Clash ahead as member states prepare to demand more rigour
By Gaspard Sebag | Thursday 12 July 2012
The reform of the staff regulations laying out the rules for EU civil servants will pit the European Parliament against the Council. During its Presidency, the first task for Cyprus will be to reach a common position on this divisive issue in Council. Once that is done, negotiations with the co-legislator can begin.
The EP’s Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) already voted its position on the matter, on 25 April, broadly supporting the European Commission’s proposals
(1). The ball is now in the Council’s court, which has only discussed the matter at technical level so far.
According to a June progress report by the Danish Presidency, bar two points there is little consensus at this stage in Council. National delegations consider that the Commission’s proposal does not produce enough savings nor lead to a sufficient modernisation of the terms and conditions of employment. Member states agree to scraping the ‘Method’ used for adjusting salaries and pensions of EU staff every year and return to annual or biennial haggling with Parliament. The Council even suggests – in brackets – a cap on the rise of 2% per year.
The Cyprus Presidency will have a lot of ground to cover if it is to reach an agreement with Parliament by the end of the year, failing which both the ‘Method’ and the special levy will expire. To begin with, it will have to bridge the gap between member states on outstanding topics, such as reforming EU staff’s career structure and pensions and the way to address geographic balance concerns. Some of these issues require further clarifications concerning administrative expenditure in the context of the post-2013 multiannual financial framework (MFF) talks. Realistically speaking, this means negotiations among member states on the staff regulations can only start to gather momentum around September or October, when figures for the next financial framework are expected to be put on the table. The Council will have to take a position on the amendments to the Commission proposal that JURI has proposed. The likely conclusion is that member states will find MEPs too soft on savings.
One thing that might add venom to the debate is the annual adjustment of EU staff salaries and pensions for 2011, where a court case is in progress after member states opted for a nominal freeze against the Commission’s advice.
Though not formally part of the staff regulation reform, the 5% staff reduction, which accounts for 80% of the Commission’s envisaged €1 billion in savings up to 2020, will certainly be hotly debated.
According to a June progress report by the Danish Presidency, bar two points there is little consensus at this stage in Council(1) The Commission suggested in COM(2011)890 final changing the method for adjusting salaries and pensions every year by calculating it from nominal – rather than real – salary changes in all member states instead of only eight so-called ‘old’ member states as now; increasing minimum working hours per week from 37.5 to 40; hiking up the solidarity levy, currently known as the special levy, from 5.5% to 6%; raising the retirement and early retirement age; and reducing the annual travelling time to officials’ place of origin