Thursday 29 October 2020

Dutch MEPs want to make EU expenses claims open

Two Dutch MEPs are proposing a motion in the European Parliament to make expenses claims open.

Every month, MEPs may claim an extra €4,416 in expenses on top of their salary and attempts by journalists at the European Court of Justice to make these claims open failed last month.

Now, reports broadcaster NOS, D66 politician Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy and SP representative Dennis de Jong have proposed a new vote on the issue and believe they will win a majority.

While previous attempts to post MEP’s major expenses claims failed due to privacy rules and suggestions that the costs of posting all the receipts online would be prohibitive, Gerbrandy was hopeful.

‘We have asked the bureau [which deals with day-to-day European administration] to come up with a ruling, because it really can’t be that difficult,’ he reportedly told the NOS. ‘It would be pretty brazen to ignore the wish of a parliamentary majority. This is public spending and so it should be publicly accounted for.’

He added that claims by the bureau that putting all receipts online would require seven people working full time were ‘exaggerated’ and that the motion would be about accounting for big claims rather than every cup of coffee.

The NOS reports that a previous motion on this issue had been passed but has not been enacted.

De Jong told, via email: ‘In the Parliament there is a majority in favour of more transparency. At the same time, the bureau does not do what it is asked to do.’

Short of dismissing the bureau’s members, including the president, he said the only other option is to ask all candidates for the European elections next May to pledge that they will open up their expenses claims to public scrutiny rather than just accepting the current cash lump sum. ‘That’s what we now ask as Dutch MEPs,’ he added.

Stefan de Koning, spokesman for the D66 at the European Parliament (SP), added that the exact form of the motion is still taking shape. ‘The ECJ ruled against the request for transparancy from 29 journalists, but that should not be a signal for the EP to lean back and do nothing,’ he said in a statement to ‘Rather, we should use the momentum for further steps towards more transparency. That is in essence what we want to do now; make sure we keep moving forward, rather than heave a collective sigh of relief.’


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