Reform chief set for ‘golden handshake’

Author (Person)
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Series Details Vol.7, No.28, 12.7.01, p1
Publication Date 12/07/2001
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Date: 16/07/01

By David Cronin

One of the European Commission's highest-ranking female officials is set to leave her post with a massive 'golden handshake'. Maria-Pia Filippone, the Commission's deputy secretary-general, will be paid a lump sum of €33,000 and around 807 of her €132,000 salary next year under the terms of the EU's staff regulations.

Filippone's chief task has been to help usher in reforms aimed at purging the EU executive of its reputation for cronyism and sleaze developed during the 1990s.

Speculation that she is planning to leave because she is hostile to the reforms was discounted by the Commission yesterday. "There is no truth in that [claim she is hostile to reform]," said spokesman Jonathan Faull. "She has influenced the way things are going." However, in her previous role as deputy chief adviser to former Commission head Jacques Santer, Filippone had a reputation as a conservative. Several Commissioners, including Vice-President Neil Kinnock, are believed to have initially expressed reservations about her appointment as deputy secretary-general. Faull said if this was the case, he was unaware of it.

Filippone's loss will be a blow to Commission President Romano Prodi, who believes there are an insufficient number of his compatriots at the highest echelons of the EU executive.

Formal steps leading to her departure are expected to be launched in the coming weeks, under the so-called Article 50 golden-handshake procedures.

It will be the second time in recent months for an Article 50 payout to be awarded. Jim Currie, head of the environment directorate, is also leaving the Commission under these circumstances. Scottish-reared Currie is thought to have been eager to leave for some time - in April he refuted reports that he was about to take a senior post with a major oil company.

Meanwhile, speculation is rising about the future intentions Alexander Schaub, the top official in the Commission's competition directorate. The position is considered to be one of the most coveted jobs in the Brussels bureaucracy. Despite maintaining a prodigious work rate, there are strong indications Schaub will resign from his post next year.

Names being suggested as possible replacements include Prodi's chief spokesman Jonathan Faull and Kinnock's chef de cabinet Philip Lowe.

Faull told European Voice that he was extremely interested in the work of that directorate, as he has 20 years experience in competition law. "But Mr Schaub is a very dynamic and active man and I'm not aware he's suggested to anyone that he plans to retire," he added.

Report on the forthcoming departure of Maria-Pia Filippone, the Commission's deputy secretary-general.

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