Exclusive: ‘Golden goodbyes’ for recently-departing MEPs are set to hit €27.6 million – more than the EU sent in aid to earthquake-hit Nepal.
Payments to politicians leaving the European Parliament (EP) – known as transitional allowances – have cost as much as €40.8m since 2009, figures released to Euronews reveal.
EP figures show €13.2m was paid out from 2009-2013, while €27.6m has been budgeted for 2014-15.
The European Commission initially sent €3m in aid to Nepal after it was hit by an earthquake on April 25, later increasing that sum to €22.6m.
MEPs earn €96,000-a-year in post and when they leave are entitled to a month’s pay for every year they have served in the EP, as a ‘golden goodbye’.
The minimum transitional allowance is six months’ pay, rising to a maximum of two years for the longest-serving politicians.
Critics say there is a perception Brussels lives by a different set to rules to the rest of Europe, calling for member states to balance their books on one hand, while it gives out generous benefits to MEPs with the other.
But former MEP Andrew Duff OBE, who left the EP in 2014, told Euronews it was a ‘useful and fair payment’.
Christopher Howarth, senior political analyst at Open Europe, said: “Some element of allowance is legitimate given that MEPs who have not been re-elected would have to bear the costs of closing an office or moving back to their country.
“However, given the pressure on public spending in Europe and at member state level, the European Parliament should make sure they are getting value for money and the payments are not seen as a reward for failure.
“Any MEP who has had a long career and who is retiring will have a pension entitlement so having an extra payment on top of that, if it’s not related to closing an office, it could be seen as over generous.
“These payments should be related to the costs borne rather than as an additional benefit or golden goodbye.
“Expenses should be related to what has been spent, so invoices and receipts should be produced, like anyone would have to do in a private company. In these circumstances, if an MEP has borne an expense of not being re-elected there’s no reason why this can not be receipted.
“In anti-EU parties on both the left and right there is a sense of MEPs and European officials working to a different set of rules to everyone else. They preach about the need to keep public spending down, cut down costs and go through whatever is necessary to balance the books but there’s a perception there’s a different set of rules in Brussels.”
Factbox: MEPs’ benefits
On top of their €96,000 annual salary, MEP
s receive a 3.5 percent contributory pension; a general costs budget of €51,588 per year and an annual travel allowance of up to €4,243.
In addition MEPs have their expenses paid for commuting to and from Brussels.
There is also a subsistence allowance of €304 for general costs for each day MEPs are on official business, providing they sign an attendance register.
The politicians also have a maximum annual budget of €254,508 for staffing costs, but that money is not paid directly to members.
The general expenditure and daily subsistence allowances are halved if the MEP does not take part in more than half of roll-call votes.
MEPs’ expenses have been reformed after a series of controversies – a leaked internal report in 2009 revealed ‘systematic abuses’. It included payments made to assistants not accredited with the parliament and one MEP who paid a €223,000 staff allowance to one person, understood to be a relative.
Ex-MEP Duff said invoicing for transitional expenses would be a ‘bureaucratic nonsense’.
He added: “The allowance is a straight payment of the final salary each month for each year served. So I get 15 months. It’s a perfectly simple and fair payment. When the general allowance stops there are no more payments for ‘expenses’.
“It’s been a great help to me and to most other ex-MEPs who are probably unemployable outside politics. As an ex-MEP, I continue to work for the cause of building a strong parliamentary Europe.“
A spokeswoman for the EP said: “Transitional or end-of-term allowances are a common feature for members of any parliament, not only the European Parliament. Members of parliament can claim such allowances as they cannot have unemployment benefits or similar benefits.
“Moreover, the allowance is not paid if a MEP has a mandate in another parliament or takes public office. If the member is simultaneously entitled to an old-age or invalidity pension, s/he cannot receive both, but must choose one or the other.”
Seven MEPs have left so far in 2015, and a further 16 since the new parliament began sitting in July last year, according to data from the European Parliament. Not all will be entitled to a transitional allowance.
More than half of MEPs, 412, lost or did not contest their seats in the 2014 elections, according to analysis by EU Issue Tracker.
What do you think?
Do you think transitional allowances are reasonable?
Or are they too generous and a ‘reward for failure’.
Let us know by tweeting your views to @euronews with the hashtag #goldengoodbyes
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