What does a MEP make? Euro-MPs' salary and expenses unveiled

20 December 2009

What does a MEP make? Euro-MPs' salary and expenses unveiled

by Dennis de Jong.

During the last few weeks Euro-MPs' expenses payments have been frequently in the news. The issue also came up in the 'Oranjeberaad', the regular meeting between Dutch MEPs from different political groups.

This was a good issue for discussion on the face of it, because the SP believes that the more transparency there is, the better. Still, I found it unfortunate that the right-wing Freedom Party (PVV) and the centre-right Christian Union (CU) tried to cut a dash by refusing to accept part of their reimbursement of office expenses while at the same time keeping quiet about the numerous other reimbursements which they are happy to pocket. In any case it turned out that in the CU's case it was all a misunderstanding, as closer inspection reveals that when it came to office expenses they did in fact claim the whole of their entitlement.

This is a good reason to list everything to which we have access. First of all, as a Euro-MP you receive a princely salary, some €5000 per month net of your European tax. You have to pay Dutch taxes as well, but this still leaves you with a healthy sum, in any case a great deal more than the €2400 which we in the SP see as a just wage for elected representatives of the people. Anything above that level I would normally pay to the party, but now that the European Parliament has forbidden this practice I donate the surplus to progressive causes.

Over and above your salary you receive, for every day that you sign in as present at one or the other of the Parliament's sites, a 'daily allowance'. This can quickly amount to as much as €4000 per month. This sum is not subject to tax. Of course, you have to pay your actual expenses out of it, including hotels, or, if you maintain an apartment in Brussels (our principle workplace), all the costs which attach to that. In my experience this leaves you nevertheless between €1000 and €1500. Once again, I do not of course hang on to this, but as with my surplus salary, I donate it to good causes.

But it doesn't end there. You also receive travel expenses. In the past there was a lot of fuss about this, as payment was not based on actual costs, but new rules mean that this is no longer the case, and you can only claim the amounts actually spent. Except for one thing: in addition, you receive a so-called 'distance reimbursement'. This can amount to several hundred euros per month. I've never been able to figure out why 'distance' should cost me more than what it costs me, so once again I hand it over to people who can do some good with it.

And yes, there is also the matter of the office costs. Rumour has it that the EP keeps little or no control over how the €4000 a month or so is spent, but the rule is that you can claim only your actual costs, with any surplus being returned to the Parliament's coffers. So at the end of the year the EP receives from me a pile of receipts, with the rest of the money being returned. This seems to me normal. We have been rather thrifty this year and will be returning a good 90% of this sum.

It's a pity that during this week's Oranjeberaad the Dutch MEPs were not prepared to agree a common approach to how we spend these moneys, though actually such an agreement shouldn't be necessary. Surely it's normal that Members of the European Parliament keep precise track of their spending, returning any surplus to the EP? I find it quite appalling that discussion to date has focused only on the office expenses and that some of my parliamentary colleagues prefer to keep quiet about the rest of their various income streams. I'm not so keen on media stunts, but in any case everyone can now see precisely why some Euro-MPs are somewhat richer after five years in office.

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