The knives are out, ahead of the European council meeting to hammer out an EU budget for 2014 to 2020, as Dziennik Gazeta Prawna reports: “Tusk and Merkel paid less than eurocrats.” The story comes on the day of a strike by Brussels civil servants angry at pressure to cut EU administration staff and costs, as proposed by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, backed by seven other countries. Under the plan, the budget, which must be agreed at the February 7-8 summit, would see a €15bn cut over seven years, warns Pierre-Philippe Bacri, head of European Civil Service Federation (ECSF). However, according to Die Welt’s estimates, more than 4,000 Eurocrats already earn more than Chancellor Angela Merkel, while European Commission general directors are the “Croesuses”, pocketing more than €21,000 per month. In comparison, Poland’s PM Donald Tusk earns monthly a mere €3,960. According to DGP,

For the EU summit to conclude with a deal, [European Council president] Herman Van Rompuy has to find extra €30bn in savings in the proposed €973bn EU budget. That is Cameron and Merkel’s condition. Since Poland and other Central European countries are blocking further cuts in structural funds and France in the Common Agricultural Policy, EU administration is likely to be the main victim of the cuts.

As a result, Eurocrats may have to work longer, lose their family separation allowance and have their pension premiums increased. Moreover, they will have to give up automatic salary raises linked to length of service at the EU.

Die Welt in Berlin announces that it is in favour of reform of the European public sector, which is becoming too powerful, too sure of itself and insufficiently controlled.

The question of wages is not the fundamental problem – it is a symptom of a creeping shift of power from politics to administration. The fact that they have long opposed civil service reform reflects the fact that Eurocrats lead a charmed life, with a little too much comfort. The administration is a hybrid, mixing legislature and executive.

The story from Die Welt “prompted a prickly rebuttal” by an EU commission spokesman on Monday, notes the EUobserver, which quotes the spokesman as saying –

If you count Merkel's perks […] she pockets about €25,000 a month. "Not one EU official, including all their allowances, gets more than Chancellor Merkel, including all her allowances," he noted. He claimed EU institutions are fully transparent because they publish salary scales. […] But he declined to disclose the take-home pay of any specific EU employee, including top public figures such as foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, saying this would violate "common human decency" on the right to privacy.