A great report on EUobserver today features some very revealing comments by a, disappointingly, anonymous EU official about the "mushrooming" cost of the EU institutions, and their total disengagement from the debates going on across Europe about the need to cut government budgets, and improve value for money for EU taxpayers.
The official said:
"Austerity measures at the moment have yet to really set in, but in the autumn, this is going to be tangible, with salary and social benefit reductions, pension cuts. People will begin to feel it, and people will look at us and say: 'How is it that they are immune, they keep growing when we are having to cut back?' The number one issue should be to stop the mushrooming of the institutions. We don't need new institutions. There is a tendency to think every time there is a new problem, the EU can solve it with a new institution."
This sage official then goes on to promote another extremely sensible idea, one with which we have concurred before:
"We should also shut down the Economic and Social Committee and Committee of the Regions. These institutions were born when the parliament had no power, was not a factor. Now this is a duplication. There is no real need for these bodies."
He certainly gets our vote on that. It is a shame that the identity of this official is not shared, although he would certainly shoot any chance of career advancement in the foot with his outspoken comments which confirm many of the gripes people have with the EU institutions. Nonetheless, a few home truths such as these delivered to his colleagues might go a long way.
It also comes amid what is shaping up to be a fierce battle over the EU's 2011 budget. The Commission wants an increase of 6%, compared to the 2010 budget, while national ambassadors want to limit that to 2.8%, which one MEP branded 'offensive', and member states potentially want to push for actual cuts to the budget, i.e. the 2011 budget to be less than the 2010 budget.
A scandalous prospect to be sure, but regardless, let’s hope this wave of realism penetrates the mindset of a few more European politicians. After all, is it really so outrageous to suggest that there is more than a sliver of fat that could afford to be trimmed from the EU budget, or that employees of the European institutions cannot expect continuous rises to their salary and benefits while their compatriots working in member states hunker down for pay freezes and renegotiations of their benefits package?