Friday

6th Aug 2021

MEPs earn millions on the side

Renato Soru is a wealthy man. In 2000 he made it onto the Forbes list of world billionaires, and a year later the US magazine ran a profile on him and his Milan-based Internet company Tiscali, which was "snatching up competitors in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and the Czech Republic."

Fast-forward to 2014. Soru is still CEO of Tiscali, earning over €10,000 a month, according to his declaration of financial interests filed as a Socialist MEP.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • More than half of the 751 MEPs in the new European Parliament have outside activities that could influence their work (Photo: European Parliament)

He is not alone in listing outside activities that come on top of the €8,000 basic salary that MEPs receive monthly as well as up to €11,000 in travel and housing allowances.

According to a searchable database launched Monday (13 October) by Transparency International, over half of MEPs have listed outside activities in their declarations of financial interests.

Jointly they earn between €5.8 and €18.3 million a year on top of their MEP salaries, TI has found.

Their activities are not illegal, but they raise questions about potential conflicts of interests. Under beefed-up ethics rules starting with the new Parliament, MEPs had to fill out their declarations right from the start, in an electronic format.

The categories of revenue however only give an indicative image of how much MEPs earn outside the Parliament, with the highest category being €10,000 or more.

While 12 MEPs have listed this category, 45 others could also have combined revenues of over €10,000 as they list several activities in the lower brackets.

Along with Soru, there is a Romanian centre-right MEP, Daniel Buda, who earns over €10,000 a month as a notary and who also lists that he owns 179 sheep.

Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt is also high up in the ranking, with revenues above €10,000 a month as a member of the board of directors of a Belgian investment company, Sofina.

He also earns between €1,000 and €5,000 a month for being a member of the board of an oil-and-gas company, Exmar, for chairing the board of the European Institute of Public Administration, respectively.

French centre-right MEP Rachida Dati, who was overheard on open microphones complaining to a friend how bored she is in the EP, also scoops another €10,000 or more from her activity as a lawyer.

An MEP who stands out in terms of number of outside activities is French Liberal Nathalie Griesbeck, who lists 68 different board memberships in the medical sector, all in the lowest category (€0-500/month), meaning that she could have extra revenues anywhere between €0 and €33,433 a month.

Transparency International also found MEPs in breach of the Parliament' code of conduct: seven declarations are completely blank, one MEP submitted his declaration three months past the deadline, and 46 declarations indicate an income in the previous 3 years of less than €1,000 a month.

Eight of those were also MEPs in the previous parliament, who should have declared their previous mandate.

"Listing vague terms such as 'director', 'consultant', 'freelancer', 'manager' or abbreviations such as 'RvC FMO' or 'ASDCAM', does not allow for meaningful monitoring of their potential conflicts of interest," Transparency International notes.

The watchdog says more detailed information in the declarations is needed "to allow a meaningful monitoring of potential conflicts of interest" and a revision of the financial thresholds which end with "€10,000 or more".

Confusion reigns over MEP cash-for-amendments probe

The European Parliament is continuing to deny EU anti-fraud investigators access to its buildings, while the office of a fourth MEP implicated in the ongoing cash-for-amendments scandal remained open on Monday.

Opinion

Cheques, no balances: side-jobs in the European Parliament

It is heartening to see the Parliament scrutinizing potential conflicts of interest at the Commission so forcefully, but how good is the Parliament at ensuring the private interests of its own members?

Catalan MEPs lose immunity, slam 'political persecution'

Catalan separatist MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lost their parliamentary immunity - a result they have hailed as a "political victory" for bringing the conflict between Catalonia and Spain closer to the heart of Europe.

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

Future of Europe: Nearly half of citizens want reforms

European Parliament president David Sassoli called for the Conference on the Future of Europe "to start as soon as possible". Meanwhile, nearly half of EU citizens would like to see reforms to the bloc.

News in Brief

  1. EU secures deal with Novavax for potential Covid-19 vaccine
  2. France fined €10m for failing to tackle air pollution
  3. Fire near Athens forces thousands to evacuate
  4. EU to Lebanon: 'deliver results' on Beirut blast probe
  5. Belarus opposition leader demands regime end
  6. Croatia's border-monitoring of migrant rights 'falls short'
  7. Court stops Austria's Afghan deportation, as conflict worsens
  8. 'Missing' Belarus exiles group chief found dead in Kyiv

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Italy seeks EU help on migrant boat arrivals
  2. WHO calls for vaccine-booster pause to help poor countries
  3. Romania selling on its jabs, despite low vaccination rates
  4. Cyprus' Varosha is Erdogan's canary in the coalmine
  5. Europe sees drop in Covid-19 cases
  6. Burkinis and 'soul caps' - policing Olympic women back in fashion
  7. Telegram groups lure migrant hopefuls to Lithuania
  8. Third-time lucky for one Syrian grandmother in Denmark

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us