EU diplomats to spend more on salaries, less on security
24.04.13 @ 18:46
BRUSSELS - The EU diplomatic service is to pay €15 million extra in wages next year, but to make deep cuts on security.
Its draft 2014 budget - circulated internally on 3 April and seen by EUobserver - says it is "fully aware of the severe economic and financial constraints" in Europe and speaks of "value for money for the European taxpayer."
It calls for overall spending of €530 million - €21 million, or 4.1 percent more than this year.
On one hand, it aims to make €5.7 million of cuts to salaries: by axing 17 junior posts; by downgrading 14 senior posts; by ending wage top-ups in foreign embassies; and by reducing leave for embassy staff.
But on the other hand, it is setting aside an extra €15.2 million for what it calls "mandatory increases in the remunerations of statutory staff."
It also plans to create several new mid-level officials.
On security, it aims to pay €4.5 million extra for bodyguards in at-risk embassies "due to the security situation in an increasing number of countries and inflation in the price of private security services."
But there are deep cuts in other areas.
It is to trim €2.5 million - 23 percent - from secure IT networks in its Brussels HQ. It is to cut another €1.5 million from HQ building security, surveillance and "fitting-out and security works."
It also aims to lower "costs for guarding delegation buildings … and security works in delegations" by €5.1 million.
The budget paper notes that "a review of actual threats has allowed for a reduction in the security scheme" in Brussels.
It says the IT cuts will come from "rationalising disparate and competing systems."
It aims to ditch the so-called Solan encrypted network used by EU countries to send classified files in Brussels, in favour of an in-house network.
A spokesman said part of the wage increase is money earmarked in case it loses court cases against trade unions in prior salary disputes.
He declined to comment on the wisdom of the security cuts.
Whatever the details, the overall hike is unlikely to go down well in some EU capitals.
Richard Ashworth, a British MEP from the ruling Conservative Party who sits on the European Parliament's budget committee, told this website: "At a time when national governments are looking for savings across the board, the public is entitled to expect savings in the EU institutions as well."
On the "mandatory" salary hikes, he added: "Try telling the man in the street: 'Sorry guvnor, but our hands are tied on this'."
For its part, the European Parliament is also seeking a hike of 3.6 percent in 2014.
But the EU Council, the member states' secretariat in Brussels, is to ask for just 1.2 percent more - the rate of inflation.
The EU foreign service's budget paper shows one reason why it has a high salary bill.
Out of its 950 officials, 552 - or 58 percent - are on the AD12 or higher pay grade, with basic monthly wages of €10,300 to €18,400.
By way of comparison, the proportion of top-earners in the European Commission is 38 percent.