Record inflation, skyrocketing energy prices, uncertainty about the war in Ukraine - many citizens are currently having to tighten their belts. Winter is approaching, and with it the fear of freezing in your own home. At the same time, a salary increase is on the agenda for EU civil servants, and this year it is expected to be particularly large - not just for low-level employees, but also for top earners such as MEPs and high-ranking civil servants. Can that be justified in times like these?
Why the income increase is even in the room
The planned salary increase of 6.9 percent is part of a regular increase in EU salaries for the tens of thousands of employees in Belgium and Luxembourg. Both ordinary employees, but also members of parliament, EU commissioners and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen benefit from this. The German head of authorities already earns a basic salary of almost 30,000 euros a month. The monthly salaries of those affected by the increase range from the lower four-digit to well over five-digit salaries.
The increase is based on a decision by the European Parliament and the EU states in 2013, according to information from the Commission. The authority emphasizes that it is not just a question of adjusting for inflation, but also depends on the level of civil servant salaries in the member states. The authority also emphasizes that the increase of 6.9 percent has not yet been finalized.
MEPs advocate renunciation
The AfD budget politician Joachim Kuhs does not find the plus justified. "The higher wage groups do not need a wage increase," says the MEP. In his opinion, MEPs and other top earners should forego a salary increase for up to twelve months. In view of the current price increase, more money for the low wage groups in the EU is urgently needed.
The new co-leader of the Greens group in the European Parliament sees it similarly. She believes that a salary increase for top earners is currently not an important political demand, on the contrary, says Terry Reintke. "You could probably just suspend a few things."
Even within the EU Commission, an automated salary increase in times of crisis is viewed critically. In the fight against inflation, it is important to prevent spiraling wages, Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said of high wage increases back in May. It is the responsibility of the social partners to "find the right balance". Wage spirals mean rising wages with rising prices, which in turn allows companies to justify even higher prices due to the rise in wage costs.
The spokesman for the German Greens in the European Parliament, Rasmus Andresen, defends the project. "It is a recurring populist reflex to criticize the salaries of people who work for EU institutions as excessive," he told the German Press Agency.
The background of the employment and living situation of the officials and employees often played no role. "Although EU officials and employees enjoy many privileges, they are also feeling the effects of the sharp rise in prices."
How it looks with members of the Bundestag
The so-called Members' Compensation rose by 3.1 percent in the summer to 10,323.29 euros per month because it is automatically linked to general wage developments. For the same reason, the diets fell a year ago, because the employees had lost earnings at the time due to the corona pandemic. In 2020, the parliamentarians even voluntarily refrained from increasing their salaries because of Corona.
Unions are demanding more pay rises
Andresen receives support from the European Trade Union Confederation ETUC: "The wages and salaries of all workers should keep pace with the cost of living, including those of hard-working civil servants." The trade union federation contradicts the warning of a wage spiral. Rather, supply problems and excessive corporate profits are the main problems. Cleaners, cooks and shop assistants should receive at least the same wage increase as EU civil servants, the ETUC demands.
How it goes on
Finally, at the end of October, it should be determined how much the salaries should really rise. The provisional number of 6.9 percent increase is essentially made up of three factors. At the beginning of the year, wages were already increased by 2.4 percent. However, due to the current crisis-related circumstances, use should be made of a special rule to adjust salaries again.
In addition to a further increase of 2.0 percent, it should also be taken into account that due to a recession in the EU in the Corona year 2020, a salary increase of 2.5 percent was suspended. As emphasized from EU circles, despite the planned salary increase, EU employees would lose purchasing power in view of the current price increases.