Thursday

13th May 2021

EU data chief: MEPs must accept transparency

  • The European Parliament refuses to disclose how MEPs spend public money on expenses (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament's reliance on a 'data protection' defence to prevent journalists from accessing MEP expenses appears to have taken a blow.

Giovanni Buttarelli, the European data protection supervisor, told this website on Tuesday (24 October) that despite the rules governing access, such information may be granted in some cases.

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

"Politicians, leaders, have to accept strong limitations in terms of transparency," he said.

Buttarelli said he could not comment on the case itself and that he is not familiar with it.

But he noted access to document rules, known as regulation 1049/2001, provides for wider transparency when "there is a strong demand for public controls on expenditures, procurement and good behaviour by leaders."

A consortium of 29 journalists are demanding to see MEP expense reports on travel costs, general allowance, staff funding, and daily subsistence.

But the European parliament has been refusing to disclose how some 751 MEPs spend European taxpayer money, due in part to data protection rules.

It also argues that its too much paperwork to process and that it does not possess many of the documents demanded.

A first hearing was held at the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice last week, but a verdict is not due anytime soon.

But Buttarelli noted access to such information can only be limited in exceptional circumstances and must be defined in narrow terms.

"We say that transparency and data protection are not opposite," he said.

The EU parliament has also argued that its own internal controls and oversight by the EU's anti-fraud office is good enough to ensure compliance and good conduct from the 751 MEPs.

But Olaf told this website it has no dedicated staff to probe MEP expense abuse.

"Olaf has a unit dedicated to internal investigations. However, we have no designated staff members working only on European Parliament cases," noted a spokesperson.

Olaf concluded three investigations last year related to the European Parliament, two of which were closed with recommendations.

Court battles intensifies on MEPs' 'private' expenses

The EU parliament said the public does not have a right to monitor the public role of MEPs, says Natasa Pirc Musar, a lawyer representing journalists, in a transparency battle against the assembly.

New MEPs to face tougher expenses regime

The European Parliament returns to business in July with a flat wage rate for all 736 MEPs and an overhauled expenses system, after years of winning a reputation for being little more than a gravy train for out-of-touch deputies.

EU taxpayers risk bailing out MEP pension scheme

An MEP voluntary pension scheme is running a €326 million actuarial deficit. The Luxembourg-based fund, set to manage to scheme, is said to have invested the money in controversial sectors like the arms industry.

EU court delivers transparency blow on MEP expenses

The General Court of the European Union in Luxembourg argued that disclosure of how MEPs use their monthly €4,400 expenses allowance risks violating an MEP's data protection rights. Journalists behind the case will appeal.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

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 MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us