Tuesday

20th Oct 2020

EU commission struggling to attract top economists

  • A job at the European Commission is no longer so attractive for some. (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

So few people are applying for jobs in the European Commission that the official in charge believes it will soon no longer be possible to guarantee a high calibre workforce where all member states are fairly represented.

EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic, in charge of administration, says salaries for the commission are too low to be attractive to candidates from rich member states.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"For some time we are facing quite a serious problem recruiting people from so-called high-wage economies," he said Monday (26 March).

The problem goes across the board from entry-level salaries for policy officers (€4,349.59 a month before tax) right up to the top bureaucratic posts in the commission.

Germans represent 16.31 percent of the EU population. Yet in 2010, only 7.61 percent of EU applicants for an administrator post (a policy expert) in the commission were Germans. This dropped to 6.82 percent last year - less than half of what it should be to ensure the country's fair representation in the commission.

But it is in Britain where the problem is so acute that the commission has actively started to try and recruit students in their last year of university to stop well-qualified graduates flitting off to highly-paid jobs elsewhere.

While the country represents 12.38 percent of the EU population, it accounted for only 2.39 percent of entry-level applicants in 2011.

Sefcovic notes that he himself has interviewed "several high civil servants" from "high-wage economies" who have made it through the commission's staff hiring process only to turn down the job in the end because national civil services pay more.

The situation risks becoming "structural" by the end of this decade, by which time around 60 percent of managers will be coming to retirement age but are not being sufficiently replaced.

Where are the economists?

But the problem is not just a long term one. The commission is also having immediate difficulty getting top economists to fill an extra 59 posts in its Economic and Financial Affairs department (DG ECFIN).

The beefed-up DG reflects the increased powers the commission has in surveilling national budgets but also over bailed-out countries, particularly Greece, which require almost constant detailed economic analysis and responses.

"I know that [economic affairs commissioner] Ollie Rehn and [director general] Marco Buti are struggling to get to the level of economists that they would like to have," said Sefcovic.

Of the 59 places up for grabs, only six have been filled. Twenty-two are in the process of being filled, while the rest remain empty.

Sefcovic's comment on staff problems come as member states begin their traditional squabbles on the EU's multi-annual budget (2014-2020).

The commission's administrative budget accounts for 6 percent of the around €130 billion annual budget. However, some member states - including the UK and Germany - have called for further reductions in salaries and pensions in the next long-term budget.

The commission counters that its current problems stem from staff reforms which kicked into place in 2004, when salaries were lowered and pensions made less attractive.

"We can really have almost all old member states before 2020 facing this problem. I was trying to be clear what kind of consequences this problem might have for the fair geographical representation and for the high quality of officials we need in the commission over the coming years," said Sefcovic.

Court verdict sees sun set on Greece's Golden Dawn

While the leaders of Greece's Golden Dawn facing lengthy jail terms, the atmosphere remains tense in Athens and some other parts of Greece. Depending on the exact sentencing, further clashes between anarchist-leftists and remnants of the extreme-right may ensue.

Massive MEP majority for better rule-of-law mechanism

A large majority of MEPs back an initiative to streamline the EU's tools on protecting rule of law and democracy and have effective sanctions. They also backed a tough stance on the rule of law conditionality in budget talks.

Orban move evicting Budapest university 'unlawful'

While the ECJ ruling says the Orban government's legislation breaks EU law, it does not change the facts on the ground, which has seen the university already leave Budapest for Vienna.

EU parliament vows not to cave in to budget pressure

The parliament's majorty dismisses the German EU presidency's proposal on the rule of law conditionality, which has emerged as the main political obstacle to agree on the next long-term EU budget.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. EU money used by neo-Nazi to promote Holocaust denial
  2. Over 80% of Europe's habitats in poor or bad condition
  3. EU's Brexit move could end deadlock in talks
  4. EU's migrants more at risk from coronavirus
  5. Baltics pin hopes on Biden
  6. France marks trauma of history teacher's murder
  7. Spain's Sanchez in storm over judicial appointments bill
  8. Violating promises and law, von der Leyen tests patience

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us