20th Feb 2019

MEPs opt to keep their business class flights

  • MEPs said the annual budget was the incorrect way to scrap business class travel (Photo: Matt Blaze)

MEPs have said parliament's budget should be increased by 2.3 percent next year, at the same time rejecting a proposal for euro-deputies to take more economy class flights in future.

Plans for the 2012 funding increase, contained in a report by centre-right MEP José Manuel Fernandes, were adopted on Wednesday (6 April) by 479 votes to 176, with 23 abstentions. The hike was earlier supported by parliament's budget committee, and comes despite a call for more modest one percent rise from the European Commission.

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Defending the move, Portuguese euro-deputy Fernandes said the figure was well below the Union's current inflation rate of 2.8 percent, adding that further savings could be made during the implementation stage.

"We want all the expenses to be justified and we want the variable expenses to be subject to a cost-benefit analysis. Thus, we could also make savings in execution," he said in a statement.

The commission will include parliament's position in its overall EU budget proposals for next year, set to be published on 20 April. The Council of Ministers - the EU institution which represents member states - has said it plans to cut its 2012 budget by 4.4 percent.

In adopting the report on Wednesday, MEPs also rejected an amendment to save money by ensuring flights under four hours were carried out on economy class, citing procedural reasons. At present, MEP travel is reimbursed to the level of a business class flight or a first class rail ticket.

The rejected amendment would have saved between €15 to €20 million a year, according to its proposers Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA), Lajos Bokros (ECR), Jurgen Klute (GUE/NGL) and Miguel Portas (GUE/NGL).

Fernandes said travel savings should be made in 2012, but argued that an alteration to the MEP rulebook - known as the members' statute - was needed to accomplish this, rather than the annual budget-setting procedure.

A parliamentary source defended the decision. "Most MEPs agree that economy-flex tickets are okay, but they think the budget procedure is not the way to do this," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Plans to move ahead with a House of European History also caused controversy, with Conservative MEP Lajos Bokros saying the proposals were being pushed through by parliament's top officials, known as the bureau, but would come from the parliament's overall budget.

The museum is intended to showcase European history from 1945, costing an estimated €60 million to establish and €13.45 million per year to run. "We do not need the House of European History. As Europe is losing competitiveness and geopolitical weight, it is becoming a museum anyway," said Bokros.

Others have noted that the chair of parliament's budget committee, centre-right MEP Alain Lamassoure, also sits on the museum's boards of trustees, raising a conflict of interests.

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