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Lowering the commissioners' salaries, you don't think about it!

To the question of whether the European commissioners would accept, in a symbolic way, the austerity measures underway in the member states, the European Commission has no answer today (August 31). Or rather it has one which amounts to refusing this hypothesis. The spokesperson in charge of the administration, a little embarrassed around all the same, had this great discovery: “ It is not up to the commissioners to make such decisions. It is up to the Member States (NB: the Council of Ministers) to take this decision. “Even by insisting he does not budge from this position, “it’s a legal question, the commissioners cannot (alone) decide to lower their salaries (*).

As for the freezing of the highest salaries in the European administration, he specifies that another option was chosen by the Commission: “ We have made a commitment to reduce personnel costs by 5%. And to increase the working week from 37 hours to 40 hours. »There is therefore no question of a reduction or freezing of the highest salaries.

The good excuse...

This position can be absolutely justified. But who has difficulty getting by in these times of austerity where the European Commission is asking everyone to tighten their belts. While the average salary in Europe is 2500 euros gross per month, it is a fact that the European senior civil service is often overpaid compared to equivalents in the national senior civil service, exceeding this average salary by 4 to 6 times. That the European commissioners set an example does not therefore appear abnormal, if only in a symbolic and political gesture. Of course, some are quick to label this idea “populist”. I do not think that sharing the fate of austerity that we ardently advocate is “populist”.

A measure already under debate in several European countries

After this question, a spokesperson came to see me, a bit ironic, a bit aggressive, asking me to justify in which countries this measure had already been taken (Understanding in none). I regret contradicting his uncertain knowledge! Since a simple internet search allows you to know that in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Romania a reduction in the salaries of ministers has already been initiated. It has been proposed in Italy and is under debate in France (even if the government is currently refusing this measure). In several countries experiencing economic difficulties, it has also been engaged.

(*) An apparently unfounded position according to the first information obtained. Nothing in European legislation requires commissioners to give up part of their salaries.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).