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Capsize in Bid to Give EU Public Employees a Raise

(CN) - The EU's highest court chastised the European Commission on Tuesday for trying to give public employees a raise in the wake of the economic meltdown.

European law tasks the commission with proposing wage and pension adjustments for government workers each year, a process that the European Council is obliged to accept. In the event of economic malaise, however, both the council and European Parliament must decide the commission's proposal together - and none are bound by the usual adjustment methods required in better times.

During economic downturns, this exception clause requires the commission to first provide objective data that proves deteriorating conditions. The law fails, however, to say which body - lawmakers or regulators - should assess the commission's data.

This oversight caused trouble in 2011 when the commission and the council reached opposing conclusions on how bad the economy had tanked.

The disagreement eventually resulted in a trio of lawsuits before the Court of Justice of the European Union. And in a trio of judgments issued Tuesday - in French and Dutch only - the high court ruled that, while the commission was entitled to its opinion on the economic climate, assessing that opinion fell to lawmakers alone.

If the council found a "serious and sudden deterioration in the economic and social situation," the commission was then required to submit to both branches of the legislature its suggested course of action.

The Luxembourg-based court noted that law gave regulators free reign to propose wage adjustments under the exception clause, but that lawmakers were under no obligation to adopt the commission's proposal.

Interestingly, European lawmakers amended the entire process - in effect since 1968 - in 2012 by creating a new agency to oversee public worker wages, and requiring both the council and parliament to approve annual adjustments.

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