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Progress in Irish Presidency EU Budget Discussions
Parallel negotiating process agreed - Statement on MFF Talks:
The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, for the Irish Presidency, this evening had a productive meeting on the EU’s multi-annual financial framework with European Parliament President Schulz and European Commission President Barroso.
They agreed on the vital importance of reaching agreement on the multi-annual financial framework (MFF) for 2014-2020.The MFF is a direct contribution of the EU to the promotion of jobs and growth in Europe.
They agreed that work on both the MFF and the draft amending budget for 2013 will be taken forward in parallel, with work on the draft amending budget continuing on the basis of a two phase approach. The Irish Presidency’s aim remains to reach agreement on both during our Presidency of the Council of the EU. It was agreed that MFF negotiations will begin with a first trilogue discussion next Monday, 13 May.
Update: Detail of Agreement
The President of the European Parliament, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the President of the European Commission met on 6 May to discuss budgetary matters. They agreed:
• To start formal negotiations on the MFF and in parallel to negotiate on the draft amending budget for 2013 which will be agreed in two stages. The Presidency of the Council has tabled a proposal for a first tranche of EUR 7.3 billion which will be submitted to the ECOFIN Council for approval on 14 May. This figure is EUR 3.9 billion short of the EUR 11.2 billion proposed by the Commission as the minimum needed to meet the EU's financial obligations in 2013. EUR 11.2 billion is also the amount still available under the ceiling which can be agreed by qualified majority.
• The Presidency of the Council will work with Member States on a political commitment regarding the second tranche and on how they will meet the remaining obligations by early autumn. The Presidents of the European Parliament and the Commission stressed the need for EUR 11.2 billion.
• Negotiations on the MFF will start with a trilogue on 13 May. These
negotiations will start on the basis of the European Council conclusions of
February 2013 focusing on four main points :
• It was also agreed not to re-open the figures agreed on administrative expenditure (Heading 5) and accordingly to speed up the negotiations on the staff regulations which are part and parcel of the MFF package.
• Both negotiations on MFF and the draft amending budget should converge as quickly as possible – but nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The President of the European Parliament recalled the EP resolution of 13 March 2013 on the MFF which states that "the European Parliament will not conclude these negotiations before the final adoption by the Council and the Parliament of this amending budget".
Letter to the College and to the
Presidents of the European Institutions
Message from the Secretary General of the Council after agreement on MFF
I should like to inform you of the outcome of the European Council that concluded this afternoon. As you know, the goal of the European Council was to decide on the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), which is the Union's budget for 2014-2020. The leaders needed to do two things. They needed to decide on a budget that would both help lift Europe out of the economic and financial crisis and be consistent with their efforts to bring their own deficits and debts onto a more sustainable path. It was not an easy task given the two objectives and the wide range of interests of the Member States. Failure to have agreed would have brought risks and uncertainty for the functioning of the Union.
As you will have seen from the press, it was a difficult meeting. An agreement was finally reached after almost 26 hours of intensive negotiation. For the first time in the EU history, there is a real decrease in MFF. The overall deal is € 960 billion, by 3,5% lower than the previous MFF. This agreement has important implications for the work of the Institutions and the Council Secretariat.
A key item affecting all of us is the administrative
expenditure (Heading V), agreed at the level of of € 61 629 billion. This is
€ 1,5 billion less than the original Commission proposal. On this Heading,
the European Council said that this new ceiling would include, inter alia,
the effects of the following savings:
The President of the European Council and President of the Commission were of the view that these measures, while hard for the Institutions and for staff, would still allow the Institutions to maintain their core tasks, not undermine the European public service and still be acceptable for staff at a time when all EU citizens are being asked to contribute to the general economic effort. They fought off further reductions of Heading V, and in particular proposed the additional 1,5 billion cut to be covered by a two-year salary freeze, as an additional contribution to the overall effort.
What are the next steps? Firstly, the Multiannual Financial Framework must obtain the European Parliament's consent before being adopted. Second, the reform of the Staff regulations will need to be taken forward through the ordinary legislative procedure, where the Parliament also plays a key role and has strong views. The European Council decided that the ceilings indicated above set the framework for the co-decision process, which will decide the concrete implementation of these and the other measures proposed by the Commission (such as restrictions on early retirement, the extension of the retirement ages as well as the method for fixing annual adjustments).
As you know, I have already started preparing the Council Secretariat for these developments. Our work has made clear that it should be possible to accommodate the foreseen level of staff reduction through, for example, not replacing colleagues leaving on retirement. So, once again I want to be clear that you should not fear for your jobs. We shall also together continue looking at how we can do some things more efficiently, or at a lower cost.
I think the decision of the European Council is manageable as it reduces uncertainty on the future resources of the GSC and staff working conditions. I am confident that together we can get through this period and emerge stronger.
The real negotiations will start now with the European Parliament
Joint Statement to the Press by Joseph Daul, on behalf of the EPP Group, Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the S&D Group, and Guy Verhofstadt, on behalf of the ALDE Group and on behalf of the Greens/EFA Group Rebecca Harms and Daniel Cohn-Bendit
Commenting on the results of the EU summit, the leaders of the four largest political groups in the European Parliament issued the following joint statement:
"The core priority behind Parliament's choices is the ambition to promote growth and investment in the EU, and thus to contribute to Europe's sustainable recovery from the crisis.
This agreement will not strengthen the competitiveness of
the European economy. It is not in the prime interest of our European
The real negotiations will start now with the European
Parliament. We will maintain our priorities which we have clearly stated
In addition to this, there are four important points that we will not abandon:
First, we are calling for increased flexibility using Qualified Majority Voting : between years and between categories of spending. It is a sensible approach which will allow us to make the best use of our financial resources.
Second, we are also standing firm on a compulsory revision clause with a Qualified Majority Vote in the Council, which should allow us to revise the financial framework in two or three years. We don't accept an austerity budget for seven years.
Third, with this same sense of responsibility we are calling for new, genuine own resources for the European budget to progressively replace the current system based heavily on national GNI contributions.
Fourth, we cannot accept a budget based solely on priorities of the past. We must maintain support for future-oriented policies, strengthening European competitiveness and research.
The outcome of the final budget will determine whether the second decade of the 21st century will be remembered as the time of further integration for the benefit of all Europeans or the time of a standstill for Europe, or even falling behind in a globalised world. "
Message from Maroš ŠEFČOVIČ, Vice-President of the
European Commission in charge of
Video message by President Herman Van Rompuy: EU Budget Negotiations - the bigger picture must not get lost
La foire d'empoigne continue et les rumeurs vont bon train. Des données fantaisistes sont avancées qui jettent plus qu'un doute sur la qualité du processus décisionnel au niveau du Conseil.
|EC Vice President Maros
Sefcovic signals cautious optimism for a budget deal
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Following the General Affairs Council meeting on Monday, EC Vice President Maros Sefcovic expressed cautious optimism that a deal on the next 7-year budget of the EU would be reached. Contrary to expectations, EC President President Herman Van Rompuy has not yet tabled his latest budget proposal and would probably present it to EU leaders at the European Council meeting of 7-8 February.
Meanwhile, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore predicted that the EU would be plunged into a new era of crisis and uncertainty if its leaders failed to agree this week on a budget for 2014-20.
|Haro sur les eurocrates
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Après la révélation que « 4.365 fonctionnaires européens gagnent plus d'argent que la chancelière » publiée hier par le quotidien allemand Die Welt, deux articles dans les Echos, signés Anne Bauer, semblent prendre la défense des eurocrates.
Bauer cite le porte-parole du commissaire en charge de l'Administration, Maros Sefcovic, qui a répliqué qu'aucun fonctionnaire ne gagnait davantage qu'Angela Merkel, dont le revenu mensuel est évalué à 21.000 euros. Seuls les commissaires européens perçoivent un salaire équivalent, et même supérieur (plus de 23.000 euros) pour les présidents de la Commission, du Conseil, du Parlement et la haute représentante aux Affaires extérieures. En outre les fonctionnaires européens ont pourtant consenti des efforts pour se mettre au diapason de l'austérité avec une chute de leur pouvoir d'achat de 7,6 % entre 2004 et 2011. Dans son deuxième article elle explique le régime fiscal des eurocrates.
European Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič criticises that politicians like David Cameron blame the European public administration for cheap applause.
Mr Šefčovič denies in an interview with SZ that some EU officials have a higher income than Angela Merkel. His proposed structural reform is blocked by member states, whose demand to save at least €15 billion in administration over seven years is “absolutely alien” in Mr Šefčovič’s opinion, as all EU wages amount to only €4.5 billion. Mr Šefčovič contradicts the view that the European Commission is not flexible and points to personnel for the troika, economic supervision and task forces.
|Discussion on high wages of
As SZ reports, European Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič, who is responsible for EU personnel and administration, defends high wages against criticism from the German public. The European Commission is in competition with many international organisations and has to remain attractive for the most talented specialists, explained Mr Šefčovič, who also contradicts the information that many EU officials are better paid than Angela Merkel. The demands to save at least €15 billion in administration costs are called “absolutely alien” by Mr Šefčovič, who points out that in this case, the Commission can “pack up and go home”. The debate prior to the European Council is politically charged, according to the article, although the wages amount to only 6% of the entire EU budget. Focus.de refers to the EU officials’ statute listing some “considerable” regulations and states that EU officials do “rake in” money and can earn more than Ms Merkel without being a top manager. Welt.de makes its own calculations and contradicts the clear statement that no EU official earns more than Ms Merkel. In some aspects, the Commission spokesperson making this statement was not very meticulous. MEP Ingeborg Gräßle (CDU) made a comprehensive comparison using the official EU salary calculator and registered more tax incentives for EU officials compared with German officials. However, the Commission spokesperson claims that the EU’s wages are not very attractive compared with those of German officials. According to Sabine Henkel of WDR 5, it is clear that Brussels is a very attractive employer, but the voices pointing out that the high wages in the EU are not justified are getting louder. Ms Henkel refers to Michael Jäger of the German Taxpayers Federation, who names the tax-free foreign allowance a “slap in the face of every tax payer”, and also Ms Gräßle, who argues that the EU prescribes saving programmes for member states but acts “inconsistently”, as it does not accept any savings in Brussels. But even if the budget is reduced at the European Council, these inequalities will not vanish any time soon, according to Ms Henkel. Brussels correspondent for Handelsblatt Thomas Ludwig also admits that Brussels’ officials are “financial first class”, but it is false that they are unwilling to contribute to savings. A structural reform plan is intended to save up to €8 billion until 2020. Mr Ludwig explains that the pressure in some EU countries is higher, but it has always been easy for member states to point at Brussels in order to distract from their own failures. There is room for cutting wages, but the EU must remain attractive in comparison to other international organisations.
|Ahead of EU summit: net
contributing countries demand cuts in EU administration
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
A few days before the start of the EU budget summit, several net contributing countries demanded that drastic cuts should be made in the EU administration, Austrian State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry Lopatka said after a meeting of ministers of European affairs and ministers of foreign affairs on Monday. Particularly Germany and Great Britain supported the Austrian view that cuts had to be made to active service remuneration and pensions of EU officials; for this reason, an amendment to staff regulations is urgently necessary. At the moment, €62 billion are budgeted for administration - more than in the current period. Lopatka said that it was made clear that the results agreed upon in November are not to be changed, according to "Kurier". This is good news for Austria since EU partners promised Austrian Chancellor Faymann back then that cutbacks in the field of agricultural subsidies would be less severe than stipulated in the planned agricultural reform of the European Commission. Furthermore, Austria still insists on keeping its EU contribution discount as long as other countries keep theirs as well, according to Mr Lopatka. ORF reports that ahead of the summit of EU heads of state and government on the bloc's multi-year budget, the SPÖ and ÖVP traded blows about how to correctly represent Austria in the talks. Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Reinhold Lopatka's call on Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann to veto in the negotiations about the EU budget if Austria loses its discount is criticised by the coalition partner. Undersecretary for Finance Andreas Schieder believes this is "cheap play" and states hat he is against deploying a veto. Prior to the EU budget summit, Austrian Agriculture Minister Berlakovich warned against additional cutbacks in the field of agriculture, saying that such cutbacks would be a mistake since the money is needed for rural development. However, there is much cutback potential in the field of administration, he said. A commentary in "Der Standard" on the EU's long-term financial planning predicts that EU economic growth might remain rather modest until 2020, keeping up the pressure on most national budgets to commit to austerity. Population growth is flat, in particular because EU countries do not agree on an orderly and aggressive immigration policy. This partly explains why the talks about the EU's financial outlook through 2020 are so cumbersome and reluctant, believes the columnist. The "Wirtschaftsblatt" editorial article has criticised the inability of the EU heads of state and government to solve the distribution of EU funds rationally. The article goes on to say that the heads of state and government should focus their problem-solving skills on truly important tasks such as a mutual effort to increase Europe's competitiveness, to lower the unbearably high unemployment rates or to forge a promising mutual energy policy. In an interview with the "Presse" Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO) expert Margin Schratzenstaller says a new system of financing is the crux to solving the block to reform in the EU. Net contribution has become the primary parameter of decision-making, while other non-monetary benefits have not been taken into consideration. She expects the upcoming summit on the budget to "focus only on cosmetics in major spending categories".
|E.U. officials’ salaries draw
5 Feb 2013 IHT
A European Union spokesman on Monday defended the salaries of some top-ranking officials, which have been criticized in the German press. The issue erupted just days ahead of a summit meeting to wrestle with the Union’s long-term budget. Days ahead of a summit meeting where leaders of the European Union’s 27 member states are to wrestle again with a proposed seven-year budget for the bloc, an E.U. spokesman was forced to defend the salaries pulled down by some officials. At a time when many European governments have been compelled to impose stringent budget cuts, the issue of salaries and perquisites for E.U. officials has resonated. In November, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain called on officials in Brussels to share the pain that austerity measures have brought to millions of Europeans. On Sunday, the German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag stoked the controversy by comparing the salaries of some E.U. officials to the compensation paid to Chancellor Angela Merkel. Anthony Gravili, a spokesman for the European Commission, told a news conference on Monday that such figures were flawed. ‘‘It’s a totally unfair comparison,’’ said Mr. Gravili, who offered a lengthy rebuttal of the article but did not mention the newspaper by name. ‘‘No official earns more than Chancellor Merkel.’’ Mr. Gravili criticized comparisons of Ms. Merkel’s monthly salary, excluding allowances and other additions, to E.U. salaries including allowances and benefits. European Commission show that the monthly base salary of the most senior E.U. official is ¤18,370, or $24,830. Ms. Merkel’s monthly base salary is ¤21,000. Of that, ¤17,000 is her pay as chancellor, while ¤4,000 is her reduced salary as a member of the German Parliament. Once Ms. Merkel’s basic allowances as both chancellor and Parliament member were included, Mr. Gravili said, the chancellor’s monthly pay was about ¤25,000. E.U. officials generally pay low taxes, but Mr. Gravili said he did not have the figures available to say whether this would raise the officials’ after-tax income above Ms. Merkel’s. Inge Grässle, a German member of the European Parliament and a member of the body’s budgetary control committee, said that the highest-paid E.U. official paid taxes equivalent to about 25 percent of their gross salary. Germany contributes most to the E.U. budget, which was about ¤135 billion last year. E.U. officials receive steady criticism about waste and bloat but only about 6 percent of all spending goes to the Union’s administration, which is staffed by 55,000 people, including 6,000 translators, most of them in Brussels. European political leaders will gather in Brussels on Thursday to consider a budget proposal of roughly ¤1 trillion for 2014-2020. The proposal trims 1 percent from the European Commission’s requested spending for administrative costs. Britain has argued for deeper cuts, saying that those costs, while relatively small in comparison to the overall E.U. budget, are symbolically important. Unlike E.U. officials, the 27 members of the European Commission are political appointees. Their salaries are much closer to those of national leaders like Ms. Merkel, and in some cases may exceed them. José Manuel Barroso, the president of the commission, is paid a basic monthly salary of ¤25,351, a residence allowance equal to 15 percent of that salary, and additional allowances for expenses like running a household and schooling for children. The seven vice presidents of the commission earn basic monthly salaries of ¤22,963. Mr. Gravili said he did not have the figures available to comment on the comparison of the commissioners’ after-tax salaries with Ms. Merkel’s.
|Budget cuts, but not only for
the EU administrative expenditure
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Ahead of the EU Council meeting on the EU multiannual financial framework for the period 2014 to 2020 on next Thursday, the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers were confident yesterday that the EU heads of state and government will find an agreement. "The time has come to do a deal," stressed the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore. It is expected that EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy will present a new compromise proposal on Thursday afternoon. His most recent proposal from November provided expenditures amounting up to €1009 billion for the years 2014 to 2020. Besides the UK and Germany other net contributors had requested additional cuts. The Luxembourgish Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Asselborn stated yesterday that he expects the EU's multiannual budget to be reduced by further €20 to 30 billion. No EU member state could "have an interest that there is no agreement," said Mr Asselborn as reports Tageblatt. He stressed that EU heads of state and government would have to negotiate a compromise, including the UK (the position David Cameron is decisive since unanimity is required). Mr Asselborn warned that if no agreement is found this would "have an impact on the EU’s capacity to act." Mr Asselborn also consistently maintained that the cuts should not only concern the administrative expenditure as Belgium, Luxembourg and France are important locations of the EU administration, emphasises Luxemburger Wort. Besides, Tageblatt.lu informs that European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has called on the EU leaders to agree on a financial plan. "We need to be clear about the fact that these are difficult negotiations. We must also be aware that at the end the consent of the European Parliament is required. Unanimity of governments is not enough," he stressed on Monday at a press conference in Brussels.
A UK point of view: note from the House of Commons on the EU Staff Salaries debate
|4,000 EU officials earn more
than a head of government!
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
About 4,000 officials in Brussels earn more than the average head of government of an EU member state, for example German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to a recent report by the German Sunday newspaper "Welt am Sonntag". This is made possible by several supplements. Independent Austrian MEP Martin Ehrenhauser has criticised for years the lack of proportionality to reality. In the leading article in the newspaper "Kurier", Margaretha Kopeinig writes that it is necessary for the heads of state and government to deal with curtailments in the EU administration at the end of the week. This is not a matter of not paying excellently educated personnel, innovative thinkers and planners according to international criteria - but there are certain examples where money can be saved, says Ms Kopeinig. For instance, she refers to the 42 agencies and many external offices the EU is affording. A commentary in the newspaper "Oberösterreichische Nachrichten" says that while the EU administration is relatively lean and accounts for only 6 percent of the EU budget, structural reform has to be implemented here as well. Certain steps have already been taken but these are not sufficient yet, says the commentary. Thomas Jakl, Director of the Austrian Environment Ministry's Chemicals Policy Department and former Chairman of the European Chemicals Agency, writes in a contributing article for "Die Presse" that, referring to criticism about the "bloated army of overpaid Eurocrats," the EU is a "welcome whipping boy for the losers of modernisation."