Think-tank blasts EU commissioners' pensions package
EU commissioners who will leave their posts this year are to receive more than a million euro each in the forms of pensions and benefits, according to a think-tank report.
"European commissioners leaving office later this year will receive more than £1 million (€1.1 million) each in pension payments and so-called 'transitional' and 'resettlement' allowances," Open Europe, an independent London-based think-tank "calling for reform of the European Union," wrote in a press release on Monday (23 March).
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It is not yet known how many commissioners will leave at the end of their term in the autumn, but the number is expected to amount to around half of the 27-member team.
If communications commissioner and commission vice-president Margot Wallstrom leaves her office this year, she will receive "almost £1.8 million (€1.937 million)," Open Europe said.
The UK's Catherine Ashton, who replaced former British commissioner Peter Mandelson last year and has therefore held the post for less than a year, "will qualify for an ample pension of £9,600 (€10.335) a year, in addition to three years of 'transition' payments, valued at over £89,000 (€95.817) a year. On top of this, she will receive a £18,700 (€20.132) 'resettlement' allowance," according to Open Europe.
When Mr Mandelson left his office as trade commissioner in the autumn of 2008, he was reported to have received around €1 million as a pay-off and pension package from Brussels.
All this is without counting the wages and perks that commissioners receive during their years of service, which amount to "at least £220,000 (€236,852) a year."
According to the think-tank, commission president Jose Manuel Barroso himself receives an annual salary of some €296,000, which is more than that of US President Barack Obama ($400,000 or around €293,000).
"It is a topsy-turvy world when an unelected EU official is earning the same wage as the democratically elected President of the United States," Open Europe analyst Sarah Gaskell stated.
"Taxpayers around Europe, whose pensions have been swallowed up in the recession, will rightly question why they are footing such an enormous bill for a handful of remote officials who they never voted for in the first place," she added.
In total, the commission will in its five-year term have cost the European taxpayer more than €75 million, including salaries, pensions and various allowances, but excluding other perks, such as family allowances and subsistence allowances.
Commission spokesperson Valerie Rampi declined to comment on Open Europe's figures, saying she did not know how exactly they had made the calculations, but stressed that the regulation and the amounts of the commissioners' salaries and pensions were all public.
In order to be entitled to a full commission pension calculated on the base of the duration of their service, one must be 65 years old, she explained.
The so-called transition allowances last for three years and are calculated on the basis of the time served as a commissioner.
"Open Europe did not discover anything new, it is all public and online," Ms Rampi told EUobserver.
"Everyone who has worked as a commissioner is entitled to pension rights, like you and me," she added, but denied commissioners received "golden one-off payments."