This Thursday, the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) decided that the Parliament’s Bureau shall make it much easier for citizens to compare how MEPs spend their General Expenditure Allowance (GEA). So far, MEPs receive 4.416 Euros per month as a tax free lump-sum for office costs and the like, for which no receipts have to be kept. Following the recent blockade by Parliament’s Bureau against the demands of plenary for more transparency, AFCO now wants to force the Bureau to act by adding a new sentence in the Rules of Procedure. The Bureau would therefore be obliged to give every Member the opportunity to publish an independent audit of their use of the GEA on their profile on Parliament’s website. Citizens can thus easily compare which MEPs keep their invoices and have them checked by a professional auditor and who refuses to do so. The Greens originally wanted to oblige all MEPs to keep and independently check their receipts. Although the new solution remains instead voluntary, the AFCO decision would significantly increase public pressure for transparency and will very likely lead to the same result in the medium term.
Soon all MEPs will have to show their personal stand as to whether they want to enable citizens to compare their actions more easily. The reform of the Rules of Procedure, including this rule, is expected to be voted in January’s plenary. A successful amendment of the Rules of Procedure requires a majority of all elected Members to vote in favour, not just a majority of those present.
Sven Giegold, transparency spokesperson for the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament, says:
“The apparent lack of transparency of the GEA weakens the reputation of the European Parliament. The plenary of MEPs must not tolerate the President and the majority of Vice-Presidents in the Bureau obstructing their plenary demand for transparency. The Committee on Constitutional Affairs today sent out an important signal in support of democracy. In order for MEPs to take the transparency of their expenditure into their own hands, they must write rules to allow for simple comparisons of independent audits into the Rules of Procedure. In a European election campaign full of populist attacks on the EU, the GEA’s lack of transparency is a burden. In January, it is up to all MEPs to put their own house in order.”
BACKGROUND: the adopted compromise on Rule 11a (new paragraph)
“The Bureau shall provide the necessary infrastructure on Member’s online profiles on Parliament’s website for those Members who wish to publish a voluntary audit or confirmation, as provided for under the applicable rules of the Statute for Members and its implementing rules, that their use of the General Expenditure Allowance complies with the applicable rules of the Statute for Members and its implementing measures.”