Greece referred to EU Court on retirement age

BRUSSELS – With a delay of almost seven months, the European Commission announced yesterday it has referred Greece to the European Court to ensure the country complies with the equalization of the pension age for male and female civil servants. The Commission had started the relevant process in July 2005 with a warning letter and continued in July 2006 with its «reasoned opinion.» Finally on June 27 last year, after rejecting all Greek arguments, Brussels referred Greece to the European Court, but announced it only yesterday, claiming there had been too much work to process on June 27. Internal Commission documents state that this is a particularly sensitive issue for Greece, obviously meaning it needs special handling. The Commission invokes Article 141 of the Treaty of the European Union that provides for the equal treatment of men and women, as well as a previous (1993) decision by the European Court on the same issue. The Greek arguments had centered on a legal and a politicoeconomic basis, maintaining that equalizing the pension age for males and females would have disastrous social and economic consequences. Greece explained that its legislation on employees hired before 1993 does not violate Article 141, but in fact constitutes a form of positive discrimination in favor of women that is permitted by that article. Moreover, the existing regulations are transitional in nature and the aim is to eventually equalize pension ages, although a relevant timetable has not yet been submitted to Brussels. The Commission responded that the positive discrimination claim is invalid as this only applies to helping women in their career, not with regard to early retirement. It adds that no form of discrimination is accepted for economic reasons. The gender equality secretary of the Civil Servants’ Union (ADEDY), Dimitra Spanou, accused the government of concealing Greece’s referral to the court in order to use it as a pretext for general changes to pension age limits.