Friday

17th Aug 2018

MEPs to raise monthly allowances

MEPs are increasing their monthly allowances, arguing that it is justified as they have remained unchanged since 2011.

The plan is part of a broader staffing reshuffle and slated security measures at the European parliament following discussions on Thursday (16 April) by deputies in the budget committee.

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  • An MEP already receives an allowance of €21,379 a month to help for expenses like assistant salaries, supplies, and studies (Photo: Florian Schweitzer)

An MEP already receives an allowance of €21,379 a month for expenses like assistants' salaries, supplies, and studies.

It is now set to increase by an extra €1,500 per month bringing the annual allowance total to €275,000 per MEP or around €1 billion over the EP's five-year term.

Liberal Belgian MEP Gerard Deprez, who drafted the committee’s report on the parliament’s estimates of revenue and expenditure for 2016, said the biggest political groups pushed for the increase.

“The [centre-right] EPP was in favour of an increase of €3,000 each month and the Socialists were a bit more moderate and wanted an increase of €1,500,” he said.

The two settled on €1,500 with other groups either against the increase - like the Greens - or remaining silent.

Deprez said some in the liberal group, including himself, supported the rise because allowances have not increased since 2011.

Local assistants

The money is being put into a reserve and will be released once the parliament's governing body, the Bureau, draws up new rules on local assistants.

Unlike accredited assistants in Brussels, local assistants are based in the home constituencies of their respective MEPs.

Both are paid from the same monthly stipend and are required to work on European parliament-related issues.

But allegations of fraud and wrong-doing surfaced last month when MEP assistants in Marine Le Pen’s National Front were accused of working for the party while drawing salaries from the European Parliament

Olaf, the EU’s anti-fraud office, has since launched an investigation into the French anti-immigrant party, which has 23 deputies at the Brussels assembly.

Deputies are allowed to have three accredited assistants in Brussels but may hire as many local assistants as they want at home.

A so-called qualified paying agent administers the salary of local assistants and is tasked to ensure tax and social security requirements are properly met.

Local assistant salaries are also currently capped at different rates in some member states. An accredited assistant cannot be paid more than around €7,400 a month.

Some MEPs want the local caps removed and oppose any possible moves by the Bureau to limit the number of local hires.

“The maximum salary imposed for local assistants in Romania is smaller than the minimum wage in most of the EU countries,” said Centre-left Romanian MEP Victor Negrescu.

He said assistants in Romania cannot be paid more than €700 a month. The low wake makes it difficult to hire top help, he said.

The country’s large size is also a factor, he said.

“Romania has 240,000 km2 and we have to be everywhere,” he said.

He also dismissed complaints by MEPs from other member states that eastern European deputies have too many local assistants.

“In Eastern Europe we have lower salaries and lower taxes so we can use the amount given to us equally to employ more assistants. It is simple math,” he added.

The European parliament’s draft budget estimate for 2016 is set at €1,85 billion, up from €1.79 billion compared to this year.

A big chunk of the extra money is being set aside to boost internal security and prevent cyber attacks.

Indrek Tarand, an Green MEP from Estonia, said the overall proposed hikes should be scrapped. He noted the parliament's defence against cyber security could be improved and made less expensive by replacing the institution's 10-year licence contract with Microsoft with Open Source software.

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The National Front is facing allegations of fraud for having the EU parliament pay salaries to MEP assistants who perform tasks unrelated to the assembly.

MEPs may scrap call for scrutiny on allowances

Members of the two largest political groups in the European Parliament have tabled an amendment which would weaken a call for greater scrutiny of the way MEPs spend their office allowances.

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Each member of the European Parliament gets €4,342 every month, mainly to fund an office in their own country. But many of these offices seem nowhere to be found.

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EUobserver has obtained internal documents and emails from within the European Commission that outline questionable contracts with outside suppliers who appear to be overcharging for goods and services.

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