Commission prepares for von der Leyen transition

OLIVIER HOSLET

A view of the Berlaymont building, house of the European Commission headquarters, in Brussels, Belgium, 21 December 2016.

Commission prepares for von der Leyen transition


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A day after the European Council’s decision on the EU’s top jobs, the European Commission began to take the necessary steps for the transition to its next president, Ursula von der Leyen.
“Previous experience has shown that it is necessary for the candidate for President/the
President-elect and the Commissioners-designate to spend considerable time in Brussels,
Luxembourg and/or Strasbourg to attend preliminary meetings with Members of the
other Institutions and with Commission staff,” writes the Decision of Jean-Claude Juncker’s College.
As done also for his own transition period back in 2014, Juncker made the arrangements to provide the future EU executive “the staff, infrastructure and budget to operate during the period preceding their appointment as the new Commission”. Five years later, the new decision of the Commission “introduces some practical adjustments and specificities,” compared to the Decision of 2014.
According to the Decision, Ursula von der Leyen, along with her fellow ‘Commissioners-designate’ will be hired by the Commission as special advisers. This does not apply to for First Vice-president, Frans Timmermans, the Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager and the vice-president Maros Sefcovic, that are already parts of the College.
Von der Leyen will therefore receive compensation, the same amount as any of her Commissioners-designate – a “monthly honorarium” that corresponds to the basic salary of a grade 9 step 1 Commission official, corresponding to the amount of a salary that an EU Commission Head of Unit receives. The lowest salary granted at this level in the Commission amounts at €5,500 per month. The Decision also covers the mission expenses of the candidate, with all the amounts being taxed for the benefit of the EU.
This amount is to be received until the candidate receives a positive vote by the European Parliament, or until the day the nominee withdraws the candidacy for the EU executive post.
During this period, each of the Commissioners-designate shall be supported by one administrator or equivalent and one assistant or secretary according to the Decision, while the candidate for President/President-elect shall be supported by up to five administrators or equivalent and up to three assistants or secretaries. This totals to a maximum of 8 members for the “transitional cabinet”. If these people are not current Commission officials, they are then hired as contract agents for a fixed period of not less than three months and may be extended until the day before the new Commission takes office. The staff will remain until that day attached to the Cabinet of the Member of the Commission responsible for Human Resources, at this moment the German Commissioner for EU Budget, Günther Oettinger.
According to the Decision, the offices of von der Layen and her Commissioners-designate’s teams will not be at the Berlaymont, but at the DG ECFIN building, right beside the European Commission building, the Charlemagne. DG DIGIT shall make available full ICT equipment including notably mobile phones and laptops for them and their staff along with desktop computers and telephones, along with mail service.
They all can call upon the services of the local Human Resources unit for the Cabinets, in the Directorate-General for Human Resources and Security, but the facility cannot be used on a permanent basis to increase the number of staff in a transition team. A dedicated spokesperson will be taking care of the Ursula von der Leyen issues and press requests at the midday briefing as soon as the European Parliament approves her candidacy. Until then, according to an EU source, she is entitled to keep her Ministry of Defence spokesperson.
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