EU judges uphold bumper staff pay rise... that they get too
(BRUSSELS) - Judges at Europe's top court upheld Wednesday a 3.7-percent pay rise for tens of thousands of European Union staff -- an inflation-busting hike that would benefit them as well.
The decision left EU officials on the defensive, coming amid a general strike in Portugal, market pressure on Spain and attacks on the Irish government as it unveiled six billion euros of cuts just in 2011 under a plan agreed in exchange for an international bailout.
The judges at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg found in favour of the EU's executive arm, which took the 27 member states to court for deciding to slash the 2010 increase in half -- just as they want to do with the EU's overall budget next year.
The reason given by the judges was that the states had not invoked an obscure EU rule that allows the European Commission to ignore a mathematical formula based on living costs in a cross-section of the more expensive EU states and cite a serious economic crisis.
A spokesman for the commission, Michael Mann, had the unenviable job of defending the executive's decision not to rejig its recommendation for 2010.
He argued that the crisis, which began in late-2008 with meltdown in US credit and real estate markets, was neither "sudden, urgent nor short-term," as the rule specifies, and said states were still giving their own civil servants pay rises at that time.
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