Brussels Briefing: €1.53m EC pay package for Big Phil

Get a taste of some of the interesting and quirky happenings in Europe from our Europe correspondent, Ann Cahill.

Brussels Briefing: €1.53m EC pay package for Big Phil

€1.53m EC pay package for Big Phil

Phil Hogan had a few weeks hard slog over the details of the EU’s agriculture policy, but Big Phil and his 27 fellow commissioners will do alright over the next five years, earning a minimum of €1.53m that includes €3,000 a month for housing, two months’ pay to help the move to Brussels, and another tranche of around €21,000 when leaving.

He will then have three years on 40% of his final basic provided he does not have a job that pays more than his Commission salary, which will bring him to age 62. Then he will hit two lean years when he will have only his Dáil and ministerial pensions of €61,000pa to fall back on.

However the good times will return at 65, when his Commission pension of €52,500 kicks in. Leaving aside the pensions, his job is worth €1.8m before tax of between 8% and 45%, with an additional contribution of 7% as a gesture of solidarity to austerity-hit families.

Blue Stars

Many schools have added Blue Stars to their constellation of accolades for their pupils and promoted by MEP Sean Kelly, some could find themselves getting a special award in Brussels in February.

“Under the Blue Star Programme, teams of pupils of all ages, from primary schools all over Ireland, are challenged to get creative and think about Europe by carrying out projects in relation to four key elements: The history, geography, culture and creativity, and Institutions of the EU,” the MEP said.

He has nominated teachers of the programme in Ireland for the prestigious EU Citizen’s Prize. He has a knack for picking winners as the GAA won last year for its role in building peace across borders.

Punching above their weight

With the powerful positions all handed out in the European Parliament, a study by the NGO VoteWatch Europe shows a significant change in the balance of power between the old member states and the 2004 entrants.

They obviously have learnt the ropes in the past decade, and helped by the fact that the big centre-right European Peoples Party and the Socialists lost support in the old members, they have more prime posts.

They chair six of the all important committees compared to just one in the last parliament with Poland having three chairs — double the number of France and Spain.

Irish MEPs have never chaired a committee.

Language games at parliament

The European Parliament has produced a game to see how many of its 24 official languages you recognise. Many of the groups of languages use similar words for ‘European’ and ‘Parliament’ .

But if the game was to find the loneliest interpreter among the Parliament’s 24, that would surely go to the Gaeilge person. What could be expected to be her only real chance of interpreting the language during the parliament’s hearings for new Commissioners was surely that of Phil Hogan.

But he gave her only one six-word phrase to work with: “Ní neart go cur le chéile.” No strength if we don’t pull together. It might have been a phrase the underworked interpreter could use on Phil.

Teacher salaries rise, but not in Ireland

The good news is that teachers in 16 EU countries say their salaries increase over the past year. But the good news does not apply to teachers in Ireland, where the amount of goods their salaries would purchase fell by 13% — more than an eighth.

Ireland’s teachers are also in a rather unique category, together with Cypriots and Romanians, needing 22 years service to reach the maximum salary.

The EU study noted that while Ireland’s teachers are still among the better-off in the EU, this depends on when they came into the profession, There are three pay scales in existence, with the latest being lowered to between €30,700 a year to a maximum of €53,400. It’s still around 280% above the average GDP rate.

Fleeing misery to get to Europe

It’s just a year since 300 died in the Mediterranean trying to gain entry to Europe.

It’s still happening, evidenced by the body parts in fishermen’s nets.

“It is virtually impossible to come to Europe in a legal and safe way,” said outgoing Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.

“Migrants are forced to put their lives in the hands of traffickers and smugglers who make huge profits from their misery and despair.”

Six EU countries accepted fewer than 250 refugees between them.

“All this while the world around us in flames”, she said.

Most come from war-ravaged Syria, followed by Russia, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Eritrea.

Ireland accepted 150, or 15%, of those who applied for asylum, having received 800 application, — a quarter of the EU average per head of population.

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