General Affairs Council – V-P Šefčovič discusses administration reform
Among the items on the agenda of the EU General Affairs Council (GAC) on Monday was the future multi-annual financial framework (MFF) – the EU's long-term budget – which is currently being negotiated by the European Commission, Council and Parliament. As usual, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič attended the GAC on behalf of the Commission, in particular to discuss his proposed reforms of the EU administration. The debate with EU ministers also featured budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski, who discussed the main elements of the Commission's MFF proposal for 2014-2020.
V-P Šefčovič welcomed the Danish Presidency's work on preparing the negotiations, but warned that in order for the new MFF to be approved in time for 2014, all parties would have to move forward quickly during the negotiations, and that finding areas for compromise would be vital. He acknowledged that this would not be easy, given the vastly different, and sometimes contradictory, positions between Member States in particular.
On the specific issue of administration, the so-called 'heading 5' of the MFF, V-P Šefčovič underlined that his proposals were designed to reduce the cost of the EU civil service at the same time as keeping it attractive and efficient, in order to attract the best talent and bring the greatest added value to EU citizens.
Defending the Commission's position against criticism from some Member States that the proposed reforms do not go far enough, V-P Šefčovič reminded ministers that major reforms of the EU administration had already been carried out in 2004, saving the EU €3bn over the last seven years and a further €5bn by 2020. He added that the 5% cut in current staffing levels, as well as changes to working hours and other entitlements, would save €800m in heading 5 – and repeated that this heading accounts for less than 6% of the total MFF.
Discussions on the MFF will continue throughout 2012, with the Commission keen to reach an agreement with the European Parliament and Member States by the end of the year in order for the new budget to be ready in time for 2014.