May 25, 2009
European Parliament to grant observer status to 18 ‘phantom MEPs’
The Nice Treaty provides for 736 MEPs, while the Lisbon Treaty foresees 754 MEPs until 2014 and 751 thereafter. A report by Socialist MEP Richard Corbett (UK, Labour) adopted on 6 May in plenary, provides for granting the outstanding 18 MEPs observer status until the Lisbon Treaty becomes effective. The European Parliament will take on board the 18 MEPs without voting rights and grant them full powers as soon as the Lisbon Treaty enters into force.
Nigel Farage, an MEP who leads the Eurosceptic UK Independence Party, tried to build on the expenses scandal in Great Britain by denouncing the deal. “Welcome to virtual politics,” he said. “This has to be the political expenses scandal to end all expenses scandals.” “The perfect politician for today´s elite is one that takes wages and does no work at all,” Farage added.
Richard Corbett, the Labour MEP who helped draft the agreement, defended the arrangement. “This is straightforward and there is no need to make a fuss,” he told the Daily Telegraph newspaper. “They can do all the work of an MEP except taking part in votes. This is a way of making a smooth transition and has been done before.”
The practice of granting observer status to MEPs is not new, and has been used recently when new countries joined the EU. Typically, observer MEPs are sent to Brussels to learn about their new job after their countries have signed their EU accession treaty. They only become full members of Parliament on the actual accession date. Until now, the practice has been commended as very useful.
According to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, the 18 MEPs will be paid more than £76,000 (86,460 euros) a year, with staff and office allowances worth £210,000 (238,900 euros), “to do no work for two years”.