MEPs' fixed salaries could end expenses row

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The Independent Online

A new attempt has been made to end almost two decades of wrangling over MEPs' pay and their legendarily generous expenses.

A new attempt has been made to end almost two decades of wrangling over MEPs' pay and their legendarily generous expenses.

Under the proposals Euro-MPs would sacrifice a notorious system in which they do not need to submit receipts for travelling expenses. In exchange, all MEPs would be paid a salary of €7,000 (£4,800) a month.

Previous reform efforts have foundered, leaving the European Parliament with a system where its members are paid the same as parliamentarians in their own countries. Differences widened dramatically last year when 10, mainly former communist countries, joined the EU.

As a result, the parliament's 87 Italian MEPs who earn €12,000 a month, receive four times the income of Spanish members and about 10 times more than the Baltic states' members.

Usually, MEPs at the bottom of the earnings scale have used the expenses system to supplement their salaries. Hence the need for an agreed salary.

Last year, a bid to solve the problem failed when the EU foreign ministers rejected a salary of €8,600 after Germany, France, Sweden and Austria said that would mean an unacceptable pay rise for MEPs at a time of belt-tightening in national capitals.

Five issues remain outstanding, including pension and health contributions and no decision was expected last night, partly because several foreign ministers did not attend yesterday's meeting in Luxembourg. Debate on a single salary dates back to 1986, but there is optimism public pressure is working.

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage, an MEP for the UK Independence Party, threatened to table a motion of censure against the European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, in a row over conflict of interest.

Last week Mr Barroso admitted holidaying last August, before he took up his post, on a boat belonging to the Greek shipping magnate, Spiro Latsis. But there is no prospect of a censure motion succeeding.

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