A legal opinion prepared for the European Court of Justice sides with the European Commission against the member states in a dispute over pay increases for European Union staff.
At issue is whether the Council of Ministers acted legally when it decided that exceptional economic circumstances justified not keeping to a formula previously agreed with staff unions for calculating annual pay increases.
According to Yves Bot, an advocate general of the court, the judges of the court should annul a decision of the Council of Ministers taken on 19 December 2011 to reject the Commission's proposal for a pay increase of 1.7%. That proposal was based on a formula that uses the average of purchasing power of civil servants in a group of reference member states and an indexation for the cost of living in Brussels.
The Commission argued that although the EU's rules did allow for the suspension of the pay formula in exceptional economic circumstances, those conditions had not been met, so it was legally obliged to stick to the formula and propose a pay increase.
The lawyer considered three cases that have been brought before the court, all concerning the mechanism for a pay increase. Various member states joined the legal actions in one or more of the cases to side with the Council of Ministers – the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.
In two cases, the advocate general sides with the Commission against the member states.
The advocate general considers a third case should be ruled inadmissible.
The advocate general's opinion, published today (12 September),
is not binding on the judges of the court.