MEPs vote themselves extra €1,500 allowance a month
MEPs have elected to boost their monthly allowance for staff and office expenses by €1,500, mirroring a similar move last year despite a widespread austerity drive in EU member states.
The decision by members of the European Parliament's budgetary committee on Thursday (3 March) will see the legislature's overall budget increase by almost €13.25 million in 2011.
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MEPs from parliament's Socialist and centre-right European Peoples Party groups supported the proposed raise, while other groups said the decision was unjustified.
German Green MEP Helga Trupel said the move showed EU lawmakers were "clearly out of touch with fiscal realities ...[and] sent completely the wrong signal" to EU citizens. Portuguese far-left MEP Miguel Portas called the decision "misconceived".
Meanwhile, supporters say the extra allowance would enable the hiring of additional staff to tackle the growing workload under the EU's new Lisbon Treaty, in place since 1 December 2009.
"I cannot do the political or control work I have to do if I don't have more staff," said German centre-right MEP Ingeborg Grassle.
Euro deputies are paid €7,956.87 per month before tax, and an additional €300 for the days they officially sign in to work in Brussels or Strasbourg.
They also receive a monthly allowance of €19,709 for staff and other office expenses, with Thursday's decision set to increase this figure.
The move is unlikely to be welcomed in several corners of Europe as EU governments embark on a wave of spending cuts and tax increases.
Leaders from Britain, France and Germany late last year called for limits to be placed on future EU spending, while a commission and parliament request for a six percent increase to the EU's 2011 budget was eventually cut in half by member states.
In a sign that some in the EU institutions were beginning to take note, an internal memo written by commission secretary-general Catherine Day last month called on the EU body to change its culture of "entitlement" and "bureaucratic focus" and to embark on a new efficiency drive.