Tag Archives: Council of the EU

Commission Wins on Salaries Dispute with Council

This may not be hot news, but raises some questions. The ECJ has partially annulled Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) 1296/2009 on the adjustment of the remuneration and pensions of officials of the European Union.

In November 2009, the Commission proposed a salary increase of 3.7%. On 23 December 2009, the Council decided on an increase, in the contested regulation. It considered that the Commission’s proposal for adjusting salaries should be modified to take account of the economic and financial crisis. It fixed new salary levels on the basis of an increase of 1.85%.

The Commission brought an action for annulment against the provisions of the regulation setting out those amounts. It argued that the Staff Regulations establish an automatic method for adjusting salaries that leaves no margin of discretion to the Council that would allow it to reject the Commission’s proposal.

The ECJ has concluded that the Council has no margin of discretion allowing it to decide upon a salary adjustment different to that proposed by the Commission on the basis of the criteria laid down in Article 3 of Annex XI of the Staff Regulations alone, except under the special procedure provided for by Article 10 of that Annex.

Interestingly, the ECJ has held that in order to avoid creating a legal vacuum in the EU salary regime, the effects of those articles are maintained until such time as a new regulation, adopted by the Council, enters into force.

Here are the questions:

What was the Council Legal Service actually thinking? Did they explain to Council members that they were about to make a blatant violation of relevant EU law? If yes, did the Council adopt the regulation anyway to score a political point against the Commission?



The EU Reacts to the Volcano Situation

The consequences of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano are strongly felt throughout Europe, with most of the EU airspace still closed because of the volcanic ash in the atmosphere that can damage airplane engines.

The question now is what is the EU doing about it?

The Spanish Secretary of State , Diego López Garrido and the Vice-president of the European Commission and Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas, met on Sunday with Eurocontrol to find out first hand the evolution of the volcanic cloud that has forced the closure of most of the airports in Northern Europe.

More, the EU transport ministers will be meeting on video conference today to get a grip of the situation and to decide on common measures. The airline companies at the same time are demanding the lift of airspace restrictions after flight tests by Lufthansa, KLM and other airlines that conducted more than a dozen flights without any problems during the weekend. One airport company manager quoted by FT said that “the impact is already worse than 9/11”.

Meanwhile the airspace ban has delayed various EU meetings, including a the accession talks with Croatia, the meeting of the Fisheries Council. The plenary session of the European Parliament is also in doubt, since many MEPs may not be able to reach Strasbourg.

I’ll post an update when we have results from the meeting of transport ministers.

UPDATE: BBC reports that the body that represents the world’s airlines, IATA, has criticised Europe’s governments for the way they closed air space. British Airways demands compensation from the EU due to the accumulated loss.

Siim Kallas has issued a press statement, saying that there is a meeting going on of all Eurocontrol members, national civil aviation authorities, national air navigation providers, representatives of the airline and airport industry, as well as the Spanish Presidency. The aim is to agree technical solutions for stronger European co-operation to maximise available airspace. He says that they are working hard to agree technical solutions to do that today.

UPDATE2: EU transport ministers agreed to gradually lift airspace restrictions where possible.

The Internal Security Strategy of the EU

The Council has approved an Internal Security Strategy for the European Union. It will probably be approved by the European Council in March. The strategy lays out a European security model, which integrates among others action on law enforcement and judicial cooperation, border management and civil protection, with due respect for shared European values, such as fundamental rights. Its main objectives are:

– to present to the public the existing EU instruments that already help to guarantee the security and freedom of EU citizens and the added value that EU action provides in this area;

– to further develop common tools and policies using a more integrated approach which addresses the causes of insecurity and not just the effects;

– to strengthen law enforcement and judicial cooperation, border management, civil protection and disaster management.

Priorities of the Spanish Presidency of the Council

Spain now holds the presidency of the Council of the EU. It will work in close coordination with the other members of the trio – Belgium and Hungary, as well as with the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the High Representative for the Foreign and Security Policy, Mrs. Catherine Ashton.

The Spanish presidency has four main priorities:

  • Full and effective application of the Lisbon Treaty;
  • Greater co-ordination of economic policies of Member States and the approval of the European strategy for sustainable growth for 2020;
  • Reinforcement of the presence and influence of the European Union in the new world order;
  • Placing European citizens at the centre of EU policy, with initiatives designed to develop their rights and freedoms.

Albania Moves Ahead Toward Membership

The Council has decided to implement the procedure of Article 49 of the Treaty on the European Union on the application of Albania for membership. This is a procedural, but important step in the accession process.

Now the European Commission is invited to submit its opinion on the application. The assessment of the Commission will take approximately one year, and only after a unanimous decision of the Member states Albania will receive the status of candidate for membership.


EU position for the Copenhagen Climate Conference

We now have the conclusions of the Council on the EU position for the Copenhagen Climate Conference. The 13-page document repeats the general lines of EU climate policy, including targets for global warming – up to 2°C above the preindustrial level; a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050, and at least 80% reduction of emissions of developed countries by 2050.

This is a cross-post from TH!NK2 Climate Change.

Important Institutional Dimensions of the Commission Selection Process

Now we have Jose Manuel Barroso approved as the next President of the European Commission. However, the procedure does not end here; now the College of commissioners should be selected.

This, in turn, demands the exploration of two problems, relevant to the composition of the next Commission, as well as to its political orientation.

First, as I have already pointed out, for the first time the President of the Commission has presented his political program before being approved by the European Parliament. One can say that this was made on the spur of the moment. However, during the debate prior to the approval vote, Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberals and democrats in the EP, had this to say:

“Our support is very clear. It is conditional. That means that our support will last until we see that these elements [from the political guidelines] will be found in the whole program of the Commission (…)

Finally, our support also will depend, as you know it, on the new structure of the Commission.”

This statement by Mr. Verhofstadt means that the future Commission will be put under direct political scrutiny at least by the liberal democrats and more, that Mr. Barroso will have to accommodate particular demands on the structure and distribution of mandates in the Commission.

Second, and much, much more important – we have the issue of the Treaty of Lisbon. Even if the referendum in Ireland is successful, I very much doubt that all ratification documents will be deposited with the Italian government before October, 31st. That is very important, because art. 6 of the Treaty of Lisbon says that it will enter into force “on the first day of the month following the deposit of the instrument of ratification by the last signatory State to take this step.” There are many signals that the Czech Republic and/or Poland may delay the ratification.

Now, if the Treaty of Lisbon has not entered into force on November 1st, then we need to elect the European Commission by the rules provided by the Treaty of Nice. That follows from art. 4, para. 2 and the following of the Treaty of Nice. The rules of that treaty stipulate that the number of commissioners should be less than 27. More, these rules require the unanimous approval by the Council of a “rotation system based on the principle of equality” for the election of members of the Commission.


Some say that we can approve the college by the rules of the Treaty of Lisbon provided that we have certainty about the future date of entry into force of that treaty (say, in December). Unfortunately this is not the case. If the Treaty of Lisbon has not entered into force on November, 1st and if the Commission was appointed by the rules of that same treaty, then anyone can challenge the legality of that act of appointment on the basis of violation of primary Community law.

European Parliament Approves Barroso

The European Parliament has approved the candidacy of Jose Manuel Barroso for President of the European Commission. 382 MEPs voted for, 219 against, and 117 sustained. There were minor technical difficulties with the voting equipment before the vote.

The debate on 15 September revealed strong divisions among MEPs about the Barroso candidature (you can see the video here). Mr. Barroso answered critics by saying:

“If you want a strong Commission, that has the rights and initiative to defend the European interest, at least give me the benefit of the doubt.”

The leader of the Socialist and Democrats group, Martin Schulz, responded that:

“He[Mr. Barroso] is an excellent advocate for the interests of the Council.”

The main argument, it appears, remains the independence of the Commission itself. Now Mr. Barroso has a new mandate to disprove such allegations.

Council Conclusions on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism

The Council has adopted its conclusions on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) for Bulgaria and Romania.

The Council stresses the need for more substantial results in investigating, prosecuting and judging cases of high-level corruption and organised crime in order to secure lasting change in Bulgaria.

The Council concludes that the CVM should continue “pending the results expected in this framework”.

Czech Notification on Canadian Visa Regime

The Czech Republic has notified the Council of the EU of the unilateral imposition of a visa regime for Czech citizens by Canada. An interesting observation in the notification is that “the visa reciprocity is considered to be a very sensitive issue even on the top political level”.