Reporters from all 28 EU member states bid to reveal MEP expenses

A group of journalists from all 28 EU member states is taking a legal action against the European Parliament in a bid to obtain greater transparency over the expenses of MEPs.
Reporters from all 28 EU member states bid to reveal MEP expenses

The reporters have teamed up to file a complaint with the European Court of Justice over the parliament’s refusal to their requests for access to information on how the 751 MEPs spend their allowances.

They had sought four years of copies of spending records of MEPs representing their own countries, under freedom of information legislation.

Specifically, they asked for documents regarding the money MEPs receive on top of their basic salaries, which includes a general allowance, travel allowance, daily subsistence, and funds for staffing.

However, the European Parliament cited personal data protection and an excessive workload as the basis for refusing the request for access to such information.

The initiative by the group of journalists which has become known as “The MEPs Project” was launched in June. The Irish representative on the group is freelance journalist and FOI campaigner Gavin Sheridan.

According to the European Parliament, 27% of its annual budget of €1,756bn in 2014 was dedicated to MEPs’ expenses.

“The European public is entitled to know how almost half a billion euro of its taxes is being spent,” a spokesperson said.

“The European Parliament spends €3.2m each month solely on MEPs’ general expenditure allowance. No one is monitoring this spending. Meanwhile the MEPs, who are the only elected representatives of European citizens, have repeatedly voted down efforts to regulate this issue.”

The group is seeking redress through the ECJ, claiming the European Parliament is disregarding the treaty of the EU over its failure to conform with its proclaimed function as the guardian of transparency in the EU.

“The European Parliament is effectively granting MEPs the right to secretive public spending and giving them full immunity from public monitoring of their dealings,” said the group’s lawyer, Natasa Pirc Musar.

She said the parliament, in its decision to refuse access to information about MEP expenses, did not property interpret personal data protection rules.

“The denial of access to requested documents was unjustified,” she added.

The group claims the 2009 exposure of the misuse of expenses by British MPs demonstrated that massive abuse of such programmes can indeed occur.

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