On September 10, the Luxembourg Times reported that the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), which is scheduled to open in Luxembourg in November 2020, is already substantially scaling back the size of its planned staffing. Under a 2015 agreement, the EPPO was originally slated to have 118 full-time positions, in addition to as many as 90 positions that were to be transferred from the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in Brussels.
According to an unnamed EPPO official, however, “The Council and the European Parliament decided to give less than originally planned to the EPPO. In the final agreement they decided to give 117. That 117 entails some transferred from OLAF.” This change will result in a 40 percent reduction in staffing for the EPPO.
The decision likely stems from two separate factors. The EPPO official commented that European Parliament and Council tend to weigh “global, including political and budgetary questions” when they approve agreements. But Miguel Vicente-Nunez, president of a trade union that represents European Union institution staff working in Luxembourg, said that
it would have been difficult to convince OLAF staff to move from Brussels to Luxembourg.
He said the problem stems from an ongoing battle between the union and EU institutions over salary gaps in Luxembourg and Brussels. Staff working at most institutions earn the same wages – within their pay grid – whether they are based in Luxembourg or Brussels.
The cost of living in Luxembourg is higher, mainly driven by extortionate real estate prices, making the Grand Duchy less attractive than the Belgian capital, Vicente-Nunez said.
The EPPO official acknowledged that the decision could also be driven by salary and cost-of-living considerations, saying that this is a “general issue for many people from other EU countries and in particular Brussels.” Even so, the official expressed confidence that the EPPO would be able to attract enough staff.
The EPPO reportedly expects to recruit approximately around 30 staff members –including administrative, human resources, budget, and information-technology positions – and to select all 22 European Prosecutors by the end of 2019. Future staffing reportedly will be done “progressively over the next five years.”
Note: Brussels’ decision to reduce the EPPO staff so substantially, even before the EPPO has officially opened, undoubtedly took EPPO leadership aback. Even so, the loss of OLAF positions being transferred to Luxembourg may not make a substantial difference to the EPPO in the long run, as there is what the Luxembourg Times called an “overlap in skills” between the two agencies and Brussels-based OLAF staff can perform a number of key investigative and analytical functions for the EPPO.