Light at end of the tunnel

Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.26, 28.6.01, p11 (editorial)
Publication Date 28/06/2001
Content Type

Date: 28/06/01

AT A time when Brussels bureaucrats are increasingly accused of being out of touch with European citizens, news of a breakthrough in negotiations over Neil Kinnock's planned staff reforms is welcome.

It is clear that all sides in the prolonged talks - but particularly the unions - have worked hard to reach a consensus in meetings of the negotiating committee chaired by former Council of Ministers Secretary-General Niels Ersboll.

It's a little early to start talking of victory, but the emerging deal represents an important step towards overhauling an institutional structure which has changed little since the 1950s. 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' is a maxim which has been relied on by some in the past to discourage any attempts to modernise a system which has tended to reward complacency rather than talent.

And while not necessarily 'broke', the current system is clearly due for a major overhaul. But Kinnock and his team must now work doubly hard to keep the unions on board.

They must come up with a package which will balance the need to reward the best, without alienating the rest. That will, inevitably, mean some form of 'guarantee' to demonstrate that the vast majority of hard-working institution staff will be better off as a result of the changes.

They must also produce detailed costings to convince some of the less-enthusiastic member states that the price of reform will be sensible.

But with Kinnock's determination to see the job through and a realistic, non-ideological approach by the unions, there is every reason for EU officials to feel a little more optimistic about their future this week.

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