of the legitimacy of the action by the President (which they appear not to wish to take any view on or action about ) the AC were going to take, under their authority (which I take to be Art 11) , the decision to suspend the BoA member concerned until the end of March, pending further action to be decided at the March AC meeting.

identity said...

The application of new procedural rules to pending cases is not a violation of the rule of law.

It would be problematic if the new rules set out (new) criteria for removal (e.g. "defamation"). They do not seem to do so.

A look at the Burgh House Principles on the independence of the international judiciary shows that one can still complain:
Judges shall have security of tenure in relation to their term of office. They may only be removed from office upon specified grounds and in accordance with appropriate procedures specified in advance.

The procedures were not "specified in advance" and there are no "specified grounds" (Art. 23(1) EPC only mentions "serious grounds"). But a breach of the Burgh House Principles does not render the procedure illegal. At most it raises questions of judicial independence.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

But, yes, I know what the AC say. To me the big questoin is why the AC does not wish to take a Position on the legitimacy of the Action of the President, if under Art. 11 EPC the AC is obliged to exercises the authority over the President. So that it can only mean that the AC is obliged to ensure that all the Actions of the President are compliant with the EPC. So in my book the AC does not have the Option not to take a Position on the legitimacy of the Action of the President, becuase, they are obliged to do so under Art. 11 EPC, and that no matter how much they may wish to have such Option.
Also I do not buy the Argument that it is not possible for them to know whether the Action was legal, becuasue, to discharge the duty according to Art. 11 EPC thy must be in a Position. (They can get all the legal expertise they need, if they want to). Thus, if the AC should take the Position that they do not know and therefore they do not comment on the legitimacy, than obviously something is very wrong.

Barbi

The Cat That Walks by Himself said...

> first thing the BOAC will do

I would think that BOAC cannot be created without amendments to the EPC.

This is because AC intends to delegate same of its powers to BOAC. A possibility of power/competence delegation usually requires the basis in the law of the same level as the one which created the power/competence in question. (Otherwise, it would be too easy to overrule a higher law with a lower law.)

Also, according to the scheme from the post on March 9, BOAC would do "supervision of management of BOA, performance assessment of BOA". I would say that it's a big question whether such competences are foreseen by the EPC. In case these are new competences, they need a basis in the EPC.

In other words, the introduction of BOAC requires creation of new competences or delegation of existing ones to a body/BOAC which is not established by the EPC. That does not seem to be possible without amending the EPC.

SeriousGround said...

Art. 23(1) EPC, 1st sentence: "The members of the [(E)BoA] ... may not be removed from office during this term, except if there are serious grounds for such removal."

What is actually a serious ground? At the current atmosphere it would appear that the indication of a possible critic of the president or one of his acolytes would be sufficiently serious.
(And no, I would not trust anybody of the AC that they do not see it as a ground)

The Bounce of the Dead Cat said...

To: Anonymous The Cat That Walks by Himself

Interesting point.

The proposal document seems to invoke Article 14 of the AC's Rules of Procedure as a basis for the BOAC.

This, however, only appears to provide for committees having an "advisory" competence w.r.t. the AC.

There isn't really any identifiable basis for a delegation of powers.

Not that that can be expected to stop BB and his cronies on their current wrecking spree ...

Article 14
Committees, working parties and other subsidiary bodies

(1) The Council may establish committees, working parties or other subsidiary bodies to advise it on particular questions.

(2) Unless provided otherwise in this article, each subsidiary body shall establish its own procedure on a proposal from its chairperson.

The Cat That Walks by Himself said...

> delegation

I would like to follow up a bit on delegation.

For example, the Dutch Algemene Wet Bestuursrecht (GENERAL ADMINISTRATIVE LAW ACT) in art 10:15 says:
"Delegatie geschiedt slechts indien in de bevoegdheid daartoe bij wettelijk voorschrift is voorzien".
(The English official translation is: "Delegation may occur only if the power to delegate has been conferred by statutory regulation.")

Prof. F.C.M.A. Michiels in his book "Hoofdzaken van het bestuursrecht" with regard to this article writes:
"Voor delegatie is steeds een wettelijke grondslag vereist (art. 10:15). Anders zou een bestuursorgaan de bedoeling van de wetgever kunnen doorkruisen en zou het legaliteitsbeginsel worden geschonden".
(I would translate it as: For delegation, a basis in statutory regulation is always required, otherwise, the intention of the legislator could be traversed and the principle of legality would be violated.)

Art. 10:14 of the same Act is also interesting. It reads: "Delegation shall not occur to subordinates."

Pluto said...

MaxDrei said...

WOW! Looks good. at first glance anyway. Gold star to whoever put this together.


Think again.
Many rules of procedure for the removal from office of a judge require participation of the the entire collegiate body.
For example, if I'm not mistaken the statute of the CJEU requires a unanimous vote of all fellow judges.

In this case, it's only a seven-person panel. It doesn't seem to be specified in the proposed rules whether or not a simple majority vote suffices to carry the motion but assuming that it does, then it seems to me that all you would need are four Presidential "patsies" and - hey presto - the desired result can be delivered.

It seems to me to be just another indication of the "Mickey Mouse" nature of the EPO.

EPO Observer said...

Presumably this proposal will be considered at the next Administrative Council meeting in a couple of weeks, and if approved will become part of the Rules of Procedure. Does this mean that the Administrative Council is intending to invoke the procedure? Or is it to have around just in case?

It seems fairly obvious that it's all part of a well-planned stitch-up.

The amendments to the EBA's Rules of Procedure have been drafted by the EBA of its own motion - NOT by the AC whose only role is to approve the amendments pursuant to Art. 23(4) EPC.

But - and here's the rub - the EBA was under no apparent compelling obligation to propose such amendments at this particular point in time.

It's not immediately evident right at this moment that there is any requirement for the amendments and - if it really were an independent organ - the EBA could easily have waited until after the March AC meeting to prepare and submit its proposal.

The fact that it has already done this suggests that it may have acted with anticipatory obedience perhaps under the influence of the President, who knows.

Keen observers of EPO affairs might be aware that the Boards of Appeal submitted a petition about the Investigation Guidelines to the AC many moons ago.

The AC does not appear to have made any meaningful response to that petition or to have clarified the legal position of the Investigation Guidelines with respect to the Boards of Appeal.

If the EBA really had any shred of credible independence it could have notified the AC that it wanted to have that particular issue sorted out BEFORE it took any steps to amend its rules of procedure.

But it didn't. Which indicates to this particular observer that ultimately they are just the servile lapdogs of the Corsican bandit and all too willing to play along with his game.

Freekat said...

Dear Epo observer,
if my information is correct, the response of the AC to the petition of the BoA regarding the investigation guidelines has been referred to..... the president. Needless to say that nothing has happened. In my eyes, and again, if this is correct, it shows the utter incompetence of the AC as well as the control the president has over the members of the AC by whatever means, but I fear the worst. It is not the AC who controls the president, it is the other way around. Against the EPC. But mark my words: many new rules will be implemented that go right against the EPC and nobody stops it. As a small example: the new career system applies a probationary period, also for the BoA, against A.23. The BOAC ( short for BoA Constrictor) will come into existence without any basis in the EPC. But that is not a problem, the EPO is immune and can do what it wants, even go against its own basis of existence.

DG1Director said...

What do you mean the control the president has over the members of the AC by whatever means ?
The means are obvious: You don`t bite the hand that feeds you. The president controls the support to the national offices. No support for the president means no support for your office. Just ask the Polish delegate what she was told after the latest AC meeting....

Anonymous said...

On the website of Foss Patents comparison has been suggested of the situation of the EPO being reminiscent to that of a fox being put in charge of the hens. It appears to me though that the situation is more akin to that of the hens being put in charge of the fox. This is perhaps why the hens have to ensure that the belly of the fox is full in order to maintain the perception of them "being in charge" and more...

Barbi

Curiosity killed the cat said...

"Just ask the Polish delegate what she was told after the latest AC meeting..."

Well why don't you enlighten us.
Accord to the minutes of the December AC meeting, the Polish delegation voted for the new career system. So why would anybody have had any reason to say anything to them.

MaxDrei said...

I like the notion of the EPO as an egg-laying factory that has come under the supervision of a wily fox. I don't see the supervisors of that fox as chickens though.

If you are a Wind in the Willows fan, you might see as a troop of weasels the AC members presently posturing as Lord of the Manor. Weasels do have an unquenchable appetite for eggs.

Or, if you are more of an Animal Farm fan, perhaps you see them as pigs, all with their snouts unashamedly in the trough.

Pigling Bland said...

"Or, if you are more of an Animal Farm fan, perhaps you see them as pigs, all with their snouts unashamedly in the trough."

The metaphor may indeed be appropriate but it needs to be qualified by pointing out that it seems that the AC piggies only get to stick their snouts in the trough to the extent that the "Oberschwein" allows them.

The ironic aspect here is that - on paper at least - the "Oberschwein" is actually appointed as an "employee" by the piggies (under Article 11(1) EPC) and is - at least nominally - subject to their disciplinary authority (under Article 11(4) EPC) ...

But such is the bizarre world of the EPO ... you couldn't make it up if you tried ...

member said...

If it is genuine, enlarge board is keeping very very silent. No one here has heared of this.

EPO Observer said...

"If it is genuine, enlarge board is keeping very very silent. No one here has heared of this. "

Of course they are keeping silent.

They do not want to exposed as the "useful (nominally independent) idiots" of "le bandit corse" and his gang.

Why else would they want to introduce procedural rules for the removal of a member at this point in time when the AC has not yet deigned to respond to their petition about the Investigation Guidelines?

More than likely there has been some behind-the-scenes agreement.

EPO Observer said...

It also seems to suggest that the Enlarged Board of Appeal has not consulted with the members of the Boards before drafting the proposed amendments to it procedural rules governing a matter that affects all members of the Boards.

Curiosity killed the cat said...

"Just ask the Polish delegate what she was told after the latest AC meeting..."

So what was said to the Polish delegate ? Come on don't keep us in suspense ...

LL said...

Dear EPOobserver,

there is good reason for enlarge board forming rules now. Good reason is that president will not have excuse for interfering. At worse president must persuade vice president for persuade enlarge board. He has no more excuse to act alone. So, is not surprise that rules are now.
Is not surprise also if not consulting outside enlarge board. Enlarge board is responsible alone. But is surprise if other member of board did not hear yet before administrating council.

Old man of EPO said...

CKtc,
Could there be some confusion and it isn't the Polish delegate but, rather, the Slovenian/Slovakian delegate who was heard on tape? If not, then I'm curiouser!

EPO Observer said...

Dear LL,

Under Article 23(4) and Rule 13(2), the adoption of the Rules of Procedure are indeed a matter solely for the EBA with the approval of the AC being required under Article 23(4).

The President has no competence in the matter.

There is one fundamental matter at stake here. That is the composition in which the EBA decides on a motion for removal from office.

This will either be a decision of the complete collegiate body (as is, for example, the case before a "real" supranational court such as the CJEU) or else the decision of a "select panel" (which is clearly easier to manipulate or intimidate).

The EBA has opted for the latter option which in my opinion is weaker (i.e. less protective of judicial independence).

But why did it choose this option ?

Presumably because they thought it would be "easier" to get the approval of the AC for that option.

But "easier to get the approval of the AC" is not a sound reason for a (nominally) "independent" organ to choose such an option.

To me it appears to be a definite sign of anticipatory obedience.

Of course the EBA will not enjoy being exposed as the willing lapdogs of "le bandit corse" who in any case does not appear to have the slightest respect for judicial independence. For him an "independent judge" seems to be one who decides in his favour.

Very sad to see such totalitarian tendencies resurfacing in Europe within supranational organisations such as the EPO.

Curiosity killed the cat said...

Old man, I can understand that someone might confuse Slovenia and Slovakia.

But if a "DG1 director" is confusing Poland with Slovenia/Slovakia then that is a worrying sign.

As "DG1 Director" has not yet responded I recommend to issue a "missing persons" alert in case he has been abducted by the Investigative Unit.

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