Reform of Staff Regulations : Council Seeks to Return to Haggling over Salary Adjustment

Article excerpt

Member states want to scrap the Method' used for adjusting salaries and pensions of EU staff every year and return to annual or biennial haggling with Parliament. Beyond this and the need to find further savings through the recast of the staff regulations, there is little consensus at this stage in Council. National delegations have not yet come to an agreement on reforming EU staff's career structure and pensions. The way to address geographical balance concerns is particularly divisive. Some of the outstanding issues require guidance that can only be shed through progress in the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF) talks before Council can move forward.

According to a Danish Presidency progress report - seen by Europolitics social - on the state of negotiations in Council on the reform of the staff regulations, the general line taken by delegations concerning the Commission's proposal a- COM(2011)890 final - was that it does not produce sufficient savings nor lead to a sufficient modernisation of the terms and conditions of employment. The report was due to be discussed at working group level, on 20 June. The issue will not move up to Coreper (Committee of Permanent Representatives) or General Affairs Council level for discussion yet. "We are simply not ready yet," a Presidency spokesperson told Europolitics social. Copenhagen is said to be embarrassed by the lack of substantial progress and internal divisions.

% CAP FOR SALARY INCREASES

The proposal to recast the Method' put on the table by the Commission upon request from member states does not suit the Council(1). Instead, member states argue that Council and Parliament should haggle each year or every two years (co-decision) over the adjustment of EU staff salaries on the basis of a capped Commission proposal. The suggested cap - stated in brackets - is 2% per year. If the Council's proposal were to be green-lighted by Parliament, this could pave the way for a return to venomous interinstitutional negotiations and regular civil service strikes.a In practical terms, such a proposal would be difficult to put into practice seeing as the Commission comes up with its proposal to adjust salaries in November and that an agreement would have to be found before the end of December.

DIVISIONS ON GEOGRAPHICAL BALANCE

The most divisive issue broached in the Council's working group relates to efforts to address the imperative of geographical balance of EU staff. The Commission has repeatedly publicised its difficulty in recruiting civil servants from the richer member states, such as Germany or Finland. To address this issue, the EU executive suggested "corrective measures," of which a geographically targeted EPSO concours could be an option. This idea, formulated in a Presidency compromise, could not achieve sufficient support from delegations. The progress report reads that on the issue of geographical balance "the positions expressed at this stage are diametrically opposed; no compromise proposal could reconcile them at this stage". The Cyprus Presidency will have a tough job on its hands. …