Wednesday

28th Jun 2017

MEPs back cost-cutting on EU staff

MEPs have backed changes to working conditions for EU officials designed to save over €1 billion a year and to improve ethical standards.

The legal affairs committee in Brussels on Tuesday (25 April) voted through the new staff regulation by 19 against three with two abstentions. The Green group was the main malcontent, after its amendment on a higher tax for salaries of top officials failed to make the final cut.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The text, based on a European Commission proposal from December, is still at an early stage of adoption in the EU process. "It will give us a stronger negotiating position with the Council [EU member states]. But it is too early to speculate when it might enter into force," a parliament official said.

The main provisions on cost-cutting include: a five percent reduction of the 55,000-or-so staff employed in the 50 EU institutions and agencies around Europe; an increase in the retirement age from 63 to 65; a hike in the mini-income-tax or "solidarity levy" on salaries from 4.23 percent to 6 percent; a new way of calculating pensions that will see lower pay-outs for staff who joined more recently; and smaller grants for people who move from their home countries to Brussels or Luxembourg.

The committee also backed a new "exception" clause for the mechanism which governs salary increases. Currently, EU officials get an automatic wage increase if national civil servants in a basket of select member states get one. But under the new rule, EU salaries can be frozen if there is a "negative macroeconomic" climate.

On the ethics front, senior officials are to be banned from lobbying their former colleagues for 12 months after leaving their post. They will also be blocked from lobbying while taking temporary personal leave.

On top of this, each institution will have to create a new "procedure" for protecting whistleblowers to make sure their complaints are handled more confidentially and more quickly.

The German centre-left MEP in charge of the dossier, Dagmar Roth-Behrendt, said her tweaks of the commission proposal will ensure there is no "lawn-mower cut" of 5 percent of staff imposed from above, but instead it will be "left to the institutions themselves to decide how they make the savings." Parliament sources previously told EUobserver the cuts will mostly affect staff on long-term sick leave or near retirement age rather than active personnel.

Austrian Green MEP Eva Lichtenberger noted: "These proposals [on lobbying and whistleblowers] would be a major step forward for the transparency and integrity of the EU administration."

Discussions leading up to Tuesday's vote saw some colourful interventions by other deputies.

Centre-right Italian MEP Raffaele Baldassare said the new rules should try breathe fresh air into a stagnant culture "of automatic promotions due to seniority."

In remarks on how to set up a new so-called "SC" staff grade for secretaries, German liberal Alexandra Thein said rules on language skills should be relaxed because it is not necessary to speak several languages to make photocopies. She noted that mostly Belgians should be hired for the relatively low-paid work, adding that if this means mainly women with few qualifications, it is not so important because most of them will have husbands who bring in a second wage.

A commission study attached to the December proposal says the savings would be modest in the early phase of adoption (some €65 million a year in 2013). But they would climb to almost €1.3 billion a year by 2060.

EU staff to go on strike

EU staff unions have reiterated their threat to go on strike after negotiations with the European Commission failed to produce an agreement on pay and pensions.

MEPs award themselves €1,500 more in staff expenses

As European citizens come to terms with the array of austerity measures being doled out across the union at the insistence of EU and international lenders, MEPs have voted to increase the money they use for expenses.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Against Critical Voices
  2. European Free AllianceEFA Is Looking for a New Intern
  3. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan Statin Therapy Interfere With a Physically Active Lifestyle?
  5. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  6. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  7. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  8. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  9. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  10. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  11. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  12. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million

Latest News

  1. 'USB condoms' and migration on Estonia's EU agenda
  2. EU parliament should befriend transparency
  3. EU fines Google €2.4 bn over online shopping
  4. EU Commission could get say on Russia gas pipeline
  5. G20 is 'test run' for Trump-era climate governance
  6. Political conditions for EU funds prompt debate
  7. May defends proposal on EU citizens' rights
  8. UK visitors to pay into EU budget after Brexit