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11th Jul 2020

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Parliament mulls allowances for home-working MEPs

  • Most MEPs are working remotely given the pandemic (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament is debating whether to retain MEP daily allowances, even when they work remotely from home.

The daily €323 lump sum is meant to cover things like hotel bills and meals, provided MEPs physically sign a register either inside the parliament in Brussels or in Strasbourg.

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But with the mini-plenary being held off-site this week, some are speculating on whether MEPs should still be entitled to it.

Among them is Nicola Beer, a German liberal MEP and a vice-president of the European Parliament. She told EUobserver legislative work needs to continue and that MEPs shouldn't be sanctioned for staying at home.

"Key is the act of vote, which remains, despite location the essence of parliamentary work. This is why we should consider to maintain allowances for MEPs. This can only be a temporary solution," she said on Tuesday (24 March).

EUobserver also understands Karol Karski, a Polish MEP from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, supports the push to retain the allowance while remotely working from home.

Karski is also one of five MEPs, known as Quaestors, responsible for administrative matters relating directly to the deputies.

Karski has yet to respond to EUobserver when asked by email to confirm his position on the issue.

But sources say he wants the expenses to cover things like outstanding hotel bookings that had already been made before the pandemic shut downs.

Daniel Freund, a German Green MEP and previously an expert at Transparency International, an NGO, told EUobserver the issue had been broached by the parliament's leadership.

"There has been a discussion, there has not been a conclusion," he said.

"Nobody has to come here to participate [Brussels plenary] in any of the votes or anything, as you know we are allowed the remote voting by email for this week."

He also pointed out emailed votes are authorised until 31 July.

The parliament's internal decision-making body, the Bureau, had met last week and are set to decide on the matter.

The European Parliament's chief spokesperson was unable to comment, noting that Bureau meetings are held behind closed doors.

But according to sources, the European Parliament's president David Sassoli, is not keen. Sassoli says allowances should only be used when working on site in Brussels or Strasbourg, again according to sources.

MEPs are also entitled to €4,563 per month to cover office expenses and receive a monthly salary of €6,962.95, after taxes.

Some MEPs are in fact helping out by volunteering their services as trained physicians. Among them is Hungarian Renew MEP Katalin Cseh who responded to the call of the Hungarian Ambulance Services to join the fight against coronavirus as a medical volunteer.

Meanwhile, four Catalan MEPs including Carles Puigdemont sent a letter to Sassoli arguing that all MEPs should use their allowances "to obtain medical devices and equipment".

They said if all MEPs would dedicate half of their allowances during the next three months, that would mean €9m for medical gear.

The Catalan MEPs also suggest to use some of the budget for the political groups, and the savings the parliament is going to have over these three months, for medical equipment.

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