COPENHAGEN: First you got the salary. Then there are all the tax-free subsidies, the travelling expenses and the hotel accommodation. Plus the extra apartment, the allowances for office costs and subsistence. To say nothing of the generous subsidies for promoting the parliamentary work in the European Union.
In a typical year, the European Parliament spends close to 5 million DKK (€ 672.500) on a member of the European Parliament.
This is documented by a review of Danish MEP Rina Ronja Kari’s entire annual documentation – close to a thousand documents, vouchers, pay slips, hotel bills and employment contracts that she has agreed to put forward to the public and share with Danish newspaper Berlingske.
The review shows that on top of an annual salary of € 98.556,24 Rina Ronja Kari receives some € 94.000 in tax-free allowances and travel expenses for the already free travels. And all of this without having to present any kind of supporting documentation.
In addition, she receives close to € 270.000 annually for staffing arrangements and has access to a further € 130.000 for promotion of the parliamentary work.
Rina Ronja Kari - of the Danish People’s Movement against the EU – is critical of the lack of transparency in the administration and allocation of EU funds. It is her hope, therefore, that by publishing her own administrative specifics she can promote a debate on the expenditure in the European Union.
A welcome development
»This is an absurd amount of money,« she says. »The money is flowing almost completely freely to parliamentarians, and there is next to no control over how it is being used. Of course that means the system is open to abuse.«
All MEPs receive the same salary and have access to the same allowances. The subsidies for promoting the parliamentary work can vary, but the other amounts are virtually automatically allocated to all the parliamentarians if they remember to attend a sufficient number of plenary sittings in a parliamentary year.
Wouter Wolf is a researcher at the University of Leuven, Belgium. He studies the role and organization of the European Parliament and sees it as essential that the European politicians contribute to the transparency in the handling of EU funds.
»It is a welcome development that she submits all the documentation. The politicians have access to a vast amount of money from all sorts of sources, and they can use them at their own discretion without any kind of documentation. We are talking about a considerable sum of money and this is very problematic and controversial.«
Regulation too expensive
It is the the members of the European Parliament themselves who lay down the rules for and the control of the money flow in the so-called Code of Conduct.
In a written response to Berlingske the head of press at the European Parliament, Marjory van den Broeke, said regulating MEPs’ spending would be too expensive.
»Parliament would have to hire more staff if all the various bills collected by the 751 members of parliament were processed and checked,« she wrote. »It would increase costs instead of reducing them.«