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01/10/2016

Commission officials demotivated by Juncker-Timmermans bottleneck

Science & Policymaking

Commission officials demotivated by Juncker-Timmermans bottleneck

Jean-Claude Juncker and Frans Timmermans

[European Commission]

Jean-Claude Juncker has put the brakes on the Brussels legislative machine, leading many EU officials to develop an alleged “identity crisis”. EurActiv’s partner Tagesspiegel reports.

This is Ingeborg Gräßle’s sobering assessment of the Juncker Commission. The Christian Democratic Union and European People’s Party politician spoke of an “identity crisis” amongst officials of the European executive and motivation that is hard to come by.

What has happened in the first 14 months of the Juncker Commission? As well as the many external crises that the Commission has had to deal with, are its 35,000 employees currently in the midst of one of its own design? It appears that it could all harken back to what Juncker said when appointing his team in September 2014: “I want to be serious about being big on big things and small on small things.”

Demotivation a problem

To some extent the declaration was aimed at Juncker’s deputy, Frans Timmermans. The Dutchman has been tasked with taking stock of and cutting back the EU’s useless regulations, i.e. the “small things”. In this way, the European Commission should, on paper, be able to concentrate on the “big things”, such as the refugee crisis and the monetary union.

>>Read: Germany encouraged to support Commission’s toll proposals

In practice, this means that the Commission has been submitting fewer proposals than before. According to Gräßle, who heads the Budgetary Control Committee and sits on the Budgetary Committee, Commission officials that are not within the remit of Juncker’s “big things” have become more and more frustrated. “I see that more and more workers in the executive are becoming demotivated,” she said. In this statement, she is making reference to the fact that many officials who continue to diligently carry out their work do not see their projects go past the planning stage. Their regulatory proposals struggle to make it through the Juncker-Timmermans bottleneck.

Gräßle to invite Georgieva before Committee

In the eyes of the CDU MEP, the European Commission apparatus is overly preoccupied with Juncker’s overhaul. This includes his appointment of seven Vice-Presidents, among them, Timmermans. Gräßle also forwarded the view that there are more Commissioners than worthwhile portfolios and that the refugee crisis had highlighted that the Commission does not have enough personnel in key areas.

After 14 months of Juncker, Gräßle would like to see in concrete terms what the executive actually does with its thousands of officials. The Budgetary Control Committee chair will put this question at the end of January to Kristalina Georgieva, the executive’s Budget and Human Resources Commissioner, who has been invited to attend a meeting.

>>Read: Georgieva to run for UN Secretary-General

Among the MEPs who are asking whether the European Commission could make more meaningful legislative proposals, is Julia Reda of the Pirate Party of Germany, a specialist in copyright and the digital agenda. She finds the recent proposals made by the Digital Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, “pretty thin”. As an example, she cited Oettinger’s proposal that there be new European regulation on easier access to internet services such as music and games. “That is less than what was promised,” said Reda.

Free Democratic Party (FDP) MEP Michael Theurer stopped short of putting the blame squarely on the Commission’s shoulders though. Regarding the disappointment surrounding the slow progress of Oettinger’s Digital Agenda, he also attributed blame to the member states. Theurer ventured the opinion that the Commission should take action to put an end to the differing national regulations in relation to the Digital Agenda. “We need a single digital market, otherwise, we are not going to be able to keep up with the Americans,” he warned. Otherwise, he agreed with Juncker’s initial goal that less and better regulation should be the aim of the game.

>>Read: Commission tries to boost cross-border e-commerce with online dispute resolution

“VoteWatch Europe”, a Brussels-based NGO, found that there has been less output from the legislative pipeline under Juncker. In 2015, the first full year of the Juncker Commission, 55 EU laws were adopted by the European Parliament, compared with 64 back in 2010.

Charles de Marcilly, from the Fondation Robert Schuman think tank, remarked the low amount of legislation adopted by parliamentarians, saying elected representatives were more concerned with how their decisions looked politically rather than carrying out “genuine legislative work”. 

This article was also published by EurActiv Germany.