Open Europe Blog

ridiculously generous

MEPs on the European Parliament’s Budget Committee voted on Wednesday to award themselves an extra €1,500 and to hire an additional 150 staff. MEPs say they’re in desperate need of more money because the Lisbon Treaty is now in force which means more work for them. In total, MEPs can already cash in on some £360,000 year in pay and allowances. For most people this seems like an incredibly generous amount – but not for the MEPs themselves apparently. The increase will cost taxpayers an extra €13.3 million a year and send the EP’s total annual budget past the €1.6 billion mark.

Just like EU bureaucrats’ recent über-insensitive demand for a 3.7% pay rise – now awaiting a decision in the Courts – this latest display of the money-hungry culture prevailing in Brussels will not go down well with taxpayers or voters. Nor will this document, published before the EP Budgetary Control committee’s meeting, showing how MEPs squander public money. Amongst various spending items, it reveals that the EP last year spent €2.3million to renovate its own sports centre, €4.3million on a new visitor centre (although it already has one), hundreds of thousands of pounds on gas-guzzling cars (some emitting as much 260 CO2 g/km – fighting climate change anyone?) and a staggering €8.8 million on repairing a ceiling that collapsed in the Strasbourg Parliament (which reinforces the stupidity and wastefulness of having a Strasbourg Parliament in the first place). As a side, the document also reveals that the EP lost 54,000 in sick days in 2008.

Although, to be fair, since the new Members’ Statute came into effect last year, MEPs do not receive this assistants allowance directly anymore, with assistants being paid directly from the European Parliament’s budget. However, this should not detract from the patently ridiculous amount of expenses and allowances available to MEPs.

The editor of the European Voice, Tim King, yesterday summed up why taxpayers and voters have the right to feel very unhappy about this whole affair:

For 40 years, a near-secret agreement has governed how the three main institutions of the European Union divide up administrative spending. That agreement should be brought into the harsh light of day. It should then be ripped up and replaced.

He notes that while the principle behind the agreement is itself not stupid, “what is stupid is the corollary that went with that principle: an agreement that the Parliament would be guaranteed a 20% share of the administrative budget.”

He goes on,

Forty years on, it is obvious to many outside observers that the Parliament has more money than it knows what to do with. The Parliament may have set up a temporary committee on the economic crisis, but it is otherwise unscathed by Europe’s economic difficulties. Although the Parliament is very fond of climbing into its pulpit to criticise the misuse of EU money when that money is managed by national administrations or the European Commission, it is much less outspoken about the misuse of money under its own palatial (albeit occasionally collapsing) roofs.

He points to the internal 2008 report (that MEPs voted to keep secret) which revealed widespread abuse of allowances in the EP, MEPs’ immoral second pensions scheme and other questionable perks and practices.

He concludes,

Now the Parliament’s leadership is drawing up its 2010 budget and is struggling to stay within a 20% share of the total spending on administration. Laughably, the MEPs are describing their 20% slice of the pie as ‘the long-standing self-imposed limit’, not noticing that the description is inherently contradictory: if the 20% was not ridiculously generous, it would not have been ‘self-imposed’ for so long. The truth is that it is not a meaningful constraint, so MEPs and their officials have been more than happy to live with it…It is scarcely credible that an agreement that dates back to when there were only six member states should remain in place, unquestioned, unexamined.

Exactly.

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