First wave of EU expansion will add 145m euro to bill for MEPs

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Series Details Vol 7, No.5, 1.2.01, p1
Publication Date 01/02/2001
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Date: 01/02/01

By John Shelley

The European Parliament will cost EU taxpayers an extra €145 million a year to run after the first wave of enlargement, according to preliminary estimates.

An assembly working paper states that the cash would be required to pay for an estimated 903 new staff and 955 extra offices needed as the number of MEPs increases from the current 626 towards an expected eventual total of 732.

But EU diplomats are warning MEPs that they are likely to meet stiff opposition from member states if they demand a huge increase in their budget. "It's not that governments will want to penalise the Parliament after enlargement, but no one is going to be signing any blank cheques," said one.

The cost estimate, drawn up by one of the Parliament's 14 vice presidents, Guido Podestà, is based on the premise that six applicant countries will join the Union before the next elections in 2004. The Italian centre-right MEP warns that if more countries join in the first wave the costs will skyrocket even more.

According to Podestà's report, and under the arrangements enshrined in the Nice treaty, the number of MEPs could temporarily rise to as many as 800 if eight new countries join before the next elections, although numbers would then drop back to 732 after the poll.

"The presence of a number of members well in excess of the ceiling laid down, even if only for a short period, could entail expensive alterations and refitting to adapt existing structures to new requirements on a -million-per-year estimate is only a preliminary one and detailed figures on the cost of temporary basis," said Podestà.

Parliament officials stress the €145 million enlargement for the assembly are still to be drawn up. But diplomats say figures like the one suggested may be unrealistic because member states are determined to stay within the budget ceilings agreed in 1999 and due to run until 2006. They say the Parliament could be asked to find much of the extra money it needs through cost cutting and staff reductions.

According to the Podestà report, the maincost increases will stem from coping with the sudden leap in the number of EU languages that enlargement will entail. Of the 903 posts that could be required if six members join, 512 are likely to be translators and interpreters, he says.

If eight members were to join in a first wave and bring six new languages with them, the number of employees needed would jump to an estimated 1,140 - of which 640 would be language staff.

The costing also includes an estimate of the price of buying and renting new buildings to house the new MEPs and associated workers. Podestà says Parliament is likely to spend €159 million and €100 million on new property in Luxembourg and Brussels respectively and an extra €5 million a year on rent in Strasbourg.

The total cost per year in rent and loan repayments, excluding running costs, cleaning, maintenance and security, could amount to €15 million a year, says Podestà.

The report suggests that most of the extra office space would have to be found by expanding existing buildings or moving into those close to the Parliament's current homes.

"It would be too expensive, impractical and time-consuming to issue a tender for new premises in Brussels and it would be preferable to pursue the traditional policy of looking for available buildings in the Brussels-Europe district," adds Podestà.

The European Parliament will cost EU taxpayers an extra €145 million a year to run after the first wave of enlargement, according to preliminary estimates.

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