President David Sassoli has been urged to hand over vast swathes of the taxpayer-funded expenses enjoyed by MEPs to help in the fight against COVID-19. The institution’s cash coffers are largely untouched as MEPs carry out their duties from home to halt the spread of the virus. Politicians were blocked by Mr Sassoli from claiming their daily allowance of £294 while working remotely this week after it emerged some Euro MPs had called for the subsistence payments to continue.
But now the Italian has instead been told to use the cash to provide funding for ventilators and protective clothing for the thousands of healthcare workers risking their lives to treat coronavirus patients across the bloc.
The European Conservative and Reformist group, which used to hold Boris Johnson’s EU representatives, of MEPs are leading the charge.
In a letter to the Parliament’s president, the group’s chairmen said: “In light of the grave struggles that the governments of the Member States are facing over the coronavirus pandemic, we call for the European Parliament to actively engage in helping the governments and citizens of the European Union to overcome this crisis.
“Therefore, we request the transfer of daily allowance funds that have already and will further remain unallocated as a result of telework and changes to the Parliamentary agenda, for the purpose of purchasing medical equipment (respirators and personal protective equipment for healthcare professionals), which is urgently needed to save lives.
“Whereas, some funds were and will not be allocated, due to the changes in working times with the new restrictive measures in place, following the COVID-19 outbreak.”
And in a barb to the Parliament’s attempt hold emergency debates, Ryszard Legutko and Raffaele Fitto wrote: “In the age of global crisis, the citizens of the Member States expect from the EU not only empty gestures and unnecessary debates, but above all real actions in the spirit of solidarity with the people in need.”
The Parliament’s bosses had made previous exceptions to allow their £97,000-a-year politicians to claim expenses while in self-isolation.
As coronavirus gripped the institution, MEPs were allowed to claim their daily allowances if they were isolating or stuck in Brussels because of the coronavirus outbreak.
But these provisions were ended last week, and now MEPs must physically sign in for work to claim the so-called “per diem” payment.
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Catalonian separatist Carles Puigdemont has also called for Parliament to use its expenses system to “obtain medical devices and equipment”.
With MEPs not having to run their offices, he claimed £8.1 million could be donated if they shrunk their monthly £4,147 General Expenditure Allowance claims by half.
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“Our offices will reduce their activity significantly. For this reason, we suggest all deputies to use the General Expenditure Allowance to obtain medical devices and equipment,” he wrote in a letter to Mr Sassoli.
“If all MEPs would dedicate 50 percent of their GEA during the coming three months, that would represent nine million euros to acquire this really needed material.”
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