Taboo-breaking meeting on EU officials held at European Parliament

31 May 2013

Taboo-breaking meeting on EU officials held at European Parliament

Feelings ran high during today’s meeting on European officials organised by the SP. A representative of a Brussels-based union of officials said with a sigh that ‘even if we halved our salaries, the public would still hate us.’ As SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong points out, ‘everyone at the meeting had to acknowledge that there’s a serious problem – high-earning senior EU officials arouse the anger of the public. At the same time there has been in recent years no fundamental discussion of what kind of EU administrative apparatus is necessary. Today that’s finally been put on to the agenda.’

Dennis de Jong in the chair at meeting on EU officials
Dennis de Jong in the chair at meeting on EU officials

During the meeting De Jong presented a package of measures aimed at amending the rules governing officials. ‘The meeting’s real contribution is that for the first time officials and MEPs held a robust but honest discussion on the need for thorough changes: everyone agreed that things can’t go on like this. That’s why it ended with an agreement to hold a follow-up meeting.’

In addition to representatives of the EU officials’ union, speakers included academics and Euro-MPs from other political groups, among them German centre-right MEP Ingeborg Grassle, who recently authored a report on the issue.

The SP’s proposals for a reformed officials’ statute includes the following points:

The method used to calculate the basic salary must be adjusted so that the basic salary of an EU official gradually moves into line with the equivalent for a national civil servant. The basket on which the calculation is based would in this way be extended to all member states. Salary increases should be based on the harmonised consumer price index for Belgium, which is updated annually. Lastly, a progressive levy on salaries should be introduced.

The expatriation allowance must be reduced. As things stand EU officials receive this bonus for the entirety of their careers. The SP proposes a 16% reduction in this allowance, to bring it down to 10% and that it be limited to two years, making it a reimbursement of actual expenses incurred in moving to and settling in Brussels, rather than a routine perk.

The routine giving of a general household allowance should be abolished and replaced by a system of child allowances.

Pension reform for officials must be more sustainable and fairer and should include a raising of the pensionable age to 65 (or higher, in agreement with the member states) and a higher pension contribution (from 33.3% to 45%). This should go for both new and existing cases.

The annual number of travel days to one’s homeland should be lowered from six to two.

The number of public holidays on which the offices are closed should be reduced from eighteen to fourteen. Because nine of the eighteen holidays are not statutory, what the current system actually comes down to is paid leave.

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