MEPs spend more than €71 million in allowances over and above their salaries every year, but the European Parliament is refusing to share documents about how this money is spent. 

This reluctance prompted a group of journalists from member states to file court cases with the European Court of Justice in November 2015, and the group has now insisted that it will not be backing down. 

The journalists, who have clubbed together to form The MEP Project, are asking the ECJ to order the European Parliament to release documents detailing how its members spend their allowances, which run up to thousands of euros every month.

Aside from an average €4,300 monthly general allowance, the Parliament's 751 MEPs also receive a travel allowance, daily subsistence and funds for their staffing complement, the MEP Project has said. 

Journalists' original requests to the EP were denied in July 2015, with the Parliament saying that disclosing the information would violate data protection laws and would take an excessive amount of time. 

The EP also said that it had no information about how general allowances were spent, given that they were issued as a lump sum. 

"We find it very concerning that the European Parliament has no control over how €38.7 million of European taxpayers' money is spent each year," said the journalists' lawyer Nataša Pirc Musar, "and even more concerning that the Parliament itself finds this justified".

The EP distributes €71 million in allowances to MEPs every year. Photo: ShutterstockThe EP distributes €71 million in allowances to MEPs every year. Photo: Shutterstock

The €38.7 million figure cited by Ms Musar refers to the total sum disbursed to MEPs in the form of a monthly general allowance. 

Ms Musar called the arguments put forward by the EP "rather bland". She said MEPs were not private citizens and journalists were requesting data about public funds handed to MEPs for work-related matters.

The fact that the EP had admitted it had no information about how its members spent their general allowances was a "significant flaw", the lawyer continued.

Ms Musar argued that EU law seemed to protect the personal data of European officials and employees more than that of ordinary citizens, and called on the EP to "stop hiding behind an outdated interpretation of whose personal data should be better protected".

If the EP found that existing laws did not allow it to do so, it should push for changes to the law "instead of shrugging its shoulders," the journalists' lawyer said. 

The Times of Malta journalist Jacob Borg is among the MEP Project plaintiffs.

A spokesman for MEP Roberta Metsola said that all details about her expenditure was made publically available on her website. Another Maltese MEP, Miriam Dalli, also publishes information about her allowance expenditure on her website. 

A spokesman for Therese Comodini Cachia said a revamped website for the MEP, currently under construction, would include a transparency section similar to those on Dr Metsola and Dr Dalli. 

They added: "we always provide any information directly to journalists whenever it is requested." 

MEP David Casa also publishes details about his allowance expenditure on his Facebook page, a spokesman said.

What allowances are MEPs entitled to?

General allowance: Each MEP received €4,320 every month in 2015. The allowance is meant to cover MEPs' expenses in running constituent offices in their home countries. MEPs who attend less than 50 per cent of sessions only receive half this amount. 

Travel allowance: MEPs are reimbursed for the cost of travelling to meetings in Brussels and Strasbourg, as long as they provide receipts. If travelling by car, they receive 50c per kilometre travelled. Other costs, such as motorway tolls or excess baggage charges, are also reimbursed.

MEPs who travel to member states other than their home countries for work-related activities can claim up to €4,264 a year in travel and accommodation expenses. 

Daily subsistence allowance: MEPs receive €306 for every day they attend parliamentary activities, provided they sign in to parliament. MEPs who take part in less than half the roll-call votes only get half this allowance, even if they have signed in.

MEPs who attend meetings outside the EU get €153 per day, with accommodation expenses reimbursed separately.

Staffing allowances: Each MEP can claim up to €23,392 per year to partly pay for salaries of their assistants. The money is paid directly and not handed to MEPs. 

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