At a time when austerity and spending restraints are the order of the day in European countries, as they anxiously try to anticipate the deepening energy crisis and inflation in the coming months, it has been revealed that more than 60,000 European civil servants are set to receive an impressive 8.5% increase in their salaries in order to bring them into line with inflation.
At the lower end of the salary scale, this represents an increase of more than €260 per month. For the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the increase will bring her an extra €2,500 per month.
The planned salary hike is likely to generate criticism from member states, which are spending a great deal of time and effort preparing citizens to live frugally. A salary raise for European civil servants necessarily translates, in one way or another, into a tax increase in order to find the means to finance it.
Last year, employees of European institutions received a 1.9% increase, albeit a more moderate one. According to calculations by the German newspaper Bild, this increase represented a total of €200 million over one year, which had to be paid for by the citizens of Europe.
The announced increase is explained by the fact that inflation in Belgium and Luxembourg—two countries in which inflation is higher than the European average—is taken as a reference under a regulation adopted in 2013 by the European Parliament and Council. It stipulates that the purchasing power of a European civil servant should be subject to the same variations as that of a Belgian or Luxembourg citizen.
The official announcement of the increase is not expected before the end of 2022 but is already causing heated discussions in Brussels. The news website exxpress.at notes that the controversy over the remuneration of European employees is not new. Back in 2013, German FDP MP Frank Schäffler noted that 4,400 of the 46,000 EU officials employed at the time received more money per month than the German Chancellor himself.
To compensate, the European Commission is planning a parallel reduction in its personnel, including the elimination of a number of temporary staff. When interviewed by Euractiv, trade union officials voiced their fears that vacant posts might not be filled, or would be replaced by lower-paid or more precarious profiles.
Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).