EUROPE – The European Commission has defended the system of regional weightings of officials’ pensions.

The Commission’s vice president and head of administrative reform, Neil Kinnock, has responded to MEPs’ criticism of the system of so-called “corrective coefficients” which are in effect a regional weighting.

“The legal principle of equal treatment would seem to require that, where persons with rights under Staff Regulations live in places or countries where the cost of living is not the same, the system of corrective coefficients is necessary to correct those variations,” Kinnock said in a written answer to a question at the European Parliament.

The regional weighting on pensions is currently an issue at the Parliament. Portuguese socialist MEP Paulo Casaca has found that the Commission’s claims that the regional weighting system is enshrined in European Court of Justice are not correct.

And Casaca has said he was “insulted” when the Commission suggested his criticism of the system was based on regional bias.

Kinnock has been forced to apologise on behalf of the Commission for the remark – and admit that the regional weighting system has no basis in ECJ case law.

The Commission late last year made proposals to adjust the regional weightings to retired officials’ pensions. Now the Commission has put a figure on how much it expects to save as a result.

Kinnock says the new plans would see a four million-euro saving. The cost, Kinnock said, would be 38 million euros, down from the 42 million-euro cost of the current method.

In a written answer to a question from Spanish socialist MEP Joan Colom i Naval, Kinnock admits that if no regional weightings, or “correction co-efficient”, had been applied in 2002, there would have been net budget savings of 39.4 billion euros.