Why are some visitor groups subsidized?
The European Parliament believes that the public should have easy access to its proceedings and premises, because it sees transparency as important to the exercise of democratic rights within the European Union. As the cost of travelling to Brussels and Strasbourg may be prohibitive for many EU citizens due to the long distances involved, Parliament helps to cover their costs.
Groups officially sponsored by MEPs
Each MEP may sponsor up to 110 visitors a year, in groups of at least 10 visitors. Members can invite up to 5 groups per year to Strasbourg or Brussels.
Visitors are welcomed by civil servants, who give them a tutorial on the EU and Parliament. They meet one or two Members of Parliament and can visit the chamber on its public gallery.
Applications and financial contributions are handled by European Parliament staff. The subsidy is paid by bank transfer, but a small part of the financial contribution (up to 40 EUR per visitor) can be paid to the leader of the group in order to have some ready cash on the day of the visit.
The size of the subsidy is calculated on the basis of three factors that are multiplied with the number of visitors: travel cost: kilometer-based rate (€0.09 per kilometer) for the distance between the point of departure of the group and Brussels or Strasbourg, hotel costs in case of an overnight stay (60 EUR) and meal expenses (40 EUR). Only the actual costs are reimbursed.
The final financial contribution cannot exceed the real costs actually incurred by the group for the visit to the Parliament. After the visit, the head of group declares the costs actually incurred during the visit and any surplus has to be reimbursed to the Parliament.
Groups of opinion multipliers invited by the Directorate-General for Communication may receive a contribution to travel expenses equal to 50% of the per capita rate for MEP- sponsored groups.
These groups are made up of opinion multipliers such as elected officials, representatives of socio-professional groups or national or regional associations and movements, teachers, secondary school pupils and students in higher education.
The EP invites local, regional, specialised and national media from the member states to attend plenary sessions. These invitations are made on the basis of the topics Parliament will debate and vote on, to the media to get a better insight in the decision-making process of the European Parliament. The visits to Strasbourg, Brussels allows journalists based in the member states to attend specific workshops on major pieces of legislation, to meet MEPs and to interview them.
Parliament helps journalists in this way as they do not have as easy an access to the EP as to their national parliaments because of the distance.
The Parliament sees it as its duty to transparency to allow all media in all member states to access its premises, and has therefore created this programme for visits by journalists. The European Parliament has no involvement whatsoever in the work that journalists produce (or not).
The invitation to the plenary session covers the trip and 2 hotel nights (maximum 180 Euro per night).