Agreement on EU officials’ salaries: an opportunity missed for real reform

26 June 2013

Agreement on EU officials’ salaries: an opportunity missed for real reform

The European Commission, representatives of the European Parliament and the EU member state governments today reached agreement on the longstanding conflict over EU officials’ salaries. Commenting on the proposed settlement, which remains to be confirmed by the Parliament as a whole, SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong described it as ‘a missed opportunity,’ adding that ‘the discussion focused entirely on the salaries and bonuses paid to officials. Important matters, but what’s needed is a much broader and more fundamental debate on the EU services in Brussels. Why do so few EU officials leave the service before retirement? How can we account for the poor work ethic in Brussels? What prospects can we offer these officials of a career which remains challenging and doesn’t isolate them in Brussels’ ivory towers, work which brings them more into contact with a range of social groups? Instead of a fundamental debate we had a scrap over a percentage more or a percentage less.’

Dennis de JongIn recent weeks De Jong, following a discussion meeting in the European Parliament a month ago, has met with a number of representatives of the EU officials. ‘On the quiet there are quite a lot of officials who also understand that the current regulations and the amendments now on the table in the end lead nowhere,’ he says. ‘I want to break open the cage in which Brussels officials find themselves locked. They should be able to rotate their functions so they don’t rust away. The Commission told me in answer to a question I put to them a while ago that annually only twenty-one officials out of a total staff of 30,000 leave voluntarily. The rest continue to sit there till they can get their hands on their pensions. This is hardly typical of our times.’

In the proposal now being put forward, among other perks European officials will retain indefinitely an expatriate bonus amounting to 16% in additional salary. ‘When European integration began,’ explains De Jong, ‘working in Brussels was perhaps somewhat exotic and extra compensation was justifiable. It’s a long time, however, since that was the case, so it’s hard to understand why officials still receive such a bonus instead of simply being reimbursed for removal costs and anything associated with the move.’

The European Parliament is likely to give its opinion of the agreement between the Council, which directly represents the member states, and the Commission at next week’s plenary in Strasbourg.

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