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9th Aug 2020

Canete gets EU parliament pension while still commissioner

  • Canete is already receiving retirement benefits from the European parliament although he is a full-time European commissioner (Photo: European Commission)

European commissioner for climate Miguel Arias Canete is drawing a pension from the European parliament in addition to the approximately €20,000 he takes home every month.

Although not retired, the 67-year old former MEP is receiving the sum from a controversial voluntary pension scheme that is running a €326 million actuarial deficit.

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"The amount received is fully declared and taxed by the Spanish authorities," his spokesperson said in an email.

Asked how much, she said the figure "is derived from the contributions he pays."

The fund is set to go bust in six or eight years. It means the EU taxpayer will likely have to foot the bill.

MEPs only had to pay into the scheme for two years before being entitled to a full life pension once they hit the age of 63. Canete is 67 and has been the EU commissioner for climate action and energy since 2014.

Presumably, Canete will also be entitled to a European Commission pension once he leaves office. He was an MEP from 1986 to 1999 and again in 2014. He also worked for the Spanish government as environment minister.

Canete is not the only EU commissioner on the fund. His counterpart Marianne Thyssen, the EU commissioner for employment, had also signed up to the scheme when she was an MEP.

First set up in 1990 and open to MEPs until 2009, the voluntary pension was designed to provide MEPs who did not receive a pension from their member state with one.

It is a second pension fund for MEPs given that member states also pay them a pension. To qualify MEPs at the time only had to pay one-third into the scheme themselves, with the European parliament topping it up with two-third contribution.

"Since 2009 it is no longer possible for new MEPs to profit from it, but that is not enough, given the fact that the arrangement remains a liability for taxpayers, which are obliged to bail it out," Pieter Cleppe, from the British think tank Open Europe, told this website.

The voluntary pension fund is managed by a Luxembourg-based non profit. According to Belgian Green MEP Bart Sates, some of the money has been invested in nuclear energy.

Staes is pressing former MEPs to drop out of the scheme, which ended in 2009, given it will likely go insolvent. Most MEPs in the fund are said to have used their general allowance expenditure as contributions.

The allowance is a tax free lump sum of €4,342 given to each MEP every month, deposited into their personal bank accounts. The money is supposed to be used for work related tasks. There is no oversight.

"All members paid that one-third out of their general allowance expenditures, which cannot be considered as an income," Staes told EUobserver earlier this week.

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