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Court rules MEPs’ expense spending to remain secret
European parliamentarians who receive tens of millions of dollars in public money through a secretive expenses system won’t have to reveal how they spend it, a European court ruled.
The General Court of the European Union decided on Tuesday in favor of the European Parliament’s refusal to release documents about the general expenses of its 751 members. The court cited the parliamentarians’ privacy as a reason for its decision.
Each month a General Expenditure Allowance of more than $5,000 is paid directly to every MEP to cover expenses such as telephone, postal and internet services.
Dozens of journalists, including International Consortium of Investigative Journalists members and partners, had asked the court to order the release after the parliament had refused to disclose the information.
“What we are after is transparency and accountability of the only elected representatives of EU citizens,” said Anuška Delić, a Slovenian investigative journalist, who is founder of website Oštro and an ICIJ member. They are, she noted, “the same ones that are steering the legal framework of the European Union and asking accountability and transparency from everyone else.”
“The European public has the right to know how EU taxpayers’ money is spent. Period.”
Europe’s 751 members of parliament from 28 countries, known as MEPs, collectively receive more than $40 million each year in general allowances.
The allowances are intended to help defray office costs. MEPs also receive a salary and a range of other payments, including daily allowances when parliament is in session and travel expenses.
European journalists first requested information on MEPs expenses in 2015 as part of a collaboration known as the MEPs Project.
One-third of the 749 MEPs contacted by the journalists said they did not have a national office on which to spend their general allowance or did not respond to questions about whether they do. Other MEPs used the allowance to pay rent to national political parties or to themselves as landlords. One MEP said he was saving the money for his pension, the MEPs Project reported.
The project found what Delić, the project’s leader, described as “a brazen disregard of the rules.”
The project noted that under the European Parliament’s own rules “MEPs may not use the money to finance their national party or for any private purposes. Rather, the allowance is only “intended to cover expenses directly linked to the exercise of a Member’s parliamentary mandate”.
In July 2015, the European Parliament rejected a coordinated request to provide copies of MEPs’ records that show travel and other expenditure expenses between 2011 and 2015.
Other ICIJ members and partners were among those who joined the case for transparency, including Kristof Clerix and Delphine Reuter from Belgium, Harry Karanikas from Greece, Marcos García Rey from Spain, Minna Knus-Galán from Finland, Rui Araujo from Portugal and Jacob Borg from Malta.
The case is the first time journalists from each of the European Union’s 28 member states have banded together and taken their request to court.
But on Tuesday, the General Court sided with the Parliament. The estimated four million documents involved in the request, some of which are only available in paper, would make it too time-consuming to remove MEPs’ personal details from the records, the court said.
Sharing information on the expenses would “undermine the protection of privacy and the integrity of the individual,” the court said.
Wouter Wolfs, a researcher at the Leuven-based Public Governance Institute, said that the European Parliament and the Court of Justice have a tendency “to apply the notion of the protection of personal data very broadly” when it comes to MEPs. He added, ”this is – from a political accountability perspective – problematic.”
“The Parliament will feel strengthened to refuse this or any similar information,” Wolfs said.
The journalists plan to appeal the decision.
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With an avg. 1.2M voters per MEP & Britain with 16% of EU GDP and 13% of the EU’s population yet having only 8% (if united) say, whilst holding less than 3% of the various offices within the EU Do note The EUropean Parliament has no ability to make policy and has a Commission of unelected bureaucrats, thus clearly the EU is not even a pretence of being a democracy despite its protestations!Do note that many senior apparatchicks and even elected politicians speak openly of the ‘Post Democratic era’ with no sense of shame or irony and in complete contempt of the so called electorate – yet The EU & many of its vassal States/Regions are all too willing to slaughter people in Sovereign States, to impose The EU’s chosen brand of democracy on them!
Now as President Junker announced in his ‘State of the union’ speech 2017 the aim is to create an EU military force and centralise ever more of the decision making and control!
The imposition of a Government and policies upon its vassal regions such as the peoples of Greece shows just how far from being a democracy the EU is.
Just follow the recent EU display of so called ‘Democracy’:
France and the Netherlands voted against the proposed EU constitution in 2005, only to have those votes ignored.
Ireland voted against ratifying the Lisbon treaty in 2008, but then later under pressure & threats had to change its mind.
Greece for me was the final straw. It became clear in 2015 that it didn’t matter which way the Greek people voted. The birthplace of democracy had become its tomb. That was enough. I was going to vote to leave the EU when the chance came.
No political party of any significance in Britain took active steps to achieve a Referendum – the task was eventually taken by an Indipendent West Midlands MEP Nikki Sinclaire who personally launched and funded the gathering of a petition of 225,000 signatures delivered to Parliament via Downing Street, thus forcing a debate in the House of Commons on an IN/OUT Referendum, which led to David Cameron’s first consequential rebellion.
It was due to winning that debate, officially opposed by every party including Ukip that David Cameron was forced to include a promise of an IN/OUT Referendum in the Tory Manifesto at the next General Election. The rest is history & despite no Parliamentary Party backing the OUT vote & Government spending Millions of Pounds of public money leafletting & promoting ‘Project Fear’ to try to persuade the British people to Remain just as they had at the first Referendum in 1975 – This time their lies and threats were not heeded and in the largest vote in British history Britain voted by a clear majority to Leave.
Nikki Sinclaire’s OUT result left Cameron & his co conspirator Osborne with no option but to resign, sadly some of the other traitors have remained to try to hinder progress to BreXit, aided by their corrupt allies in the EU and \eu funding and bribes!
There will be little or no change in Britain’s economic position, if we leave the EU, using a better negotiated, customised & updated version of the ‘Norway Model’ as a stepping stone to becoming a full member of the Eropean Economic Area, where all will benefit, as we secure trade relations with the EU’s vassal regions, with an EFTA style status and can trade and negotiate independently on the global stage, as members of The Commonwealth and the Anglosphere.
This is of course dependent on a modicum of intelligence on the part of Britain’s politicians and negotiators but it also requires the integrity of Parliament to uphod democracy and the integrity of EU politicuians & apparchicks to act ethically and without their normal vindictive mallice.
I believe Leaving the EU will be turned into something of a rough ride by the ignorant and the corrupt but I have no doubt that in the long run Leaving the EU will prove conclusively to be in the best interests of Britain and our true allies. I also believe that Britain leaving the EU will prove to be the catalyst to great changes within the EU and hopefully its democratisation as without great changes it is indubitably doomed.
Do not overlook the fact that politicians have plotted and schemmed since the 1950s and we have actually been vassals of the EU, when it was still using the aesopian linguistics and calling itself The Common Market in the early 1970s, a name the bureaucrats arbitrarily changed to EUropean Union in the early 1990s as they worked towards their long term goals of an ever closer centrally controlled Political and economic Union with its own anthem, currency, flag and rigid central control by its self appointed bureacrats towards a new Empirate –
It will take many years to rectify the mess our political class got us into and we have no other peacefull means by which to extricate ourselves than to depend on that self same self styled elite, who all too often forget they work for us!
One huge benefit of BreXit will be that we can negotiate with bodies like the WTO, UN, WHO, IMF, CODEX and the like, directly, in our own interest and that of our partners around the world, in both the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere at large; rather than having negotiations and terms imposed by unelected EU bureacrats and their interpretation of the rules handed down, as if they were some great achievement of the EU’s!The greatest change and benefit will be political, as we improve our democracy and self determination, with the ability to deselect and elect our own Government, with an improved Westminster structure, see >Harrogate Agenda<.
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