BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Friday, 6 December, 2002, 13:11 GMT
MEPs halt attempt to slash perks
European parliament
Euro MPs are under pressure to put their house in order
A new attempt to curb the controversial expenses system enjoyed by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) has run into the ground.

The EU's elected legislators are often criticised for being reimbursed for expenses they have not incurred - a system which easily enables them to double their salaries.

They get paid for first-class air travel even if they travelled by a budget airline.


We were tantalisingly close to achieving a transparent and accountable system

European Liberal Democrat leader Graham Watson
They have to show a boarding pass but not a receipt.

On Thursday, Pat Cox, Irish president of the European parliament, asked assembly members to back new rules on salaries, expenses, tax and pensions.

But while MEPs approved changes to their pay structure, they failed to overhaul the expenses system.

Furthermore, correspondents say the pay reform - which would result in all MEPs earning the same salary - will be rejected by EU governments at next week's Copenhagen summit.

One official described the decision on pay reform as a "non-starter".

"There is no chance of it being given the go-ahead by ministers," he said.

'Wrong message'

European Liberal Democrat leader Graham Watson said the continental Christian Democrats and Socialists who blocked sweeping reforms were sending the wrong message to ministers and the public.

Euro expenses
First class air fares
Attendance payments
No receipts required
Wives employed as secretaries
"We were tantalisingly close to achieving a transparent and accountable system thanks to the efforts of Pat Cox," he said.

"But today, that reform effort was blocked by an unholy alliance of Christian Democrat and Socialist MEPs. Through their action, they show a lack of respect for the reputation of the European Parliament."

Minority groups in the parliament criticised the Socialists and Christian Democrats for linking the pay question to other issues, such as parliamentary immunity and privileges, that would need ratification by governments.

Pat Cox
Cox wants change before 10 more states join
This, they say, would be a long drawn-out process that governments are unlikely to want to get involved in.

The BBC's Brussels correspondent, Shirin Wheeler, says national governments have been pushing for a firm commitment to reform the expenses system before they approve a common salary.

Currently MEPs pay is linked to that of their national assemblies, with Spanish MEPs getting about 30,000 euros a year, while Austrian members receive more than treble that.

Attendance money

The Italians and Germans are among the best paid, and the British somewhere in the middle.

If approved in Copenhagen, the pay proposals would establish the same salary for all MEPs at 96,000 euros per annum - slightly above the average.

Those pushing hardest for reform include Liberals, Greens former Communists, and MEPs from Scandinavia and Britain.

German, Spanish and Italian MEPs are least enthusiastic.

As well as potentially making tens of thousands of euros per year on travel expenses, MEPs get a generous fee for attending EU meetings.

This has become known as the "so-so" system, short for "sign-on, sod-off", on the grounds that some MEPs register their presence, then immediately head for the airport.

Wages, expenses and other running costs of the European Parliament are estimated to exceed 1bn euros a year.

See also:

27 May 99 | Politics
19 May 99 | Politics
22 Oct 98 | Europe
01 Mar 00 | Europe
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes