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C 45/62 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 10. 2.

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We share this view and the Commission’s concerns.

However, in its efforts to create a climate of trust, the Commission has actually taken an interventionist approach
and has paid little attention to strengthening its credibility. The way in which statistical forecasts have developed
is far more a sign of its wish to exploit the trust of economic operators and public opinion than of any intention to
build up trust based on reliability. Now, in the April forecasts, as the date draws near for assessment of the
achievement of the convergence criteria, the Commission seems to have surpassed itself and to have reached the
stage where its credibility is being questioned even within its own ranks and this most unusual state of affairs has
caught the attention of the media.

Will the Commission state whether the unequivocal reports issued by the media are accurate, i.e. the claim that
Commissioner Bonino considers that forecasts have been manipulated with a view to improving the statistical
presentation of the state of public finance in Germany and France without doing the same in the case of Italy?

Answer given by Mr de Silguy on behalf of the Commission


(17 June 1997)

The Commission categorically rejects the suggestion that the recent spring economic forecasts for 1977 were
manipulated in any way. In drawing up its forecasts, it scrupulously applies − as it always has done − the
principles of independence from outside pressures, objectivity and non-discrimination in the treatment of
Member States. This means that all Member States are treated equally.

The economic forecasts are drawn up according to a well-established procedure. A Commission forecasting
exercise lasts almost three months, which allows ample time for reflection and for producing high-quality work
that takes account of the most recent information. The professionalism and independence of Commission
officials cannot be called into question.

Lastly, the Commission stresses that there is no connection between this economic-forecasting exercise and the
report which it will produce in the spring of 1998 in preparation for the third stage of economic and monetary
union. This report will be based on the definitive figures for 1997, which will not be known until the end of
February 1998.

(98/C 45/75) WRITTEN QUESTION E-1620/97


by Mihail Papayannakis (GUE/NGL) to the Commission
(7 May 1997)

Subject: Greek operational programme on health and welfare

The operational programme on health and welfare submitted by Greece for 1994-1999 and approved by the
Commission contains a second sub-programme on welfare which is intended to improve the level of social
protection enjoyed by vulnerable population groups: it contains three basic measures designed to strengthen the
Greek system of social protection and to combat the social and economic exclusion of less favoured groups.

Will the Commission say what the take-up rate has been so far in respect of each measure of the sub-programme
on welfare and in respect of specific projects?

Answer given by Mrs Wulf-Mathies on behalf of the Commission


(13 June 1997)

The welfare sub-programme of the operational programme on health and welfare includes measures for:
− a network of centres for the reintegration of the disabled;
− the improvement of services in a number of the already existing centres for the disabled and the
establishment of centres for the autistic;
10. 2. 98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 45/63

− a network of emergency intervention centres for disadvantaged social groups;


− the construction of a centre of the detoxification of prisoners.

Take-up by these measures is slow, because they are highly innovative. The second measure had absorbed 14%
of funds by 30 March 1997. The other measures, which are being undertaken by the Ministry of Health, are at the
stage of studies and programming.

For more detailed information on their progress, the Honourable Member should apply to that Ministry.

(98/C 45/76) WRITTEN QUESTION E-1623/97


by Alex Smith (PSE) to the Commission
(14 May 1997)

Subject: Age limits in recruitment procedures

The Commission has responded to various parliamentary questions over recent months and years about its use of
age limits in recruitment procedures for EU officials. The reasons given have varied considerably from problems
with pension entitlements, possible disadvantages for older women, to the simple reason that age limits help to
reduce the number of applicants!

Could the Commission please provide its specific reasons for maintaining the use of age limits in recruitment
procedures?

Answer given by Mr Liikanen on behalf of the Commission


(25 July 1997)

It is true that the Commission has answered a series of parliamentary questions about the application of age limits
for participation in open competitions. The answers given by the Commission have been consistent and if a few
variations have been apparent, it is mainly due to the precise, specific nature of the different parliamentary
questions.

By common agreement, the Community institutions apply, as a general rule, an age limit of 35 for participation in
the competitions for the starting grades. What is more, this approach is the same as the practice in a number of
Member States, in particular for recruitment to their diplomatic services.

There are several reasons for applying age limits and they have virtually all been aired in the answers given to
one or other parliamentary question on the subject. In its answers, the Commission has stressed the importance of
weighing up the consequences of abolishing these age limits, in particular for career systems and for balanced
recruitment.

To give an example, a study on recruitment between 1992 and 1994 showed that the link between age limits and
geographical balance is not entirely theoretical: the higher the age limit, the greater the tendency to an imbalance.
In other words, we can assume that the additional complement of applicants to open competitions would come
from the local labour market. In general, mobility tends to diminish with age, in particular for women, and this
would therefore have a negative impact on the already existing imbalances between women and men,
particularly in category A.

However, it must be clear that the Commission is not rigid about this. Access to the European civil service today
is not limited to those under 35. The Commission organises competitions for the middle grades and specialist
posts (A5 and A4) with an age limit of 50. For enlargement to the new Member States, a series of LA
competitions set age limits of 40 and 50. In addition, the Commission no longer sets age limits for the recruitment
of temporary agents.