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EU officials in Brussels receive huge salaries; Dombrovskis receives much less

Nina Kolyako, BC, Riga, 01.03.2011.Print version
European Union (EU) officials receive huge salaries, making white-collar residents from Eastern Europe rushing to find jobs at EU institutions in Brussels, according to a feature story in the ''The International Herald Tribune". In the article, ''The Herald Tribune'' compared the salaries of Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity) and EU officials from Latvia.

''As prime minister of Latvia, Valdis Dombrovskis has one of the worst jobs in politics, presiding over a fall in living standards in his impoverished country as he slashes salaries and cuts jobs to try to strengthen the nation’s depleted finances,'' the newspaper points out. ''For this he gets a pretax annual salary of EUR 32,640 (LVL 22,940). He pays his own health insurance and lives in a three-room, Soviet-built apartment.''

 

The newspaper points out that while Dombrovskis earns less than many police officers walking beats in Western Europe, other Latvian officials based in Brussels do not do so badly, writes LETA.

 

''Take Andris Piebalgs. As Latvia’s member of the European Commission, he earns EUR 248,006 a year, seven times as much as the prime minister who re-nominated him to his Brussels post,'' the article says.

 

''The Herald Tribune'' article also points out to Egils Levits, Latvia’s judge at the European Court of Justice, another EU institution, gets the same amount as Piebalgs, which, accounting for the currency exchange rate, means he earns well over USD 100,000 more than the chief justice of the United States, John G. Roberts, Jr.

 

''For Mr. Piebalgs and Mr. Levits, the benefits aren’t bad, either: a housing and living allowance, an annual stipend of EUR 4,380 per dependent child, around EUR 7,300 a year for entertainment, and a generous pension with no employee contribution,'' the article goes on to say.

 

''Professional interests and talents aside, it is easy to see why there has been a white-collar gold rush from struggling East European countries to employment opportunities with the EU.''

 

''The Herald Tribune'' points out that nearly 150 Latvians work for the European Commission as administrators and thereby earn at least 50% more than Dombrovskis.

 

According to Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice president responsible for administration and salaries, the pay is appropriate for international jobs, where top officials have to run households in two countries.

 

''If you look at what are our salaries, the commission is definitely not higher-paying than the International Monetary Fund or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,'' he said.

 

Such salaries were required ''to have high-quality commissioners who are totally independent,'' he added. ''They restrict what they can do now and what they can do after their duties.''

 

Dombrovskis, 39, who in 2009 gave up his seat in the European Parliament, where he was earning three times as much as he is now, is more philosophical. ''Everything is relative,'' he said of his salary.'' It is less than in the European Parliament or to compare with other prime ministers, but to put this in a Latvian context, it’s not so small, even though in nominal terms I earn less now than in 2003, when I was finance minister.''

 

''His wife works, and last year he finally got rid of his 12-year-old Saab 93, though its replacement, a Toyota RAV4, is itself more than two years old,'' the article points out.

 

''Then again, it might be smart for him not to look around too much. Mr. Piebalgs, the Latvian member of the European Commission who earns seven times as much as him, has a smart new home in Jurmala, an upscale town on the Baltic. He declined to be interviewed.''






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