The EU’s Luxembourg-based General Court has denied a request by a group of journalist who had formally asked the court to grant them access to gain access to the monthly expenses of European parliamentarians.
The decision by the Court supported an earlier ruling by the European Parliament which concluded that providing access to the financial statements of MEPs was a violation of the bloc’s privacy laws. Both rulings said the privacy of the MEPs is protected by the EU institutions’ freedom of information regime.
The reporters have been trying to gain access to the account information since 2015 when they requested further details about how the MEPs’ €40 million-a-year expense bill was being spent. The offices of the MEPs are not required to provide receipts or details about how the funds are being used.
The journalists later went to court after the European Parliament rejected a freedom-of-information request for documents on MEPs’ office allowances, as well as their travel expenses, and daily per diems. The group found that certain MEPs were maintaining 249 “ghost offices”, that were either not occupied or did not exist.
The European Parliament’s Bureau has already rejected additional calls to make the monthly allowance more transparent. Greens MEP Heidi Hautala, however, has called for more transparency ahead of the 2019 European Elections, saying there is a need for more openness around MEPs’ expenses with the elections less than one year away.
“The majority of MEPs agree on the need for more transparency around their own expenses, but the Parliament and President (Antonio) Tajani refuse to act. The rules need to be changed now, otherwise, the misuse of funds will continue in the shadows,” said Hautala. “We cannot demand openness and transparency from others if those principles are not followed within our own institution. The secrecy around MEP’s expenses only damages the image of the European Parliament and emboldens Eurosceptics”.