Thursday

15th Nov 2018

EU parliament creates opening for expenses U-turn

  • The Conference of Presidents meeting of 5 July, when an opening was created to reverse a decision by another EU parliament body, the Bureau (Photo: European Parliament)

The leaders of the political groups in the European Parliament have decided to call for a review of the controversial decision by the parliament's 14 vice-presidents to introduce only minimal changes to the system of MEP office expenses.

The move offers the parliament a way to resolve the tricky issue before the campaign for the EU elections in May 2019 begins in earnest.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • EU parliament president Antonio Tajani holds a key position, as president of both the Conference of Presidents and the Bureau. (Photo: European Parliament)

It involves the monthly general expenditure allowance (GEA) of €4,416 which every MEP receives to cover office-related costs.

MEPs are not required to keep any receipts or return any unused sums of money after they leave office – a situation which has attracted criticism and produced a realisation among MEPs that reform was needed.

As recently as 18 April, a broad majority of 540 MEPs (of 751) supported a text which called for three key changes in the system.

MEPs said that the GEA funds should go to a separate bank account rather than the MEP's private one; that MEPs would be required to keep receipts; and that the GEA money that is left at the end of an MEP's mandate is returned to the parliament's budget.

It tasked an ad-hoc working group to come up with a reform of the system.

On 2 July, the parliament's vice-presidents met with parliament president Antonio Tajani in the so-called 'Bureau' format.

The Bureau is the body in charge of parliament's internal procedures. It decided with a 8-6 majority that only some of the proposed changes should be introduced: to channel the money to a separate bank account.

But the Bureau dismissed several proposals made by the working group.

Under the Bureau's reform, MEPs could continue to throw away their receipts and keep any money that they do not use for their official duties as MEP.

Three days after the Bureau meeting, the leaders of the parliament's political groups met in Strasbourg.

This constellation is called the Conference of Presidents, and it also includes Tajani as a member.

The minutes were published in the parliament's register of documents on Friday afternoon (7 September).

'Concerns'

Dutch left-wing MEP Dennis de Jong, deputy president of the GUE/NGL group, "express[ed] his concerns about the Bureau decision of Monday 2 July 2018 on the revision of the general expenditure allowance", according to the minutes.

There was then an "exchange of views", the minutes said, with comments from European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) leader Syed Kamall, Liberal group leader Guy Verhofstadt; and Greens co-president Ska Keller.

The document did not say what their arguments were, but said that Tajani noted "that the decision had been adopted by the Bureau, which was the parliamentary body responsible for the matter".

It went on to say that Tajani told the meeting "that he would report back to the Bureau with the proposal that the relevant Bureau working group remain in place with a view to examining the matter further".

It is unclear if the Conference of Presidents can legally overrule the Bureau, which is probably why the decision was worded as carefully as it was.

Tajani's membership of both bodies gives him the opportunity to mediate and perhaps convince the Bureau to change its mind.

Court case

On Tajani's mind will probably be the upcoming parliament elections in May 2019. A procedural body deciding to keep the MEP expenses system almost as opaque as it is now, against the expressed will of the majority of MEPs, will provide fodder for anti-EU candidates.

Also hanging over the parliament is a possible ruling soon by the European Court of Justice about the GEA.

A group of journalists has gone to the Luxembourg-based court to demand that the parliament publishes documents on how MEPs have spent their allowances.

Meanwhile, the parliament is also due to reply by Thursday (13 September) to an appeal by EUobserver about a denied request for papers related to the July Bureau decision.

Investigation

Citizens pay for MEPs' ghost offices

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.

Exclusive

How eight MEPs overruled 540 colleagues on office expenses

The EU parliament spends €40m a year on a lump sum for MEPs' expenses with barely any scrutiny. A majority of parliamentarians called for more transparency - but a handful of powerful MEPs mostly dismissed that request.

News in Brief

  1. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  2. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May
  3. Denmark blocks Tanzania aid over homophobic crackdown
  4. Second UK cabinet minister resigns over Brexit deal
  5. UK Brexit secretary quits morning after deal agreed
  6. Romanian MPs call for national 'Magnitsky Act'
  7. Tusk: Brexit summit on Sunday 25 November
  8. Full text of Brexit withdrawal agreement published

Opinion

Dodgy regime lobbying is below the EU's radar

In Brussels, PR professionals and lobbying consultants are working for some of the world's most autocratic regimes. And we have no way of knowing for sure who they are, how much they are paid, or what they are up to.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  2. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  3. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  4. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  5. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  6. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot
  7. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability
  8. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us