May 05, 2011
Blog: Jan Å Johansson
At the Strasbourg session in April, the majority of the European Parliament voted in favour of increasing their budget by 2,3 percent for 2012. The Portuguese rapporteur, Christian Democrat JM Fernandes, defended an increase to the budget with the argument that the European Union maintains a current inflation rate of 2,8 percent, and further savings can be realized during the implementation of the new budget. At the same time, the European Council has announced plans to cut their budget by 4,4 percent.
Amendments aimed at cutbacks, tabled by members from the Greens, the Left, and the Conservatives, were voted down by the “governing” three groups: Christian Democrats, Socialists, and Liberals within the European Parliament (EP). Considerable cutbacks would have resulted had these amendments been approved. Also proposed was the manner of travel for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and senior civil servants within the EP. It was suggested that travel under four hours of flight time should be by economy class. This would save between 15 and 20 million euros per year. However, the three largest groups did not support this proposition. They excused this with the argument that it is the member’s statute that should be changed and not in the annual budget-setting procedure.
I remember when a Swedish party delegation to the EP decided that their travel allowance surplus should be paid back to the EU system, as opposed to keeping allowances for their members. When they kept their surplus allowance, the Swedish delegation chose to travel by economy class. However, after a collective decision to return surplus travel allowances to the EU system, they stopped travel by economy class and switched to business class instead. So, it is practical for MEPs to travel economy class with the “people,” but it is simply a matter of motivation to do so.
Christian Democrats, Socialists, and Liberals also voted “No” against an amendment recommending that savings within the EP should commence among their members first and further increases to MEP salaries and various other allowances should cease. Furthermore, a third amendment suggesting that MEPs should not receive pay for both attendance in the EP and travelling to or from parliament the same day was rejected. Many instances record MEPs signing in as present early Friday morning in Brussels and then taking a flight directly home. Under these circumstances, they receive both the daily allowance for attendance in Brussels and the flat rate allowance to cover their cost of travelling.
Seemingly contradictory, the EP does not want to cut their own costs while it simultaneously promotes new projects. The plans for the “House of European History” that will illustrate the progression of European History from 1945 will cost around 60 million euros. These costs are said to have doubled against previous budget predictions! It will then cost an additional 13,5 million euros per year to run the facility. The chairman of the EP Budget Committee, French Christian Democrat Alain Lamassoure, is also a member of the House of European History board of trustees, pointing to a conflict of interest, as he is both making decisions to contribute money to the project and working towards the project’s implementation.
The activities described above are a perfect illustration of why the European Union fails to have the dignity to retrieve their own tax revenues, regardless of a “Tobin tax,” a CO2-tax, or whatever. We, the taxpayers, should not be forced to pay taxes directly to an EU system that fails to maintain responsible fiscal policies and would rather spend their money on lavish expenditures that result in their personal contentment.
Jan Å Johansson