Expatica news

Belgians ‘taking over’ key EU institutions

4 October 2004

BRUSSELS – Belgians are vastly overrepresented in the EU’s most influential institutions, it was reported on Monday.

Since May this year, the population of the EU as a whole has been over 450 million people, with Belgians representing just 10 million of this total.

Yet when it comes to the number of jobs Belgians hold in key EU institutions, most of which are admittedly based here, the country punches considerably above its demographic weight.

According to Belgium’s La Libre Belgique newspaper, Belgians hold a disproportionate number of posts in the EU institutions, ranging from secretaries to managers.

The paper added however that they have only a very weak grasp on the very top jobs including posts like Directors General, the EU’s most senior career civil servants.

The only Belgian Director General currently working for the EU institutions is Michel Vanden Abeele, who is based in Luxembourg and heads the EU’s statistical agency, Eurostat.

Another Belgian, Marc Franco, is in charge of the European Commission’s representation in Moscow, a highly influential post when it comes to EU-Russia relations.

Pierre Defraigne, meanwhile, is co-director of DG Trade.

And things look set to get better for Belgium’s eurocrat army.

Belgium is likely to benefit from the administrative reforms pushed forward by outgoing EU Commissioner Neil Kinnock.

A compulsory rotation system for officials will ensure that Belgium is granted a post in the highest echelons of the Commission, a high-ranking source told La Libre Belgique.

This would boost the current army of senior Belgian officials, where Belgium holds 23 out of 200 A2 posts, the position just below director general.

This makes Belgium one of the four countries that have the best representation in the Commission.

By comparison, the Netherlands has only 12 such positions.

But Commission sources say this overrepresentation is starting to grate on other nations who have fewer officials.

Scandinavians, Austrians and Portuguese lose out the most when it comes to Commission jobs.

Belgians are credited with being be conscientious civil servants who are able negotiators, said La Libre Belgique.

The paper also added that despite their sizeable presence, Belgian eurocrats have not traditionally banded together into informal networks designed to push a national line inside institutions like the European Commission or European Parliament.

EU civil servants from large Union countries like France and the UK, have in the past been accused of such behaiviour.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news