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EU gives staff inflation-busting pay rise

BRUSSELS – Despite efforts by the European Commission to get European countries to clamp down on pay rises, the increase — funded by member states — will be applied to 38,000 civil servants if the 27 member states back the measure.

"Zero percent would have been more appropriate," snarled Austria’s public administration minister Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek, who said the recommendation was "totally unimaginable" in a time of economic crisis.

"It’s not the commission that decides off its own back whether to lower or raise salaries for public staff," said the EU executive’s spokeswoman for administrative affairs, Valerie Rampi.

She said "rises and falls" are equally likely, under a formula that measures the cost of living in eight EU countries — Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain. She was unable to give past examples when pay settlements had gone down.

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Greece, Ireland and Hungary, have each applied pay freezes to civil servants since the financial crisis battered their economies — with the commission leading calls for European restraint on public budgets.

Outgoing commissioners are slated to receive up to 65 percent of their salaries for three years after their terms end on Monday, under existing EU rules.

Basic salaries for commissioners are near 20,000 euros (30,000 dollars) per month, before accommodation and other allowances and expenses.

The new European Union president, Herman Van Rompuy of Belgium, is to earn more than US President Barack Obama.