First of all, I wish for you and your families health, tranquility, and peace, even more so this year 2022 than in the past.
The pandemic that has filled our lives for the past two years is being contained and reduced, but as I write these lines there is the sound of cannons in the East of Europe, something we hoped never to witness again.
During these dramatic moments a large campaign of international solidarity has been launched from CERN to come to the aid of those populations stricken by this conflict. The GAC‑EPA has participated by giving a large donation in your name.
Fortunately, and despite these events, our Association has continued its activities with the same engagement, the same efficacy, either in person as health measures allowed, or remotely.
Recently, in good collaboration with the CERN Staff Association, the Committee has been able to move forward with some affairs, always with the aim of preserving the interests of the beneficiaries of the Pension Fund and the Health Insurance Scheme of CERN.
Other good news is that the advice and assistance to our members is now possible in person, following the directives of CERN for access to the site. Your questions concerning taxation, assistance via the CERN Mutual Aid Fund, pensions and surviving spouse’s pension, health insurance, etc. are most welcome. Every question is treated in the strictest confidence.
Finally, I would once again like to thank all the members of the Committee and other experts for their dedication. I finish this message by welcoming Philippe Bloch who joined the Committee at the beginning of 2022.
Your President, Enrico CHIAVERI
Yes, it is the GAC‑EPA Spring 2022 Bulletin you are holding in your hands! It has simply changed its presentation!
[note: the new presentation applies of course only to the paper version, and to the pdf version]
Remember, in the last issue of autumn 2021, your editor-in-chief for the past 11 years, Bernard Ducret, announced a temporary break for personal reasons. This announcement has resulted in several changes in the production of our magazine.
First, the need to replace him. And that’s what I am going to try to do in the future, with all modesty because he really excelled in his art. Secondly, as I have no notion of graphic design, we had to find a replacement because that was another of his skills. This is what led to this new presentation. During this transition of experience and skills, Bernard was at my side, and I would like to thank him warmly for that! Here we are! This is the first issue with this new cover, with a totally redesigned presentation which I hope you will enjoy as much as before. You will, of course, find all the usual sections and some useful opinions, recommendations and advice, as always.
Our friends from ESO inform us about the ongoing discussions concerning the representation and place of pensioners in their Organisation. You will read in these pages that being a member of GAC- EPA raises several questions.
No complications, on the other hand, for the Pension Fund during the year 2021! It was what you might call a very good year for the recovery of our Fund.
Our CHIS, which is so dear to me, is also performing well according to our faithful representatives on the CHIS Board. However, we must always remain vigilant, and for example understand the impact of the Management’s wish to introduce the new GRAD Program, a measure for young Graduates who would also benefit from the CHIS. This vigilance allowed to fix the basis for their CHIS contributions with respect to the initial proposal of the Management.
The pandemic having disrupted the smooth running of the Organisation in a significant way, the information sessions, which many of you used to attend, had to be put on hold as you could not enter the Site. They will resume at the beginning of April.
I am not forgetting the list of people who died in recent months, which remains substantial. It reminds us of this or that person but also of the fragility of our lives. And it is up to each of us to prepare for this last step as best as possible, both for ourselves and for the relief of our families. Loss of autonomy, loss of discernment, you will find further on indications that can facilitate things if decisions are taken when everything is still going well.
Throughout the pages, this issue also provides you with a number of tips, advice and warnings of all kinds, but which are deemed useful for our community.
I hope you will enjoy reading this issue in its new presentation, it is designed to continue. In this respect, I look forward to your comments and proposals so that the Bulletin is as much yours as ours!
Marcel Aymon Chief Editor
ESO and COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic and in particular the spreading of the Omicron variant has of course also led ESO to adjust its measures accordingly, including the postponing of the year-end event planned at the Garching site.
At the time of this writing, both the ESO Garching headquarters and the Vitacura premises are still in the so-called Phase 3 (voluntary attendance, with limits). The current plans are to restore Phase 4 (part-time attendance) in the beginning of April, and move on to Phase 5 (full-time on-site attendance) as of beginning of May.
Note that as soon as ESO restores Phase 4, retirees will be allowed to enter the premises again.
The ESO Health Working Group met briefly on 1 September 2021 with an updated list of members and with Tania Johnston as the new Chair.
The EHISB met on 17 July 2021 and again on 10 November 2021. This latter meeting was together with Cigna representatives to discuss the current financial situation for the fund and future benefit changes. The financial situation remains stable and premiums in 2022 will remain the same as for 2021.
The following benefit changes took effect from 1 January 2022:
Under Dental Care, beneficiaries may apply for additional reimbursement of up to €5000, on prior approval, for implants and prosthesis over a 2-year period following severe medical treatment linked to an accident.
For orthodontic treatment, an additional €6500 may be requested in certain circumstances, also with prior approval, for expenses exceeding the current limit of €6500.
The full text of the changes can be seen on the ESO pensioners’ website.
ESO International Staff Association (ISA)
Many of you know that an update of the ESO International Staff Association (ISA) statutes has been overdue for several decades, as the current statutes date back to the days when ESO had only local stations in Geneva and Hamburg — and very few retirees.
In the meantime, a lot has changed, i.e. ESO has more and different locations, bigger projects and more staff — and the number of retirees is steadily increasing.
Although as retirees we are no longer employed by ESO, we are still connected to ESO because we almost all share the health and long- term care system with the active staff. There is of course also the CERN Pension Fund from which the majority of ESO retirees benefit, thanks to the ESO‑CERN agreement on the admission of ESO staff to the CERN pension scheme.
It is therefore not surprising that an update of the ISA statutes can and should finally take into consideration this group of retirees. It should be noted that the CERN Staff Association (SA) already updated its statutes several years ago, defining the category of “Retired Members” as one of the categories of members of the Staff Association.
Also in 2007, the CERN Council approved a restructuring of the governance of the CERN Pension Fund (PF) governance, including a change in the composition of the Pension Fund Governing Board (PFGB), which now includes a GAC‑EPA representative on the PFGB. This person represents all CERN PF beneficiaries.
The suggestion to include the category of “Retired Members” in the ISA statutes, as it is in the CERN SA statutes, was made almost 10 years ago by the ESO GAC‑EPA representative at that time. It was therefore proposed, in order to maintain a “parallelism” between the CERN SA and ISA statutes, to add a new category of retired members to the ISA statutes. This was also done so as not to upset the representational balance in the PFGB as decided by the CERN Council.
The exact wording of the changes to the ISA statutes has been debated ever since. Over the years, the various ESO staff committees and volunteers working on these updates have changed the membership requirements for active staff from “everyone” (as in the old statutes) to “contributing members only” (as at CERN), eventually opting for the former. This formula was then extrapolated to the new category of “retired members”: all ESO retirees would automatically become ISA retired members.
There are, however, several problems with this, which we have outlined in the past, and more intensely in our various exchanges with the current ISA Staff Committee over the past several months.
The claim that the ISA Committee now represents not only active staff but also all retirees ignores the fact that there is already an elected body that fulfils this role (i.e. the GAC‑EPA) and that the ISA Committee has no democratic mandate to represent retirees. It should be noted here that there are two fundamental differences between the CERN Staff Association statutes and the new ISA statutes.
First, the CERN SA statutes recognize the GAC‑EPA as the association representing all CERN retirees; we would like to see the same for the ISA. This is an important issue and should not be relegated to some future ISA Circular for clarification. Note that, taking into account the specific needs of ESO retirees, the GAC‑EPA also opens its membership to the few ESO retirees who are not beneficiaries of the CERN Pension Fund, leaving no retiree out.
Second, at CERN the Executive Committee is elected by the Staff Council, the majority of whose members are directly elected by the active CERN staff, but several are selected by the GAC‑EPA committee. At ESO, the staff committee is elected solely by the active staff and retired staff play no role in the election. It therefore cannot claim any democratic mandate to represent the retired staff.
Another problem with the text as proposed is that — unlike active staff — ESO retirees do not have an employment contract with ESO, and are therefore subject to the national laws of their country of residence. This includes freedom of association, i.e., they cannot be “forced” to become members of an association and to support the aims of the association without their explicit consent.
In light of these outstanding issues, your GAC‑EPA representative has asked ISA to remove all references to the GAC‑EPA from their new statutes until a more satisfactory solution is found.
While this is not an optimal solution, and will still require some statutory adjustments in the future, this compromise avoids any further delay in the final approval of the ISA status, which is important to the various categories of active members.
In closing, we emphasize that we strive to maintain a close working relationship with all to clarify each other’s roles so that we can work together constructively on issues that affect retired ESO staff.
Pension Fund Communication
A reminder to be alert to fraud attempts concerning your CERN pension!
21 FEBRUARY, 2022
We have received reports of CERN colleagues having been contacted by suspected fraudsters offering to provide advice about pension arrangements at CERN. This has taken the form of telephone calls advising CERN colleagues that the Organization had subscribed to an approved partnership with a financial adviser based on CERN premises, who would offer a free meeting to explain how pensions in Switzerland work and how to maximise their return. Further investigations revealed that the firm was not genuine and that many of the statements made were factually incorrect.
Your colleagues in the Pension Fund Management Unit (PFMU) do not consider this to be a sophisticated fraud attempt, but wish to take the opportunity to remind all colleagues of the following three key messages:
Your pension at CERN is very valuable and may attract fraudsters. If anyone you’re unfamiliar with asks you questions about it or any other assets you have, you should be alert and carefully consider whether or not to engage with them.
No financial advisers are employed or approved by CERN or operate out of CERN premises (besides the UBS branch). If anyone introduces themselves as such or tells you that CERN has asked them to contact you, they should not be trusted.
You are always encouraged to first contact your colleagues in the Pension Fund if you have any questions about your pension benefits.
The Pension Fund Management Unit
Message To Our Members
Dear Members of our Association, Dear All,
At the time of writing, and in spite of events taking place not far off in Europe which attract attention, the much-awaited spring of 2022 has finally arrived, bringing with it some hope of a rapid end to the COVID-19 pandemic. After long months that have been trying in many ways, your Committee’s immediate thoughts continue to be for those who have suffered from the virus, been sick or even have died. All our compassion is with them.
Many of our daily habits have been turned upside down in the last two years. Shopping, travel and social encounters have all suffered. We have had to learn to adapt to this new situation, a task that has been well accomplished, out of necessity in the first place but then often afterwards for convenience.
As stated in recent communications concerning the Annual General Meeting 2022, our request to receive your email address was successful, but the list is incomplete! A number of you can still only be reached by postal address, so we cannot reach all of you quickly to pass on urgent information or simply useful information. The pandemic has shown us too that even the postal services can be seriously affected.
This leads us to make the strong request that if you have an e-mail address, you send it to us urgently! Please send us your email address so that we can conveniently contact you at any moment! What has been missing these last months is a sense of closeness and a means of sending you up-to-date information! Remember too that sending an email is without cost, a non‑negligible aspect for an Association such as ours.
If possible, please use the update form to send us your email address (or any other change of details)
Finally, another request, which we remind you of here: perhaps you have some ex-colleagues who have not yet become members of GAC‑EPA. Why not have a chat with them and encourage them to sign-up to our Association? The Web site is stuffed with useful information to help convince them. They can use the membership form for signing up.
Thanks for taking note of the above points, with best wishes,
Let’s start with good news: the return on investments of the pension funds’ assets has been remarkably good in 2021, with a yearly return of 6.59% and 2.04% for the last quarter. The table below* shows the monthly evolution of the return on investment for the last 10 years.
This performance in 2021 relies mostly on the very positive evolution on the equities, private equities as well as on real estate, timberland, and farmland. Therefore, our investors have slightly increased the relative part of our assets in these portfolios over the year, as anticipated in the strategic assets’ allocation defined at the beginning of the year.
The perspectives on the economical and geopolitical situation in 2022 are, however, much more uncertain and we must anticipate that the assets performance suffers during this year.
At the end of 2021, the Pension Fund Governing Board (PFGB) has again reviewed all the parameters that the actuary will use to conduct the 2022 tri-annual actuarial review. These parameters are also those that are going to be used during the next 3 years to regularly reevaluate the funding level at the 2041 horizon. Every 3 years many parameters are reviewed and discussed to match them better to reality, such as the mortality tables, the fraction of beneficiaries with a spouse as well as their age difference, retention yields of the personnel, personnel policies of both CERN and ESO etc.
The most significant change of parameter for what concerns the funding level is the estimation of investment return and the inflation that have been fixed to yearly 3.7% and 1.1%. respectively. The corresponding parameters used in the previous tri-annual review and during the last 3 years were much more favorable after 2027, therefore it is expected that the evaluated funding level in 2041 will be lower than the 103.4% obtained in 2019. Preliminary results confirm this slight tendency for a decrease. We are waiting for confirmation of the final policy decided by CERN for the new GRAD (graduate students) programme before getting a final evaluation. It is foreseen that the final results of this review will be presented to the PFGB in April 2022 and then to the CERN Finance Committee and Council in June 2022.
It is always worth remembering that these reviews only provide estimates and that many events, such as those we currently live in the beginning of 2022, may severely impact these estimates.
In 2021 the number of our fellow retirees and of surviving spouses who left us was considerably lower than in 2020 (114 for 147), thus showing the non negligeable effect of the pandemic of Covid-19 in 2020. This is why this year 2020, very much impacted by the pandemic, was not included in the estimation of mortality tables used in the actuarial review. However, the number of annual deaths is constantly although moderately increasing, which is easily understandable since in the last 12 years the average age of the Pension Fund beneficiaries has increased by almost 7 years.
During 2021, due to the constant and efficient work of the GAC‑EPA and the Staff Association (SA), a new pension fund rule came into force that allows the purchase of a surviving spouse pension for those who get married or conclude a partnership after the delay that allows their spouse to have this benefit. At this occasion a transitory period of 180 days was allowing people concerned by this new measure to benefit of it “a posteriori”, and they have been contacted by the pension fund benefits service. Amongst the 41 eligible persons that have been contacted, 25 have asked for an evaluation of the necessary contribution, and 7 of them have finally asked to benefit from this possibility (5 with a yield of 20%, one with a yield of 40% and one with a yield of 55%). In 2022, already two persons have procured a surviving spouse pension. In total there are thus currently 13 people benefitting from this possibility.
For several years now a working group is looking at the perennity of the pension scheme in case one member state leaves the Organization or in case of the Organization’s dissolution. Let’s recall that it is foreseen that a foundation would in this case take over from the Organization to ensure the continuity of the pensions’ payment until the death of the last survivor. An important milestone has recently been achieved also concerning the perennation of the health insurance in this event. Although this possibility is not expected in a foreseeable future, it is always good to care about it earlier than later.
Finally, a few words about your representatives in the pensions commission of the Staff Association (SA) and in the PFGB: the mandate of Peter Hristov, current vice-chair of the PFGB, expires in May 2022. He will be replaced in the PFGB and as chair of the SA pensions commission by Ofelia Catapina and as vice-chair of the PFGB by Isabelle Mardirossian. We recall that the GAC‑EPA representatives in the SA pensions commission are Michel Baboulaz, Philippe Charpentier (also GAC‑EPA representative in the PFGB), Enrico Chiaveri, Claude Genier, André Naudi, Irène Seis and Michel Vitasse. Our representative in the working group on pensions guarantee is Sylvain Weisz (deputy Michel Vitasse).
Monthly return on investment on the last 10 years
The CERN Health Insurance Scheme
At the time of writing, the CHIS Board has continued to meet monthly by videoconference except for January (cancelled due to lack of business). In view of the COVID-19 situation, all meetings have been video conferences.
COVID-19. Complaints from GAC members remind us that COVID- related travel restrictions continue to change, often unpredictably. Check before setting out. Do not forget the return trip.
This website also has links to the official information for France and Switzerland. If you have any doubt for a country, it may be best to contact their nearest Embassy.
Remember that prior approval of treatment is needed for reimbursement in some cases. The associated template form was updated on the CHIS website in the light of a recent appeal (CLAM case).
As reported in GAC‑EPA Bulletin 61, published in early December, the Standing Concertation Committee (SCC) asked the CHIS Board to comment on the likely financial impact on CHIS of the Management’s proposed remodeling of the programme for associated members of personnel, known as the GRAD Programme. In its report, the Board criticized the lack of contribution mutuality and the predicted large loss of income to CHIS over time.
The planned programme was subsequently adjusted and presented again to the CHIS Board in December. In its revised form, the plan promises a much-reduced loss of income while also respecting the principles of contribution mutuality and solidarity between generations. The Board thus informed the SCC before Christmas that it had no objections to make to the modified plan at this stage. After months of operation, but with a sharp drop in demand, the CERN Covid-19 Vaccination Service ceased operations on 31 March. Some vaccination centres are still open, and if you wish to be vaccinated again, please consult the page :
The CHIS Board intends this year to begin examining spending on health. The Staff Association has also asked for a sub-group of the Board to follow French policies in medical matters.
Both France and Switzerland have set up schemes to allow individuals to consult their medical records. However, those registering for France must give their ‘numéro de Sécurité Sociale’ and for Switzerland their AVS number. The schemes are thus presently inaccessible to most international employees.
The charging agreement with Hôpital La Tour has been extended to 2022 and signed. The move to the SwissDRG charging system with La Tour and some other clinics must be settled this year.
A new challenge for CHIS is that some private hospitals are demanding full pre-payment for expensive treatments. Already one is known that refuses to negotiate.
Faced with the refusal of the “Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM)” to issue proof of non- affiliation, on the pretext that there was no case law of the judgement rendered on 7 December, 2020, the lawyer who assists us brought the case to the Social Court of Bourg-en-Bresse, which had rendered this judgement, with the request that it confirms the jurisprudence. This appeal was filed in November 2021. The latest news (27/01/2022) from the lawyer is: “to date, the appeal has been registered by the Court and I am waiting for a summons, but I dare not give a date…”. As you know we waited four years before being summoned in October 2020 to the Court that rendered the judgement of 7 December 2020!
To date, a pensioner residing in France and receiving pensions from both CERN and France must still pay his social security contributions on his French pension and — unless he/she provides proof of non-affiliation to the CPAM — on that of CERN. However, a ceiling is applied, i.e. the amount of social security contributions on his CERN pension may not exceed the amount of his French pension.
Sanitary conditions have still not allowed us to have face-to-face information sessions in 2021. But these meetings resumed this spring as before, in the Staff Association meeting room between 13:30 and 16:00. The dates can be found in the calendar.
After Months of the Pandemic
We have just gone through a period of long months such as we have never known before. The virus has upset our lives in a way nobody could ever have imagined accompanied by suffering and heartache.
During this time we received many calls for help and support when the death of a family member belonging to our association happened. Many questions came up, almost all showed a lack of information about the life of the deceased person...
This has prompted us to write a few words as follows which should be taken as advice, each and everyone doing as he sees best…
“ Lately my husband died. He worked a long time at CERN and looked after all our business. To whom should I refer to inform of his death? ”
“ I am separated since 15 years from my husband and recently was informed that he has died. What must I do to apply for a widow’s pension? ”
“ My sister who was a civil servant at CERN has died. I am her only family member though was not in contact often with her. Who must I inform? ”
These are the kind of questions which we have been getting over these last months. They clearly show up a lack of information within families. And that’s exactly the problem. We are all able to inform our closest family members in writing what has to be done when we pass away.
The Committee in reply to these questions can only indicate one step to take under these circumstances:
First of all, contact the CERN Pension Fund, Benefits Service Team, in order to inform of the death of a family member https://pensionfund.cern.ch/en.
You can also contact the CERN Social Service who can help you with the steps to take according to your place of residence https://hr.web.cern.ch/social-affairs-service-0
This period that we are living through reminds us how fragile life is. CERN’s community, as in the entire world, has suffered losses higher than in the past.
We may not think it, or we do not want to think it, but no-one is immortal. So, why not help our families at our age in life? We just have to think of our situation and put down on paper our last wishes should things become difficult at the end of life.
See below information which was published in the Bulletin n°. 57 about “ Guidelines for living ” which give and remind us of relevant advice.
No one is beyond suffering from a sudden loss of autonomy, for example after a cerebral vascular problem or a simple unfortunate fall. At our age, we are all exposed to the risk of losing the capacity to judge situations, or one of the many forms of dementia. We must think of this possibility, whose consequences could result in a loss of our individual autonomy.
Recent medical news demonstrates the difficulties which a family can meet when it is a question of end of life. We have recently helped one of our members who was rather disoriented in his daily life.
Thus we believe that it is useful to encourage you to take action BEFORE knowing difficulties, be it either preparatory medical advice and/or for a mandate for incapacity (management and help with daily living) To do this, we give below several addresses in Switzerland and France which could help you in this respect.
In Switzerland :
The first to contact for information : Pro Senectute or the Social Service in your commune. Pro Senectute Geneva has links with other cantons and with other associations and organizations.
The editorial staff is in no way responsible for the texts, drawings, graphics and photos published. The sole responsibilty lies with the authors. All elements constituting this publication are the property of GAC‑EPA and cannot be used without the express written authorization of the publisher.