Seven times as many Eurocrats as Commission claims

12 August 2008

Seven times as many Eurocrats as Commission claims

EU-critical British thinktank Open Europe has worked out that the EU employs fully seven times the number of officials as the EU would have us believe. Not 23,000, or 32,000, but 170,000, Open Europe says. The thinktank included in its count employees of thirty EU agencies throughout Europe, those in the EU's offices in the twenty-seven member states, and employees of the European Parliament and the European Court of Auditors.

Erik Meijer By Erik Meijer

Enough bureaucrats to fill a sizeable town, let alone staff one

The Commission tries anxiously to play down the number of officials in order to stem criticism of the EU's mania for organisation. They defend themselves with the assertion that a large town has more officials in its employ than they do. But Open Europe's count shows that the EU institutions as a whole has as many bureaucrats as a large provincial town has inhabitants.


What is often forgotten, also, are the countless national civil servants who prepare and implement new EU legislation. So we should also really be including local officials. Public administration analyst Mark Bovens drew attention some years ago to the 'relocation' of power. “The majority of our laws now come from Brussels,” is what you hear now. This is correct. And Dutch officials and politicians go along with this. Take the train that goes from Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam down to Brussels on any working day and you will see wagonloads of officials of the kind responsible for preparing policy, on their way to working groups. Lobbyists are also relocating to Brussels in their thousands. They provide the ruling political parties with ready-made motions and amendments to order. And don't forget, either, the weekly flights full of consultants, on their way, for example, to eastern Europe on commission to EU infrastructure projects, structural funds management, staff training, you name it.

Commission should come clean

The European Commission would do well to come clean when it comes to staffing levels. They must surely realise that they do their own cause no good by playing hide-and-seek and talking of “a slimmed-down EU apparatus”. Mistrust of Brussels can only be stirred up by juggling with the real numbers of people that keep the EU functioning. The general public have felt this way for a long time, and now surely even the Europhiles must. .

A version of this opinion article by SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer first appeared on Thursday 14th August in the Dutch regional daily newspaper, the Brabants Dagblad

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