"CEDIES : une bataille perdue…mais pas la guerre…"
AFFAIRE F-98/11, Jargeac e.a./Commission européenne (Affaire CEDIES).
Par une ordonnance du 18 juin 2013, le Tribunal de la fonction publique (ci-après « TFP ») a anticipé la décision de la Cour de justice, adoptée deux jours plus tard, le 20 juin 2013, dans l’affaire Giersch et autres, C-20/12, dans laquelle les aides financières pour études supérieures octroyées en vertu de la loi luxembourgeoise du 22 juin 2000, tel que modifiée, en dernier lieu, par la loi du 26 juillet 2010 (ci‑après les « aides CEDIES ») ont été considérées comme des avantages sociaux. Le TFP a ainsi tranché que les aides CEDIES ont la même nature que les allocations scolaires octroyées en vertu de l’article 67, paragraphe 1, du statut des fonctionnaires de l’Union européenne (ci‑après le « statut des fonctionnaires ») et que, partant, le montant desdites aides doit venir en déduction des allocations scolaires par application de la règle anti‑cumul prévue au paragraphe 2 du même article.
Conscients du fait que la question de savoir si les aides CEDIES devaient être considérées comme des aides ayant une finalité sociale ou, en revanche, comme des aides ayant une finalité éducative, tel qu’affirmé, respectivement, par la Commission européenne et par le gouvernement luxembourgeois dans leurs mémoires dans l’affaire Giersch et autres, serait déterminante afin de qualifier lesdites aides au regard de l’article 67 du statut des fonctionnaires, les requérants dans l’affaire F-98/11 avaient demandé la suspension de la procédure afin que les juges de la Cour de justice puissent se prononcer par rapport à la nature des aides CEDIES.
Les juges du TFP ont décidé de ne pas suspendre la procédure mais ils ont rendu leur décision deux jours avant la décision de la Cour de justice dans l’affaire Giersch et autres.
Dans l’arrêt Giersch et autres, la Cour de justice a décidé de rejeter l’argument, avancé par le gouvernement luxembourgeois, selon lequel les aides CEDIES n’ont pas nature « d’avantage sociale », mais sont des mesures ayant une finalité éducative et se situant sur le terrain de la politique de l’enseignement.
Selon la Cour de justice : « (…) une aide accordée pour l’entretien et pour la formation, en vue de la poursuite d’études universitaires sanctionnées par une qualification professionnelle, constitue un avantage social (…) » (point 38 de l’arrêt).
Les juges du TFP ont ainsi décidé de ne pas aborder l’argument soulevé par les requérants dans l’affaire F-98/11 selon lequel la législation luxembourgeoise sur les aides financières du CEDIES a fait l’objet d’une modification substantielle par la nouvelle loi du 26 juillet 2010 qui a affecté la nature, la portée et les conditions d’octroi desdites aides.
En tout état de cause, la saga continue car le Gouvernement luxembourgeois, suite à cet arrêt, est en train, encore une fois, de modifier la loi du 22 juin 2000.
Le Ministre de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche luxembourgeois, Martine Hansen, a déjà déclaré, dans une conférence de presse, que le gouvernement pourrait décider de suivre les indications données par les juges de la Cour dans le sens de transformer en prêt 100% les aides CEDIES.
Si la loi sera effectivement modifiée dans ce sens, les aides luxembourgeoises CEDIES n’auront plus la même nature que les allocations scolaires statutaires des et les fonctionnaires et agents de l’Union européenne auront encore une fois le droit de prétendre à juste titre ces allocations.
Education allowances ‐ CEDIES
The decisions by the administrations of the European institutions based in Luxembourg about Luxembourg financial support for higher education
Following the adoption of the Luxembourg law of 26 July 2010 amending the law of 22 June 2000 onstate financial support for higher education, the administrations of the European institutions based in Luxembourg decided that the financial support paid under this law are 'of like nature', as defined by Article 67, paragraph 2 of the Staff Regulations of Officials, as the education allowances which form part of the remuneration of officials and other servants of the Union, and therefore, the amount of this financial support should be deducted from the education allowances received by their staff.
In addition, these administrations informed those among their staff with children eligible for Luxembourg financial support (children over 18 years of age, residing in Luxembourg and attending a higher education establishment), that they are obliged to apply for this financial support and that, failing production of a certificate from the relevant Luxembourg authorities (CEDIES) stating that no financial support has been paid to the child concerned, they will no longer receive education allowance.
The position of Union Syndicale Luxembourg
Union Syndicale is worried about these decisions by the European administrations, and has been considering this issue from the start, as well as seeking legal advice. The conclusions of that advice were presented to an information general assembly on 19 October. Union Syndicale considers, based on this legal advice, that the decisions by the administrations of the institutions mentioned above contravene the Staff Regulations and therefore, actions ar required to uphold the rights of the staff concerned.
The amount of the Luxembourg financial support for higher education cannot be deducted from the education allowances under the Staff Regulations
Article 67, paragraph 2, of the Staff Regulations provides that officials in receipt of family allowances shall declare allowances "of like nature paid from other sources" and that such allowances shall be deducted from those paid under the Staff Regulations. Case law has interpreted this clause as meaning that only comparable allowances and which have the same purpose are 'of like nature' (judgements by the Court of 13 October 1977, Deboeck v. Commission, 106/76, point 16, and Emer v. Commission, 14/77, point 15). However, the financial support paid by the Luxembourg authorities for higher education are not comparable, and does not have the same purpose as the education allowances under the Staff Regulations. Therefore, this financial support is not 'of like nature' as the education allowances paid under the Staff Regulations, and cannot be deducted from those allowances.
a) The financial support for higher education is not comparable to the education allowance.
The Luxembourg financial support for higher education is markedly different from the education allowance under the Staff Regulations in several respects. So, by analogy, following the arguments used by the Court's judgement of 18 December 2007 Weiβenfelds v. Parliament, C‐135/06, to refute the argument that the special Luxembourg allowance for people with disabilities was of like nature as the doubling of the allowance under the Staff Regulations for a dependant child provided for in Article 67 paragraph 3 of the Staff Regulations, when the child is suffering from a mental or physical handicap which involves the official in heavy expenditure, it is possible to invoke the following differences:• The Luxembourg financial support for higher education is granted due to the mere fact
that the student lives in Luxembourg, and is not tied in any way to an employment relationship.
• The amount of this financial support (up to a maximum of 17,700 EUR per academic year) is much higher than the education allowance (248.09 EUR per month, which may be doubled in certain circumstances).
• This financial support is intended not only to pay the costs of tuition fees and transport expenses of the student, which are all that is covered by the education allowance, but also all the student's expenditure, so as to enable him/her to continue education independently. There are other circumstances which distinguish the financial support for higher education from the education allowance under the Staff Regulations:
• The recipients of the financial support are the students themselves, not their parents.
• The financial support consists of a portion paid in the form of a grant, which may be supplemented by another portion in the form of a guaranteed loan on favourable terms.
• The amount of the grant depends on the financial and social situation of the student, as well as the registration fees that he/she has to pay, whereas the amount of educatio allowance applicable during higher education is a fixed amount, which does not depend on any personal circumstance of the student or his/her parent working as an official who is in receipt of the allowance.
• The financial support is paid for the duration of the academic year, and is paid in two sixmonthly instalments, whereas the education allowance applicable during higher education is paid monthly from the first day of the month during which the child has started higher education, and expires and the end of the month during which the child
has reached 26 years of age.
b) Financial support for higher education does not have the same purpose as
the education allowance.
Luxembourg financial support for higher education pursues a completely different ultimate aim from the education allowance under the Staff Regulations. Indeed, while the purpose of education allowances under the Staff Regulations is 'to ensure that any official, wherever his place of employment may be, has the possibility of providing for the education and studies of his/her children' (Court judgement of 14 July 193, Ferrario e.a. v. Commission, 152/81 and other associated cases), so that they form a family allowance whose recipient is the official or other servant, and which is intended to cover certain tuition fees incurred by him/her, the Luxembourg financial support pursues a different ultimate aim, i.e. according to the explanatory memorandum of the draft law which gave rise to the law of 26 July 2010, "it is no longer a case of
compensating family expenditure, but to offer each young person an independent right to attend the higher education of his/her choice'. It is the independence of the student which is the ultimate aim of this financial support, which explains the far‐reaching reform of the family allowances system carried out by the same law of 26 July 2010, which put an end to independent family allowances paid for children having reached 18 years of age.
The European administrations cannot force their staff to apply for financial support for higher education.
The decisions taken by the European institutions based in Luxembourg presuppose te existence of an obligation for the official or other servant to apply for financial support from the Luxembourg administration. However, there is no explicit basis in the Staff Regulation for such an obligation, nor can it be deduced from the complementary nature of family allowances under the Staff Regulations in relation to national allowances of like nature. Indeed, Article 67, paragraph 2, obliges the official to declare to the administration any allowances of like nature paid from other sources, but does not compel him/her to apply for national allowances that exist. 'Taken in the context of the pay system, Article 67, paragraph 2, in that it provides that allowances of like nature paid from other sources shall be deducted from those paid under the Staff Regulations, is an exception to Article 62 of the Staff Regulations, and therefore cannot be interpreted broadly. However, this provision, even if it does have the effect of limiting the financial burden of the Communities with regard to family allowances, cannot set aside the obligation of the Communities to pay the said allowance, in any case where a Member State grants a right to family allowances to a child of an official, a retired former official or another servant of the Communities' (judgement by the Court of 7 May 1987, Commission v. Belgium, 186/85, points 27 and 28). So Article 67 paragraph 2 of the Staff Regulations '[…] has neither the purpose nor the effect of depriving an official of the benefit of a national allowance which guarantees him/her additional protection to that provided by the Staff Regulations. Therefore, the institutions cannot legally base their decisions on such a provision to restrict to the provisions of the Staff Regulations the social security benefits allowed under national law and by the Staff Regulations' (Commission, F‐62/06, point 56) Nevertheless, it does appear to be in the interest of officials and other servants concerned to apply for the financial support from the Luxembourg administration because, as explained previously, in our opinion, the grants forming part of that financial support cannot be deducted from the education allowance, so that any decision by the administration eliminating or reducing the education allowance because a grant has been received would have to be taken to court. In any case, even if one considered that this financial support should be deducted from the education allowance, it would be necessary to take account of the 'net' amount of the grant (for example, deducting the amount of national tax to which they may be subject) and the 'net' amount of education allowance (taking into account any corrective coefficient in the event of transfer of ths allowances under Article 17 of Annex VII of the Staff Regulation), so that the official or other servant would not suffer any loss from having received this financial support.
The European administrations cannot eliminate the payment of education allowance based on a presumption made from the absence of a negative certificate from CEDIES on the receipt of such financial support.
One last aspect of the decisions adopted by the European institutions based in Luxembourg is the demand to produce a certificate from CEDIES stating that no grant has been paid to the child concerned, failing which the official or other servant will not be able to receive education allowance without a deduction being made. Such a requirement is contrary to the system established by Article 67 paragraph 2 of the Staff Regulations. This provision actually forces the official to declare allowance of like nature paid from other sources, but does not allow the administration to suspend or reduce the payment of these allowances merely based on a presumption. The administration is bound to pay the full amount of the family allowances until such time as the official tells it of the existence of a national allowance of like nature. Only from that moment may the administration make, if appropriate, any retroactive deductions from the official's pay. Officials and other servants who received a Luxembourg financial grant will, of course, be obliged to inform the administration of such a circumstance, but the administration cannot eliminate or reduce their education allowance based on a negative presumption based on the mere failure to produce a certificate of the type stipulated (and according to the initial accounts of officials who have requested such a certificate, it appears that obtaining it may not be without difficulty).
The actions to be taken to uphold the rights of the officials concerned.
In addition to the strictly trade union work that Union Syndicale has already undertaken and will continue to undertake with the administrations of the institutions, it appears necessary to embark on legal action against these decisions, as they contravene the rights of officials and other servants under the Staff Regulations. Union Syndicale is in the process of preparing collective complaints, on the one hand against the various overall decisions by the institutions which can be deduced from the notices issued by the institutions to their staff, and on the other hand, against the individual decisions eliminating or reducing the education allowances of officials and other servants whose children have received financial support from the Luxembourg authorities, or attempting to recover the unwarranted payment. The fact of taking legal action against the overall decisions that may be deduced from the notices issued by the institutions as well as the individual decisions is as a precaution, so that complaints against the latter decisions cannot be rejected as inadmissible because they are alleged merely to confirm the previous overall decisions.
What can Union Syndicale do for you in this situation?
1. Provide you with advice and legal assistance with a view to a complaint under Article 90 of the Staff Regulations and an appeal to the European Civil Service Tribunal. 2. Provide you with representation by its lawyer in the case of an appeal to the ECST. 3. Request urgent concertation on this issue, considering that it should have been organised automatically by the Directorate General Human Resources, since the existing rules are being challenged.
Aides financières pour études supérieures octroyées par le Luxembourg / allocations scolaires statutaires
Me Antonella Salerno
DSM - Avocats à la Cour
2a, boulevard Joseph II L-1840 Luxembourg