The EU administrative machine is often the focus of criticism. It’s ponderous, costs too much, and frequently acts divorced from reality. That’s the tenor.
Is it just a subjective gut instinct, depening on the observer's stance, or is it justified in real?
EU administration expenses amount to 8.3 billion euros per year and makes 6% of the total EU budget each year. European Institutions employ up to 55.000 attendants. 34.000 of them belong to the European Commission itself.
The major rest of the European attendants relates to a regular staff number of 7652 in the General Secretariat and the political groups of the European Parliament. Another minor number of further 3,500 employees go to the Council of the European Union.
Critics may see these numbers as proof of an inflated apparatus of administration. Recurrently, claims for downsizing European bureaucracy flare up. But having a closer look at the distribution key makes the difference. Based upon 510 millions of European citizens, the relation is 1 attendant to 10000 European citizens.
The numbers become further more relative when paying attention to the extent of tasks, which the EU is to fulfill.
The European Commission splits up into several departments, the so-called Directorates-General (DG), which are similar to ministries. Those carry out the annual strategy of the European Union. There are 10 political priorities of the European Commission.
To break it down, the following example gives an inside view of the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN). It contributes to raising the economic welfare of citizens in the European Union (EU) and beyond by fostering competitive, employment-rich economies.
In order to do so, it has established a strategy to pursue five specific objectives:
1. Fostering growth and employment enhancing policies in the euro area and the EU
2. Promoting macro-economic and fiscal stability in the euro area and the EU
3. Supporting investment in the EU
4. Encouraging prosperity beyond the EU
5. Improving the efficient functioning of the Economic and Monetary Union
Being aware of such a multi-facetted scope of tasks, the EU in common needs to have an good-working administrative body in each policy field to deliver solid results. However, it is still less compared to regional administrations, for example, to the administrative body of the German federal state of Hamburg, where more civil servants are employed related to the number of population there. But the number of EU attendant may not increase as expected as many tasks become digital in the era of e-government.
Explanation of the General Secretariat of the European Council,