POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Lux gov was ‘not consulted’ about EU agency closure



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Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, said on Friday that the government has called on the European Commission to reverse it decision to transfer the activities of an EU food safety agency out of the grand duchy. Pictured: Jean Asselborn is seen on the Chamber of Deputies floor, 13 March 2019. Photo credit: Chambre des Députés 

The grand duchy’s foreign minister said the government was lobbying the European Commission to abandon its recent decision to relocate an EU agency from Luxembourg to Brussels, a move which came somewhat by surprise.

Jean Asselborn (LSAP) also argued that the grand duchy remained an “attractive” location for European staff to be posted.

The European Commission said on 30 April that the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency’s role would be redistributed to a new Brussels-based organisation in the new year. The commission said it was seeking “synergies” among several agencies, making “geographical proximity” a “vital” requirement.

Unions representing staff at Chafea and other EU institutions called last month for the move to be suspended.

On 5 June, Asselborn, responding to a parliamentary question by Léon Gloden (CSV), said the move was unexpected and the government started making its case for a U-turn. Asselborn wrote:

“The government was not consulted by the European Commission about transferring [Chafea’s] activities to Brussels. As soon as we heard this information in late April, we immediately contacted the EU commissioner responsible, Johannes Hahn, and expressed the government’s concerns about such a decision, especially considering the approximately 80 employees at Chafea. The definitive decision should be made by the end of this year. Over the coming weeks and months, we will try to convince the European Commission that it makes more sense to strengthen Chafea, an agency that has been working well in Luxembourg for 15 years, rather than breaking it up into a few different agencies in Brussels.”

Gloden asked Asselborn what Luxembourg’s government was doing to make the grand duchy an attractive location for EU institutions in the future. Asselborn stated:

“The grand duchy continues to strengthen the living and working conditions for EU civil servants and officials. Besides close collaboration with the European institutions and agencies involved in execution of construction projects, the government has taken a number of measures--including childcare vouchers, subsidised housing and free public transport--that contribute to the overall attractiveness of Luxembourg as a location.”

That said, Asselborn argued that there was “no link” between the commission’s Chafea decision and current working and living conditions in Luxembourg.

The European Commission told Delano on Monday that: “The commission remains in contact with the Luxembourg authorities in order to ensure a meaningful and solid EU presence in Luxembourg.”