European politicians play expenses games too

13th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Politicians across Europe, like their British counterparts, have also been known to claim exceptionally high expenses.

Paris – British MPs are in shame over their expenses, but politicians across Europe have also been caught making dubious use of public money.

Eight deputies from Belgium's Wallonia region were pressured to refund EUR 80,000 claimed for a "fact-finding" trip to the southwest United States in April. Some even took along their spouses.

Mona Sahlin resigned as Sweden's deputy prime minister after it was revealed she had used her state-issued credit card for personal expenses – including Toblerone chocolate bars and babies nappies – when she was minister of labour and employment in 1990-1991.

She took a three-year time out from politics, but is now leader of the opposition Social Democrats.

The European Union and European parliament has long been mocked as a "gravy train" by eurosceptics.

Euro MPs can claim up to EUR 17,540 a month for an assistant, plus EUR 4,202 for general expenses in their home country and maximum travel allowance of EUR 4,148 a month.

Last year the senior British Conservative Euro MP, Giles Chichester, resigned after it emerged that he had paid his parliamentary assistance allowance into a family-owned firm.

Each of the 27 EU member states and the European parliament has their own guidelines for reimbursing expenses.

In Italy, members of the Chamber of Deputies get EUR 4,003 a month as an expense allowance on top of their gross salary of EUR 11,703 a month and EUR 4,190 for their staff and "contacts with voters".

That said, their domestic rail, air and ferry travel is free, as are motorway tolls. Going to the cinema and theatre is gratis as well. For trips abroad, they get a yearly lump sum of EUR 3,328.

In Austria, there are no lump sums, only reimbursement against receipts for travel, office supplies, telecoms and staff. Expensing a wardrobe or a trip to the barber is out of the question.

In Norway, deputies get a studio apartment in Oslo if their main home is more than 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the capital, plus a weekly air or train ticket.

French National Assembly members get EUR 5,837 a month for expenses in their bank accounts each month, which according to prime ministerial guidelines must be spent "in a manner related to fulfilling the mandate".

Other perks include free rail tickets, a limited number of free air tickets, free meals, up to five fixed or mobile telephone lines, and loans to help acquire a residence or office.

In Greece, former education minister Evripidis Stylianidis reportedly spent EUR 19,000 on a trip to Paris in October, then more than EUR 20,000 on a trip to Bordeaux, France for an EU ministerial meeting in November.

He said the Paris trip – when France held the EU presidency – was covered by protocol and that the costs took care of a seven-member delegation. He was satirised in press reports, but suffered no ill-effects beyond that.

AFP / Expatica

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