MFF: Next Generation on a shoestring?

Contrary to any basic common-sense consideration, the Commission is launching its grand plans to kick-start the European economy and strengthen the EU project as a whole in the aftermath of the Coronavirus crisis while, at the same time, proposing astonishing budgetary cuts that will affect the staff that is supposed to implement such plans.

In fact, the revised proposal for the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework that was recently adopted by the Commission provides for a total of EUR 74.6 billion under Heading 7 – of which EUR 57.4 billion for the administrative expenditure of the institutions. Compared to the 2018 proposal, that stood at EUR 75.6 billion, this means a cut by 1 billion euros!

At the same time, it is proposing a new recovery instrument – Next Generation EU – amounting to EUR 750 billion, in addition to the package approved on 23 April and worth EUR 540 billion. As a whole, this means EUR 1 290 billion of additional funds to be used to boost Europe’s recovery that will be managed by the Commission.

Even though such instruments are labelled as temporary, it is undeniable that the Commission will need qualified staff to deal with the new tasks and responsibilities they entail. We regret that the staff representation was not consulted before the Commission tabled this proposal that, it must be reminded, might as well be just a starting point for some Member States to request further cuts to Heading 7.

It is thus extremely important that a wider discussion on this issue and on the way forward be carried out as a matter of urgency. In any case, Generation 2004 wants to do its part of the job and start putting on the table some proposals to help counter the untenable situation that would be created by reducing the administrative budget while greatly increasing tasks and responsibilities for staff.

The reorganisation of Executive Agencies, which has already started with the CHAFEA affair, will increase the transfer of programs currently managed by DGs to Executive agencies. This reorganisation, coupled with the fact that executive agencies can have up to 75% of Contract Agents (CAs) staff, clearly shows that this is, for the time being, one of the measures envisaged by the Commission to achieve the proposed budgetary cut. In short, this will increase the share of CAs, while reducing the number of permanent officials, with all the negative consequences we have sadly become too familiar with since the staff reform of 2004 was introduced: reduction of job security, less favourable employment conditions, more division among an already highly fractured staff structure, etc.

For years, Generation 2004 has been proposing measures to address budgetary challenges without jeopardizing the European public service and put an end to the current arrangements, where all the burden of successive reforms and cuts is shouldered by the post-2004 generations. For example, by ending the wasteful practice of granting senior expert posts to already high-ranking officials and reducing the number of AD13/AD14s who have no management responsibilities, and by applying the 6% special solidarity levy to pensions. These are just a couple of measures among the many proposals Generation 2004 has repeatedly raised throughout time in our political manifesto.

Generation 2004 is also interested to see how any final cuts will be implemented across the EU institutions, as previous cuts in staff numbers were implemented quite differently in EP and the Council.

Finally, we can only reiterate a request to start a social dialogue on the future of the administrative budget and HR policies as a matter of urgency: what is at stake here is the very permanence and independence of the European public service.

And do not forget, we are also open to external suggestions; if you have ideas on how to lower expenditure without making it again at the expense of those that have already carried most of the burden (e.g. post-2004 staff) then please let us know about it ASAP.

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