By Florian EDER
with Zoya SHEFTALOVICH
The European Commission has urged EU countries not to impose further cuts on administrative spending in the next long-term budget, according to an internal paper discussed at a meeting of the College of Commissioners earlier this month. The paper, seen by Playbook, rebuffs the idea that working for EU institutions is a cushy gig, notes that the Commission has implemented a 5 percent cut to staff in the current budget cycle and argues that further cuts would be both unfair and counterproductive.
Unfair: The EU institutions “have managed to neutralize” the effects of staff cuts in previous years by increasing working hours to 40 hours from 37.5 per week, the paper says. That’s more “than in almost all member states’ central civil services,” the paper notes — in an implicit dig at national governments, which are pushing for further cuts. And while EU officials may be entitled to more days off than anyone else, lunch breaks don’t count towards work time, unlike “in some member states,” the paper adds (here’s looking at you, Austria).
Counterproductive: The paper suggests that any further cuts to EU staffing or a deterioration in employment terms would make it harder to attract European employees. “EU staff endured a 9.9 percent loss in terms of real purchasing power in the period 2004-2017,” the paper says. “This compares with a much more limited reduction of 1.4 percent for national civil servants in central governments.”
Expat problem: All that makes it more difficult to attract expats from some EU countries, making it difficult for the EU institutions to fulfill the objectives of the staff regulations, according to the paper. Hiring staffers from countries including Denmark, Germany, Ireland, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Finland and Sweden is “increasingly challenging” because, the paper argues, changes in recent years have made the EU “less and less competitive” as an employer, compared to private enterprises. Recruits from those countries “are already significantly under-represented” in the entry-level management grades of AD5 to AD8, according to the paper.
Brexit is no reason to cut EU staff numbers: It isn’t that big a deal, according to the Commission – my story here for you.