||European Parliament elections 1999
Important points 1994-1999
|A new statute for MEPs
The 626 MEPs elected by the voters of the fifteen EU Member
States do not all enjoy the same rights. This is because the status of MEPs from Britain,
Ireland, Belgium and the other States is still governed by the law of their home country.
For example, in some countries (but not all) MEPs are allowed
to hold a "dual mandate" (i.e. a seat in their national parliament and the
European Parliament at the same time). Moreover, MEPs' salaries, far from being equal,
vary considerably - from the .2800 per month received by Spanish Members through the .3100
paid to Finland's representatives and the .8500 received by Austrian MEPs to the .9500
plus received by Members from Italy.
On 3 December 1998 Parliament voted overwhelmingly for a
resolution containing a new Statute for MEPs drawn up by its Committee on Legal Affairs
and Citizens' Rights. The vote was 327 for, 110 against and 45 abstentions. In the
resolution Parliament called on the Council of Ministers to approve the new Statute
without delay so that it could enter into force following the European elections of June
Why such a long wait?
Having failed to reach agreement on a uniform electoral
procedure and a common Statute for MEPs before the first direct European elections in June
1979, the nine Member States of that time decided that Members should draw the same
salaries and allowances as their domestic counterparts. This situation contravenes Article
6 of the Treaty on European Union, which outlaws discrimination based on nationality.
In its many attempts since June 1979 to introduce a single
Statute for all MEPs, Parliament always ran into two obstacles: the lack of a legal basis
for change and resistance on the part of the Council. Several governments made it clear
they were unwilling to introduce a special Statute for MEPs, arguing that their salaries
should stay in line with those of their national counterparts.
However, following efforts by Parliament's representatives at
the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference, the Amsterdam Treaty has abolished this legal
vacuum. Article 190(5) of the Treaty, signed on 2 October 1997, says "The European
Parliament shall, after seeking an opinion from the Commission and with the approval of
the Council acting unanimously, lay down the regulations and general conditions governing
the performance of the duties of its Members." The entry into force of the treaty on
1 May finally paves the way for this issue to be settled.
A four-stage procedure
Under the Amsterdam Treaty, it is up to Parliament to draw up
and adopt a draft Statute for its Members; the Commission must then give its opinion and,
after it has been unanimously approved by the Council of Ministers, Parliament must adopt
it by a simple majority. Since 3 December 1998 the ball has been in the court of the
Commission and Council, with the latter maintaining that, pending the entry into force of
the Amsterdam Treaty, it can only consider the draft Statute informally.
To speed up proceedings between the institutions, Parliament
appointed an ad hoc working party made up of the President and three Vice-Presidents of
Parliament, the Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens' Rights and the
rapporteur. Its remit was to find a quick solution in talks with the Commission and
Council to a problem which had been dragging on for 20 years.
The outgoing Parliament hopes that the Council will face up
to its responsibilities and give Parliament the go-ahead to adopt the new Statute, which
can then enter into force in July this year.
A single, transparent, responsible Statute
By adopting uniform rules on the rights and obligations of
its Members, Parliament has shown a responsible, reasonable and independent attitude which
can only enhance its credibility.
The adopted text emphasises the importance of:
* ensuring that discussions and
decisions of competent bodies concerning the Statute are transparent (e.g. decisions on
salaries, allowances and other benefits must be made in public);
As regards remuneration levels, Parliament opted for an
initial monthly salary based on a weighted average of national salaries paid by Member
States to their national MPs. This produces a figure of .5677, which will be paid out of
the EU budget and be liable to Community tax. Under a transitional arrangement, current
MEPs who are re-elected will be allowed to continue under the existing salary system,
although only until the end of the next term of office.
Further information: Werner de CROMBRUGGHE - tel. 284 46
52; e-mail: email@example.com
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