How it took five months for the European Commission to answer one question from Ray Finch MEP on how the taxpayer-funded "golden good-byes" to European Commissioners are calculated
by Dirk Crols, Assistant to Ray Finch (pictured), MEP for the South East
• On 30 September 2014, UKIP MEP Ray Finch submitted a question to the Commission: "Can the Commission provide details of the transitional allowance granted to each of the Commissioners whose period of service ends in 2014?"
It was a straight-forward question - marked as "priority" - from an elected official to an unelected bureaucracy. It concerned how the unelected bureaucrats were spending taxpayers' money on "golden good-byes" for their colleagues among the Commission's elite.
But it was not until almost five months later, on February 17, 2015, that the bureaucrats finally replied to Ray. The arrogance of their answer was even more extraordinary than the disrespect shown in their delay: "For detailed information on the transitional allowances Commissioners are entitled to when leaving the office, the Commissioner refers the Honourable Member to Regulation N° 422/67/EEC, 5/67/Euratom of 25 July 1967 determining the emoluments of the President and Members of the Commission and of the President, Judges, Advocates-General and Registrar of the Court of Justice".
In other words, "Run along. However many thousands of euros the handful of Commissioners are being paid, the amounts are not worth mentioning to you."
But the amounts are well-worth mentioning. Here is what I have since found out about how these pay-offs are calculated.
Members of the Commission, judges at the European Court of Justice and members of the Court of Auditors receive so-called "transitional allowances" after their period of service has ended. As indicated in the answer from the Commission, the legal basis is set down in a Council regulation.
For the moment, let's just look at the deal the Commissioners are given under this short and technical formula in the Council regulation. I will leave the judges and auditors to one side.
For three years after leaving the Commission, a former Commissioner receives a monthly transitional allowance calculated as a percentage (40 % to 65 %) of his last basic salary.
It varies according to the number of years served. Remember, this has nothing to do with pensions. Pensions for Commissioners are something else on top of all this.
If the Commissioner was in office less than two years, his monthly transitional allowance is 40 % of his former salary. The allowance is 45 % of his former salary if he was a Commissioner for over two years but less than three years. The allowance is 50 % if his period of service was more than three years but less than five years. It is 55 % of the last basic salary if the period of service was more than five years but less than ten years.
The deal also allows someone who was only Commissioner for a few months to be entitled to such an allowance for three years. For example, when the Czech Republic joined the EU on 1 May 2004 Pavel Telicka became European Commissioner in the Prodi Commission. He shared the portfolio of health and consumer protection with David Byrne. However, he held this post only until November 2004. And that was the end of this career at the Commission.
Yet although Mr Telicka was a Commissioner for just six months, he was entitled to a transitional allowance of more than €7,000 (£5,000) a month for three years.
If a former Commissioner takes up a new paid job within three years, the formula becomes more complicated. The monthly gross remuneration for this job is deducted from the transitional allowance, insofar as this remuneration, together with the transitional allowance, exceeds the salary which the Commissioner was previously receiving. If the remuneration for this new job, together with the transitional allowance, is lower than his former salary, the former Commissioner is allowed to retain both his new remuneration and his transitional allowance.
Here is an example to make it clear how that formula works in practice. A Commissioner who leaves his post after four years and eleven months receives 50 % of his basic salary every month as his transitional allowance. That would be about €10,000 (£7,200). If after his time at the Commission he becomes an MEP - and ex-Commissioners often do - his salary at the European Parliament together with his transitional allowance do not exceed his former salary. Therefore he retains both his new salary from the European Parliament and his full transitional allowance from the European Commission. Both payments financed by the taxpayers of the member states of the EU.
The Commissioners and other members of the European elite who force ordinary people to suffer austerity, tax increases, spending cuts and unemployment, remain in their bubble of high pay and high perks. Not only is the transitional allowance far too high, once a former Commissioner or other high-ranking European official has found a new job, he should have no transitional allowance at all. After all, he has a fabulous guaranteed pension is waiting for him, unlike so many suffering EU taxpayers.