Post originally appeared on the Automatic Earth Blog.
Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad ran a little article recently that we’re surprised no other news organization picked up. It concerned a proposal in the European Parliament in which the parliamentarians got to vote on raising their own paycheck (always a good idea). The best thing about the story is that not everyone voted in favor.
Most did though. It much amused me to see that apparently it was Angela Merkel’s party, the German Christian Democrats, which was behind the proposal. Initially, they had even wanted double what they actually got. Here’s some numbers and details – and please forgive me for not being a math wizard -.
A Member of the European Parliament (MEP), according to the article, receives the following for their valiant and entirely selfless efforts at public service:
- Salary: €8000+
- Expenses: €4300
- A per diem allowance of €300 for every day a meeting is attended.
Per year that adds up to: €147.600 + €30,000 if 100 meetings are attended. Let’s say €180,000.
On top of that, the Parliament pays into MEPs pension funds, but we’ll leave that alone for now.
There are 751 MEPs, so total ‘salary’ costs are €135,180,000. But that’s just the start.
And we’re not yet adding translation costs, which apparently can add up to over €120,000 per day (!), or perhaps some €30-40 million per year.
Nor are we taking into account the estimated at least €200 million per year it takes to have the entire Parliament (MEPs, assistants, translators, employees, in total about 4000 people) move between Brussels and Strasbourg every month, an oddity that springs from a drawn-out power poker play between Germany and France. Do note: the constant move costs way more than all 751 MEP’s base salary + expenses.
No, the proposal discussed, concerns the added expense accounts MEPs receive for their assistants. At present, the amount involved is over €21,000 per month, and according to the people who receive it – and vote on raising it -, that’s not enough.
Typically, says the Dutch paper, an MEP has 3 assistants, all of whom get paid €2500 a month. They’re also in a special low Brussels income tax bracket. This means each MEP receives €252.000 per year in ‘assistant costs’, and spends €90,000 in salary costs, leaving €162,000 for food and lodging. Since there are 751 MEPs, the total adds up to €15,771,000 per month or €189,252,000 per year.
And they want more.
The original proposal called for another €3000 per month. Because some MEPs protested against this, it was reduced to €1500. Or €18,000 per year per MEP, times 751, a cool €13,518,000. Just in extra costs they voted in all by themselves.
There are many many stories about people living the high life once they get voted into the Brussels/Strasbourg traveling circus. The majority have lucrative jobs at home. They stay in swanky hotels. They collect per diems for meetings they don’t actually attend. They lay the basis for lucrative corporate careers after they exit the Parliament. It’s democracy in theory but not in practice.
Brussels/Strasbourg is no stranger to corruption, or whatever word you would want to to use to describe what goes on. Still, there are lots of MEPs who are completely on the up and up, and many who even pay back a lot of their ‘compensation’ into either the Parliament itself or into their own – national – part coffers, because they say the payments are exorbitant. But they don’t speak up. At least not outside of the confines of the Parliament itself.
But these are also – all of them put together – the people who uphold the EU policies versus Greece, where there are really many children who are hungry, and seniors who can’t get proper health care. Faced with a situation like that, one would think a proper parliament of a proper union wouldn’t dare raise its own expenses – which have to be paid by member countries’ taxpayers – before and until all children in the union are properly fed, and all grandmas properly taken care off by qualified medical personnel.
One would think. These are also the people responsible for the EU support that allows the Kiev army’s mass killings of its own people. And for the continuation of the anti-Russia and anti-Putin stance that’s become so popular across the western world. They may not be the daily executives of the circus, but they still are the responsible at the end of the day.
They are also the people who voted to cut down the budget for the Mediterranean refugee patrol missions, money saved that, if you want to take a cynical enough view, was freed to raise their own stipends. As thousands drown.
And so again we would like to raise that question: why would anyone, any country, want to have these people take their decisions for them? What would make you think when you live in Greece that these traveling circus clowns would be better at protecting and defending your interests than your own people, who live where you live, who see what you see on a daily basis?
It’s fine, and it’s perhaps even logical, at first glance, for Greeks and Italians to want to remain part of the euro. But when you look closer, you can’t avoid the notion that by being part of the euro, you give up the autonomy you also crave. And that the price you pay for being a part of the euro, and of the EU, makes you a serf to greater and richer interests that care about you about as much as they care about flies on their walls.
This one story about what MEPs vote themselves is but one example. Why not send us an example of where and how you feel Brussels protects your interests better than your own governments? We’re really curious to know. Because we don’t see it.