Yesterday the European Commission adopted its proposals for the 2014-20 Multiannual Financing Framework and on reforms to EU staff’s pay, pensions and benefits. The proposals include reducing the number of staff working in all EU institutions by 5% by 2018. As I write, the battle lines for what promise to be interesting negotiations are being drawn see this earlier post for one observer’s predictions). As Secretary General of one of the smaller EU institutions (and with a small ‘i’ into the bargain) I’ll have a ringside seat, but I won’t be in the negotiations themselves. On the other hand, I will have to implement whatever comes out of them. This thought leads me to make four observations. The first is about the perversity of percentages where smaller institutions are concerned. I don’t know how many accountants, auditors, doctors and nurses the larger institutions have. The EESC has one of each. Short of taking a bacon-slicer to them we obviously cannot reduce each of them by five per cent (leaving aside the objective question of work load). The second observation is about the relative administrative weight of additional languages. Croatia is now set to join in 2013. It will bring a new working language. That will require interpreters and translators. For small institutions, the relative administrative weight of such additional staff and functions is higher. My third observation is that, as I have argued in previous posts, by pooling almost half of their respective resources to create the Joint Services (translation, logistics, IT, buildings, etc), the EESC and the Committee of the Regions already set a shining example to the other institutions and already achieve considerable economies of scale and synergies (we have recently jointly published a brochure detailing these). My fourth observation is inspired by a recent European Commission debunking exercise. It is simply not true, the Commission argued, that the EU costs too much; ‘A Tax Freedom Day comparison is telling. When you calculate how many days in a year you have to work to pay the total of your yearly taxes, the national tax burden means that people work until well into spring and summer until they have paid their contribution. By contrast, to cover his or her contribution to the EU budget, the average European would have to pay only four days, until 4 January.’ Well, by the same standards, the average European taxpayer works just one minute to pay for the EESC; that’s right – just one minute.