The College of Commissioners decided unanimously, on 6 January, to initiate an action for annulment before the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg with respect to the Council decision of 23 December limiting to 1.85% the salary increase of 50,000 civil servants and contract staff of the EU institutions. The EU executive had proposed an increase of 3.7%, in accordance with the rules in force.

After weeks of standoff, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso asked his team members whether they wished to take legal action against the member states on the basis of Article 263 of the EU Treaty. The commissioners all agreed, "without discussion or objection," according to a spokesman. The executive will ask the court to implement an accelerated procedure. An internal source notes that a normal procedure takes between 12 and 18 months but that the case could be settled "by around summer 2010" under an accelerated procedure

Meanwhile, the Commission will implement the 1.85% increase. However, if it wins its case, the difference could be made good. The problem, continues the source, is that the margins in Heading 5 of the EU budget (administrative expenditure) are very tight and that part of the appropriations earmarked for the 3.7% increase from July 2009 have already been lost because they cannot be carried over from one year to the next. "Money will have to be found without having an impact on other expenditure under Heading 5, for instance spending related to application of the Lisbon...

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