EU’s gravy train: MEPs’ bizarre freebies and perks unveiled in damning report

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From an expenditure allowance to a golden parachute, it is no secret there are many benefits to being a European lawmaker. Each member of the European Parliament takes home the same gross salary, regardless of how many years they’ve been in office — and that amount is €8,995.39 (£7,695.32) per month as of July 1, 2020. After taxes and insurance, the monthly total lands at €7,011.74 (£5,997.25).

However, for most MEPs, there’s further taxing from here, as many member states require their European lawmakers to pay an additional national tax, so the final net amount depends on the MEP’s home country and its taxation policy.

When comparing the wages to national lawmakers, as of 2020, British MPs annual salary before taxes equal to about £6,827 (€7,980) per month.

To manage office costs in their constituency, including computers, telephones, conference organising as well as office rent and supplies, a general expenditure allowance of €4,513 (£3,859.90) is budgeted per month.

This money pot is highly controversial because the sum can be deposited directly into MEPs’ personal bank accounts — and they are not required to disclose how the money was spent.

Whereas MEPs must submit invoices to get reimbursed for travel expenses, the general expenditure allowance has no oversight or controls.

In a report titled ‘Quaestors’ Casebooks: Insight into oddities for any newly-minted MEPs’, Dr Lee Rotherham, the former director of Special Projects at Vote Leave, revealed there are several other freebies and perks the 705 members of the European Parliament can enjoy.

He wrote: “MEPs have a €5,000 (£4,276.58) allowance to learn a language.

“The five main ones can be tutored inside the European Parliament itself, at €40 (£34.22) an hour, meaning an MEP should be pretty fluent after 125 hours.

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“They have another €1,500 (£1,283.34) to learn how to use a computer.”

He continued: “MEPs got special treatment during a period of increased passenger checks at French airports.

“A special fast lane was set up at Strasbourg airport just for people working within the EU institutions, and MEPs got to jump even that queue.

“In passing, of note the lane was anonymously entitled ‘Passengers with assistance’, presumably to stop angry queuers having a go at them.

“There are also 36 ‘learning activities’ (also known as courses or coaching) that MEPs can go on, and which staff can sit in on too. The full list is unhelpfully not provided but is known to include ‘personalised audio-visual and social media training’, ‘negotiation and legislative conciliation’, and ‘election monitoring’.

“They continue, ‘Furthermore practical courses are offered to assist new Members in understanding the labyrinth of financial and social rights,internal rules and the Members’ Code of Conduct” – an admission on the fundamental flaws of the EU itself.”

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MEPs as one of their perks get free railcards for travelling anywhere in Belgium, and discounts for some intercity travel, the political expert noted.

There is also reportedly a central bank of over 100 research staff employed communally for all MEPs.

Mr Rotherham added: “Their output includes 250 “model answers” to tricky questions from the public.”

In 2016, a new rule was introduced to prevent MEPs from receiving gifts that were “in exchange for specific behaviour in the scope of the member’s parliamentary work.”

Two years later, MEPs from a parliamentary group founded by French populist leader Marine Le Pen, were asked to reimburse almost £500,000 (€584,000) splashed out on champagne, gifts and five-star dinners.

Members of the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) party were found to have unjustifiably billed £481,033 (€544,400) in expenses, the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee found.

That year, MEPs billed the EU for more than 230 champagne bottles, set gourmet meals priced at more than £353 (€400) per person, and expensive Christmas gifts for employees.

Irregularities in the MEPs expenses were found also on the 2017 budget, and they were deemed worth more than £58,781 (€66,400).

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