In the News: Commissioners' Leaving Bonus

Once in a while, when the subject is relevant to the inside life of the Institutions, I will try to comment burning news.
The first one, which is currently breaking the headlines, is the bonus commissioners are expected to receive when they leave their position.

Euroseptics got pretty upset when they learned that:
"The basic monthly salary is around €20,000 for a European Commissioner, and they can still receive a portion [40 to 65% depending on the length of service] of that for three years after they have left their post. If they accept a new job which pays less, their European contract tops it up."
Barroso, the President of the EC, is actually paid €24,400 (gross), similar to Obama's stipend. Not bad for an unelected official. As the matter of fact, they are both beaten by Dominique Strauss Khan (Head of the IMF) who is the highest paid public official, with around half a million dollars per year.

So a commissioner can expect €468k and Barroso €570k...

Golden parachutes are quite a drama nowadays, with the financial meltdown. Commissioners' bonuses aren't new; they were set up (and that is why there are high) during the European Coal and Steel Community, to avoid commissioners joining the industry right after serving the Commission.

But the real point is: Do they really deserve to be paid so much in the first place?
The role of commissioners is in fact quite limited. They do set an agenda and a direction for the European Commission, but after that you have to be really convincing to get Fonctionnaires to move in your direction. There has not been a strong College of Commissioners for a while (Prodi was ok, but not as good as Delors), and the recent one have been very focused on downsizing the headcount of officials... not a good incentive, you might say.

Moreover, Commissioners are politicians (usually second-class), and they are not usually appointed to a sector relevant to their experience but after a complex political game of compromises. Some DGs are having hard time working with some of them, either because they don't know what they are talking about, or they have their own personal agenda, or they are defending their member states when they are required not to.

Something really stroke me the last time I met one of them. It was Leonard Orban in charge of Multilingualism. One of the obvious questions was how many languages he could speak... 3: Romanian, English and French. And believe me is English and French were not even great!

Eventually, I find their salary to be ok. After all, it is not much different from what ministers can get in member states, and of course you want to make sure they cannot be influenced easily by lobbies. But the pension is a bit puzzling. If it was really hard to get a job after that, then maybe. Elected officials get that in member states as well. But why the top up, when previous commissioners such as Mandelson or Frattini when straight back to their government? Why not a regressive compensation? 60% the first year, 40 the second and then 20 the third... a bit like Contract Agents :)

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