Last night, the majority of the European Parliament’s Vice-Presidents (Parliament’s Bureau) blocked the attempt to correct its own decision against more transparency for MEPs’ expenses. On 2 July, Parliament’s Bureau had rejected with narrow majority proposals to require Members to keep receipts and to employ a professional paying agent to checks for their General Expenditure Allowance (GEA) and return unused funds. Afterwards, Vice-President Evelyne GEBHARDT (S&D, German) had complained that President Tajani had not allowed to discuss and vote her amendments. Following-up on this, yesterday, Pavel TELIČKA (ALDE, Czech), Heidi HAUTALA (Green, Finnish) and Fabio Massimo CASTALDO (EFDD, Italian) had therefore asked to reopen the Bureau’s Working Group on the issue. Yet neither Evelyne GEBHARDT, nor any other of the supporters for a strong reform, took the floor: David-Maria SASSOLI (S&D, Italian), Sylvie GUILLAUME (S&D, French) and Dimitrios PAPADIMOULIS (GUE, Greek). President Tajani rejected the proposal to reopen the Working Group with strong support by Vice-President Rainer WIELAND (EPP, German).*
While the Bureau does not implement the Plenary’s calls for a reform of GEA rules, Green MEPs Max Andersson and Sven Giegold submitted amendments to Parliament’s rules of procedure that propose to oblige MEPs to be transparent about their expenses without Parliament’s Bureau allowing to block this anymore. The Green amendments to the rules of procedure are foreseen to be discussed in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) in an extraordinary meeting 1 October in Strasbourg, to be voted in AFCO in October and in Plenary 13-15 November. The reform of Parliament’s rules of procedure is organised by rapporteur Richard Corbett and motivated by recent cases of hate speech in Parliament.
MEP Sven Giegold, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU institutions commented:
“The apparent lack of transparency of the GEA weaken the reputation of the European Parliament. If the President and the majority of Vice-Presidents continue to obstruct the implementation of the Plenary’s call for transparency, the Plenary has to take back the process and write transparency of MEP’s expenses directly into its rules of procedure.“
BACKGROUND: Green amendments to Parliament’s rules of procedure
Parliament’s Rules of Procedure Article 11 – paragraph 1 – subparagraph 1
So far: “Parliament shall lay down rules governing the transparency of its Members’ financial interests in the form of a Code of Conduct which shall be adopted by a majority of its component Members and attached to these Rules of Procedure as an annex.”
Sven Giegold and Max Andersson suggest to add in this paragraph:
“The code of conduct shall include provisions on the transparency and accountability of Members’ general expenditure allowance. It should provide for adequate sanctions in case of breach of paragraphs 2, 2a, 2b and 2c of this rule, including sanctions related to the impossibility to be elected office-holders of Parliament or of one of its bodies, be appointed as a rapporteur or participate in an official delegation;”
and as new paragraphs:
Article 11 – paragraph 2 b (new)
2 b. Members shall use their general expenditure allowance in a transparent and accountable way, in line with the principle of sound financial management, specification and with the principles governing the funding of political parties.
Article 11 – paragraph 2 c (new)
2 c. Members shall publish, on an annual basis, an overview of the use of their expenditure by category, keep all the receipts of the expenditures, use a separate bank account and return the unused sums at the end of each term.
The Bureau shall lay down provisions in order to ensure annual sample checks.
Richard Corbett’s draft report to amend the rules of procedure: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+COMPARL+PE-625.598+03+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN
(* These Vice-Presidents had already earlier opposed the reform: Mairead McGUINNESS (EPP, Irish), Bogusław LIBERADZKI (S&D, Polish), Rainer WIELAND (EPP, German), Zdzisław KRASNODĘBSKI (ECR, Polish), Ramón Luis VALCÁRCEL SISO (EPP, Spanish), Lívia JÁRÓKA (EPP, Hungarian), Ioan Mircea PAŞCU (S&D, Romanian). For more on the decision of 2 July 2018: https://sven-giegold.de/gea-reform-rejected/ )