22nd Oct 2020

Grumbling as some MEPs continue to employ family members

  • Family members continue to creep European parliamentary corridors, despite bans in several member states (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Parliament's top official has admitted that around 20 MEPs continue the practice of employing family members as parliamentary assistants, an issue that has upset a number of their colleagues.

Formerly more widespread, the practice was forbidden under a new assistants' statute which came into effect with the start of the current parliamentary term in July 2009. However a temporary exception, or 'derogation', to the rule allows re-elected MEPs who previously employed family members to continue doing so until 2014.

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

"Around 20 members use the derogation provided under Article 78(3)," reveal a series of written responses to questions from MEPs put to the European Parliament's secretary general, Klaus Welle.

The replies, sent to parliament's budgetary control committee earlier this month, refuse to reveal which deputies: "The names of members making use of the derogation ... cannot be made public due to the requirement to protect the confidentiality of personal data."

Initial research shows a number of MEPs using the derogation originate from Britain and Ireland, although other nationalities are likely to be involved.

Despite being legitimate under parliamentary rules, a number of euro-deputies have spoken out against the continued practice of employing family members with taxpayers' money, raising the matter in a budgetary control meeting last week.

"This was my big sorrow because the full plenary of MEPs decided not to allow such a derogation any more, but the bureau opted to allow it," German centre-right MEP Ingeborg Grassle told this website.

The vote to end the procedure took place in plenary on 22 April 2008, but parliament's bureau - consisting of the legislature's president, 14 vice-presidents and five 'quaestors' (senior administrative officials) - decided shortly thereafter to prolong the employment of familiy members under certain conditions.

"It was thought that people who had already arranged their lives shouldn't have to suddenly disrupt them due to the changes," European Parliament press official Ralph Pine explained, indicating that the threat of legal action was not a factor in the decision.

But the bureau's practice of overruling the full body of MEPs has drawn criticism. "Quite often, the bureau just goes against the will of the plenary. They don't give a damn, they're the boss," said a seasoned parliamentary official on condition of anonymity.

"Why did they come up with the derogation? Because there were members who were going to be re-elected, it's very simple. There is also pressure from the [political] groups. In plenary, MEPs have to be seen to be voting the practice out, but later it is cooked up between the political groups," said the source.

There are also doubts over euro-deputy compliance with the current rules on employing family members, with Court of Auditor member Louis Galea indicating that his services may shortly be called upon.

"The court may be requested to give an opinion on the regulations that govern this particular issue," he said in a recent telephone interview. "I understand that the matter is being considered by the relative authorities within the European Parliament."

A related issue is also under internal investigation - the reported practice of some MEPs employing the family members of other MEPs, in order to side-step the current rules.

"This is in principle not forbidden so we didn't ask for that," said Ms Grassle, referring to the questions sent to parliament's secretary general. "I had the impression [that it takes place] but I can not confirm it ... I don't know if it is really a problem."


Violating promises and law, von der Leyen tests patience

Under EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, transparency was supposed to be a "guiding principle". Instead, the European Commission is asking Kafkaesque questions in response to an access to documents request, and failing to meet its legal deadline.

Future of Europe: EU Council urged to propose a chair

Since the German presidency promised the Conference on the Future of Europe would start under their leadership, the European Commission and MEPs hope the event will be launched soon. But there is one issue: who will chair the conference?

Nine-in-ten EU regions face revenue plunge, report finds

The decrease of revenues in 2020 of subnational authorities in France, Germany and Italy alone is estimated to be €30bn for the three countries, a new report by the European Committee of the Regions says.

EU Parliament sticks to demands in budget tussle

The parliament wants €38.5bn extra for key programmes, which is less than their previous request of around €100bn. Negotiations continue on Thursday, but the budget and recovery could still get stuck on the rule-of-law issue.

Rightwing MEPs bend to Saudi will after Khashoggi death

Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed two years ago on 2 October. Since then, mainly centre-right, conservative and far-right MEPs have voted down any moves to restrict, limit or ban the sales of weapons to the Saudi regime.

MEPs deliver blow to EU body embroiled in harassment case

MEPs have refused to sign off the accounts of the European Economic and Social Committee, in yet another blow to the reputation of the EU's smallest institution. The massive vote against was linked to ongoing psychological harassment cases.

News in Brief

  1. Commission to press Croatia on migrant 'abuse' at border
  2. Belarus opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize
  3. Belgium's foreign minister in intensive care for Covid-19
  4. MEPs restrict CAP funding for bullfighting
  5. Coronavirus: Liège is 'the Lombardy of the second wave'
  6. UK to keep out EU nationals with criminal past
  7. Report: EU to restrict travel from Canada, Tunisia, Georgia
  8. Pope Francis supports same-sex civil unions

Rightwing MEPs bend to Saudi will after Khashoggi death

Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed two years ago on 2 October. Since then, mainly centre-right, conservative and far-right MEPs have voted down any moves to restrict, limit or ban the sales of weapons to the Saudi regime.

EU parliament vows not to cave in to budget pressure

The parliament's majorty dismisses the German EU presidency's proposal on the rule of law conditionality, which has emerged as the main political obstacle to agree on the next long-term EU budget.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nato and EU silent on Turkey, despite Armenia's appeal
  2. EU tells UK to decide on Brexit as deal 'within reach'
  3. EU farming deal attacked by Green groups
  4. France vows tough retaliation for teacher's murder
  5. All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter
  6. 'Big majority' of citizens want EU funds linked to rule of law
  7. EU declares war on Malta and Cyprus passport sales
  8. EU Commission's Libya stance undercut by internal report

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us