MEPs' expenses details to stay secret after EU court ruling

European Court of Justice says data would infringe MEPs' privacy

Jon Stone
Brussels
Tuesday 25 September 2018 10:34
Comments
MEPs expenses do not face the same level of scrutiny as MPs
MEPs expenses do not face the same level of scrutiny as MPs

The European Union’s highest court has ruled that the expenses of members of the European Parliament (MEPs) can remain secret, after a bid by campaigners and journalists to bring transparency to the Brussels legislature.

The ECJ ruled that the European Parliament was right to refuse requests for information on the grounds that releasing the information would undermine “the protection of privacy and the integrity of the individual”.

The court also said that the information should not be released in an anonymised form to protect privacy because it would represent “an excessive administrative burden” to delete names and that it would not be useful without names attached.

The European Parliament has repeatedly refused requests for detailed information on the 751 MEPs’ travel expenses, subsistence allowances, and other monetary claims relating to office costs.

Around €450 million of the Parliament’s annual budget is thought to go on salaries, travel expenses, and office costs, with an additional €40 million on expenses.

The group of journalists who made the information request, who hail from all 28 EU member states, had asked the parliament for the last four years of records.

The specific documents asked for include information about money MEPs were given on top of their salaries, including their general expense allowance, travel allowance, daily subsistence and staffing cost allowance.

the General Court dismisses the actions and confirms the Parliaments’ decisions refusing access to the documents requested

ECJ ruling

After the original 2015 request rejected they took their bid to the European Court of Justice.

But the Court said: “In 2015, a number of journalists and journalism associations requested access from the Parliament to documents relating to the subsistence allowances, travel expenses and parliamentary assistance allowances of Members of the European Parliament (‘MEPs’).

“Those requests were all refused by the Parliament, as were the confirmatory applications which followed them.

“The persons concerned brought an action before the General Court seeking the annulment of the Parliament’s decisions.

“By today’s judgment, the General Court dismisses the actions and confirms the Parliaments’ decisions refusing access to the documents requested.”

In July MEPs rejected a bid to add an extra degree of accountability to their ‘general expenditure allowance’ system. MEPs currently do not have to keep their receipts or disclose to their constituents what that money is spent on. These €4,416 monthly payments are paid to MEPs in addition to their regular monthly salary of €8,611.

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