European Commission - Press release
Commission takes Council to Court for breaching EU law on Staff Regulations
Brussels, 11 January 2012 – The Commission has today decided to take the Council to the Court of Justice for failing to adopt the Council Regulation on the annual adjustment to the remuneration and pensions of EU staff as anticipated in the Staff Regulations.
Under the Staff Regulations, salaries and pensions of EU officials are adjusted according to political decisions taken by Member States regarding the salaries of their own, national civil servants. When salaries of national officials increase or decrease, the same change is applied to EU staff.
This time, five of the eight Member States used in the calculation increased salaries of their national officials in nominal terms: Belgium (3.6%), France and the Netherlands (2%), Germany and the United Kingdom (1.3%). There were small salary decreases in Italy, Spain and Luxembourg. On average, this meant that national officials lost 1.8% of their purchasing power in real terms. Exactly the same loss is proposed for EU officials, wherever they are based.
The Commission, in strict compliance with the law, therefore proposed to the Council that the same loss be applied to EU officials. The Commission proposal calls also for a -1.8% cut in real terms which, for staff in Brussels where inflation is 3.6%, translates into a nominal adjustment of 1.7%.
As the European Court of Justice has already confirmed several times (the last time on 24 November 2010 in Case C-40/10), under the Staff Regulations the Council has no margin of discretion, but has to adopt the adjustment value calculated by the Commission.
The only possibility to depart from these rules is by using the exception clause which, as the Court stressed, can only be used in very exceptional circumstances where, under the method, the remuneration of officials would not be adjusted quickly enough. The Commission, at the request of the Council, on two occasions examined whether the exception clause, which refers to a sudden and serious deterioration in the economic and social situation in the European Union, could be applied. The Commission concluded that the loss of purchasing power of EU staff, which corresponds to the loss of purchasing power of national officials, appears in line with the current economic and social situation. Any additional measures going beyond that loss would be in breach of the Staff Regulations and the case law of the Court of Justice.
Instead, the Commission took into account the need for austerity by proposing staff cuts in all EU institutions of 5% as well as major changes to the Staff Regulations, such as increasing weekly working time from 37.5 to 40 hours without compensation, postponing the retirement age to 65 (or 67 under certain circumstances), and reshaping career structures for secretaries and assistants. All these measures will result in over €1 billion of savings over the next seven years and €1 billion per year in the long run if adopted.
Despite the above considerations, the Council took a formal decision not to adopt the Commission Proposal. The Commission considers that this decision breaches the Staff Regulations and is therefore obliged, as guardian of the Treaties, to challenge it before the Court of Justice.
Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said: "The Commission regrets that it is again, after a similar situation in 2009, obliged to take the Council to court on this matter. The Council and the Commission both recognise the need for savings in administrative costs. However, such savings have to be made in compliance with the law and if necessary by changing the law, not by breaking it.
"This is the approach the Commission has been working on for eight months already, which resulted in formal proposals in December 2011 to the European Parliament and the Council which would create savings in administrative expenditure of more than €1 billion by 2020, and €1 billion per year in the long term, if adopted. "
The annual adjustment is calculated every year by Eurostat on the basis of statistical data provided by the Member States on salary increases or decreases they have awarded to their national civil services. In 2004 the Council decided that a sample should be used consisting of eight Member States (Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg). Therefore, EU staff share the pain or gain of national officials in those countries.
In 2010 there was a small cut in net salaries in the EU institutions, since increases in the pension contribution rate (from 11.3% to 11.6%) and in the special levy (from 5.07% to 5.5%) outweighed the minimal increase in gross salaries (0.1%).