The European Parliament has no funds left from this year’s budget to invite the 18 new MEPs to join as observers this autumn, forcing Labour MEP-in-waiting Joseph Cuschieri to change his plans again.

Once member states agreed last June to increase the number of MEPs, the Brussels’ Chamber administration proposed speeding up the integration of the new members and not wait for the Lisbon Treaty’s whole ratification process as this could take more than another 12 months.

The administration had indicated it would invite member states to nominate the would-be MEPs as observers as from last July’s plenary. However, this plan was scrapped because of financial considerations.

“Unfortunately, it seems the new MEPs, including the one from Malta, will not be able to join as observers this year because the EP has not allocated funds for this purpose in this year’s budget,” a Parliament official said.

However, he said extra funds –€9.4 million – were available in the 2011 budget although political groups still had to agree on whether the observers would be invited from next year.

Some political groups felt the new MEPs should only take their place when the 27 member states ratified the entire protocol and this might take more than another year, he said.

The issue will be discussed again next month when MEPs return to Brussels after their summer holidays.

The original plan was to have the 18 observers as soon as possible following June’s meeting. As ob­servers, they will not have the right to speak, vote or form part of any committee and will not be entitled to the €90,000 MEP salary until the protocol is ratified. However, they will still come at a cost as they will be entitled to some of the perks, including a €300 daily allowance for their time in Brussels and Strasbourg and the costs of travelling in business class.

Mr Cuschieri – a former MP who vacated his seat in Parliament to make way for Labour leader Joseph Muscat to become a member of the House of Representatives – was a runner-up in the June 2009 MEP elections, winning the right to become Malta’s sixth MEP when the seat became available.

Expecting to assume office as an MEP soon after the June 2009 elections, Mr Cuschieri had vented his frustration over the delay, accusing his own party and the government of not doing enough to pressure the EP on the matter.

Malta had successfully negotiated the addition of a new seat in the EP when the Lisbon Treaty was being discussed. The island is represented at the EP by five MEPs: three Labour and two from the Nationalist Party.

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