Monday

18th Feb 2019

Eurosceptic MEPs help reject financial transparency

  • Members of the UK Independence Party, the Dutch Party for Freedom, and the French National Front, often criticise 'Brussels' for spending too much taxpayers' money. (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Members of the Italian Five Star Movement were the only eurosceptic members of the European Parliament to support a text which aimed to increase scrutiny on the monthly office allowances that MEPs receive.

Members of the UK Independence Party, the Dutch Party for Freedom, and the French National Front, who often criticise “Brussels” for spending too much taxpayers' money, did nothing to prevent the request for an obligatory annual report on office expenditures from being scrapped.

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They voted in favour of, or did not vote on, an amendment which deleted this request.

The amendment was adopted last Wednesday (29 April) during the plenary session in Strasbourg by an overwhelming majority: 576 in favour, 74 against, and 48 abstentions.

According to this website's analysis of voting behaviour, based on data compiled by Votewatch, most of the No votes – those in favour of calling for a transparency report – were cast by members of the Green group. All 48 present Green MEPs voted No.

The other No voters were 17 members of the Italian anti-establishment party Five Star Movement; three Czech communist members; two Greek communist members; three members of the Dutch centre-left Labour party; and one Spanish member of the centre-right Partido Popular.

The three Dutch Labour members were the only three rebels in the centre-left socialist group, while Spanish deputy Agustin Diaz de Mera Garcia Consuegra was the only rebel in the centre-right EPP.

The amendment was proposed by the two largest groups in the parliament, the centre-right and centre-left groups.

It changed the phrase: “[the Parliament] considers it advisable for every member to submit an end-of-year public report on these allowances” into a call on the EP's administrative body to “work on the definition of more precise rules regarding the accountability of expenditures authorised under this allowance, without causing additional costs to parliament”.

Each of the 751 MEPs receives a monthly “general expenditure allowance” of €4,299, but there is no control on how that money is spent.

Liberal MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, who has said he is in favour of greater scrutiny of MEP expenses, voted in favour of the amendment.

In an explanation to this website, he said that he thought the amendment itself “did not change much”.

However, the Dutch MEP noted that he thought he would have the chance to vote on two paragraphs from the original text, which requested “the introduction of obligatory annual reporting by the members of their expenditures paid out of the GEA, or, failing that, for at least opening a procedure for verification of the members' accounts on a voluntary basis”.

“Our voting list said that we would vote on those two paragraphs separately”, Gerbrandy said, noting that the amendment and those paragraphs could have coexisted.

But ahead of the vote on the amendment, EP vice-president Antonio Tajani, who chaired the vote, said that adoption of the amendment would mean the two paragraphs would fall.

Gerbrandy has written a letter together with Hungarian Green MEP Benedek Javor to parliament president Schulz to ask for “clarification” why the two paragraphs were not put to the vote.

But speaking to this website, Gerbrandy noted that the outcome of the vote cannot be reversed.

“Not much can be done about this, except for a mea culpa from Schulz”, noted the MEP.

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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