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23rd Mar 2019

Dutch MEP to lose €1,530 in Le Pen voting penalty

  • De Graaff (l) with ENF secretary-general Ludovic de Danne (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament will withhold €1,530 in allowances from Dutch member Marcel de Graaff, for unauthorised voting on behalf of his far-right French colleague Marine Le Pen.

The penalty is the result of an inquiry by EP president Martin Schulz, after De Graaff was seen using Le Pen's electronic voting card at a session in Strasbourg on 28 October, which is not allowed by parliament's rules.

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“The president has decided to impose a penalty of mister De Graaff for his conduct during the votes at the sitting of the 28th of October,” said EP vice-president Ioan Mircea Pascu on Thursday (17 December) at a plenary session in Strasbourg.

De Graaff and Le Pen are co-chairs of the far-right Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group.

Initially, the French leader of the National Front was accused of being involved in the incident. The leader of the largest group in parliament, centre-right EPP head Manfred Weber, had asked for a probe by Schulz into the “suspicion of fraud” by Le Pen.

With the penalty for De Graaff, Schulz implicitly acquitted Le Pen, who had already denied wrongdoing.

“I am totally innocent in this affair,” she told French media shortly after it came out, saying De Graaff had been “clumsy.”

She was received by Schulz on Wednesday to explain what happened.

The Dutch MEP does not have to pay a fine sensu stricto, but rather has to forego five instalments of a €306 daily allowance, which MEPs receive when they attend sessions or meetings in Brussels or Strasbourg.

Considering that MEPs also receive a monthly salary of €6,250.37 (after EU, but before national taxes); a €4,320 allowance for office expenses; and travel expenses, the penalty will not financially ruin the Dutch politician.

Following the announcement by Pascu, some members applauded. Then, De Graaff could be seen on camera looking over his shoulder, rubbing his thumb and index finger - a popular gesture, meaning money.

Schulz made the decision based on article 166 of the parliament's rules of procedure, which lists possible penalties for “exceptionally serious cases of disorder or disruption.”

On the basis of that rule, Schulz could also have suspended the member. The “forfeiture of entitlement” to the daily allowance could have been between two and 10 days.

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