Pay must reflect MEP location
European Voice - February 19th 2004
As a member of the about-to-be dissolved Slovak Joint Parliamentary Committee I have some sympathy with the low levels of salaries paid to public officials in Slovakia, as detailed by Lászlo Juhász ("Second-rate Slovaks", Letters EV, 5-11 February).
These salaries reflect the low national income and stretched state budget and have resulted in a brain drain to the better paid private sector and an increased temptation to move towards corrupt practice.
I, like all UK Conservative MEPs, have always boted for a reform of members' expenses and salaries to make them more transparent.
Nevertheless, although I have always felt uncomfortable with the remuneration system, in particular the undignified lack of transparency in travel reimbursement with built in perverse incentives that, for instance, encourage members to fly rather then go by train as the discounts are greater and the reimbursements set at a higher rate, the German government as the biggest net contributor was right in its analysis that a highrt uniform salary would increase overall costs.
In practice, MEPs would still be allowed to claim the full business class refund, but also enjoy on average a higher salary, and , understandably to the Germans' concern, the tab would be picked up by the EU and not national exchequers.
It would have been extremely difficult to justify the payment of the same salary to a Slovak MEP as that paid to me coming from London. Already I complain that, unlike any other UK official, no allowance is paid the reflect the much higher living costs I incur living in Central London (mainly due to the astronomical property costs in the capital) compared to my other UK colleagues from the provinces.
Given that half our job and time spent as MEPs is operating in our home countries, to which we commute regularly, it would be remarkable if this factor is ignored altogether, given that the cost of living in Slovakia is less than half that of the UK, and the cost of living in, say, Latvia, is lower still.
Surely the fairest approach would be to have a standard salary that reflects the work we do in Parliament itself (our daily expense for board and lodging in Brussels and Strasbourg is taken care of by the per diem allowance).
This should be set around the median level of all national parliamentary salaries - around €5,000 per month - ith a cost-of-living allowance made to reflect each member state or its regions where we reside.
This could up to a 100% increment over the basic EU paid Parliamentary salary and be determined and taxed by national governments. In the case of the UK, the increment could bring us up to exactly the salary as national MPs with regular adjustments for exchange rate. This would address the complaints of the ditched proposed uniform salary being higher than national presidents in acceding countries, as well as addressing the "equal pay for equal work" complaint.
Charles Tannock MEP