Journalists in Freedom of Information Battle with European Parliament

    A collective of EU-wide journalists is taking the European Parliament to the European Court of Justice after being denied access to information detailing the spending habits of 751 MEPs. In an initiative called the MEP Project, the group of 28 journalists filed requests for information to find out how members spend special allowances that are allocated on top of salaries to help with work-related costs.

    The European Parliament spends €3.2 million of public money on allowances each month – almost €40 million per year. However, how the special funding is used is not currently monitored, and MEPs - who are the only elected representatives of the EU - have repeatedly voted against regulating this issue.

    Leader of the MEP Project, Slovenian journalist Anuška Delić, said:

    “The MEPs’ allowances are meant to be used exclusively for their professional, not personal needs, and should thus not be allowed to hide from the European public how they spend public money.”

    The requests for information were denied in September on the grounds of private data protection, as well as concerns about the excessive workload that compiling such data would require. The European Parliament also said it did not hold any relevant documents related to how MEPs spend their general allowances.

    But former Information Commissioner for Slovenia, Nataša Pirc Musar, who is representing the team at the European Court of Justice, is not convinced by the European Parliament’s justifications. She said: 

    “By simply denying access to requested documents [the] European Parliament is effectively granting MEPs the right to secretive public spending and giving them full immunity from public monitoring of their dealings. The reasons given to the reporters for denying their requests have no basis in any European regulation.”