The proposal to increase the departure for MEP assistants by 1,500 euros per month puts this trustworthy staff of the European parliamentarians in the spotlight.
Parliamentary assistants are the great strangers of an institution in which they perform from political advice to administrative and logistics coordination, and that are essential for each of the 751 MEPs to carry out their work.
Current MEPs such as Antonio López Istúriz (PP), Francesc Gambús (UDC), Inés Ayala (PSOE) or Ernest Urtasun (ICV) were in past legislatures at some time attending. The current president of the Eurogroup and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Djisselbloem, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt or PSOE Secretary General, Pedro Sánchez, also have this experience on the curriculum.
Currently, each MEP has 21,379 euros per month to pay its employees, and for a few years and to avoid misuse, this item is managed directly by the EP and not by the MEP itself. That amount could increase from next year by 1,500 euros per month (the total would rise to 22,879 euros from January 1, 2016) if the rise made by the majority of the hemicycle today and after the departure becomes effective remained frozen since 2010.
Already last Monday the EP plenary session was favorable to this increase, but the majority of Spanish MEPs voted against it. Each MEP has that item to hire their assistants who have salaries ranging between 1,900 and 4,300 euros, approximately, according to parliamentary sources.
Three attendees for MEP
The majority of European parliamentarians have between two and three assistants in Brussels and Strasbourg and at least one other location in their country to coordinate visits and convey concerns in their jurisdiction. In addition to coordinating the agenda, trips and meetings of the MEP, his work has a more political aspect that consists in helping them to elaborate amendments, reports, parliamentary questions and interventions in the plenary, mainly.
Jon Rodríguez, 24, is one of the assistants of Marina Albiol, the head of ranks of IU in the EP, an “essential” member of the team, the MEP explained to Efe. With Semitic and Islamic studies and a Master in International Politics, Rodríguez was a member of IU and after the European elections of May 2014 he participated in the selection process to join the work in the EP. “What I like most is to live the day-to-day life of the Eurocamara and have the ability to put a grain of sand in its policies,” said the young man, who says he feels satisfied with his salary and conditions.
Side by side with another MEP, Beatriz Becerra (UPyD), Javier Corrales, 33, also works with previous experience in Brussels. Without a party card, but with coincidences with the project of the party, he passed the tests to be an assistant, a job that has been “a new challenge” to this commercial pilot with a Master in European Studies and on the way to graduate in Law. Corrales said that by belonging to a small group “You have to spend many hours because there is little equipment, but it is very satisfactory”.
Many of the attendees, especially those who have been active in the parties for years, have worked before in national politics. This is the case of Jordi Cañas, from Ciudadanos, who plays that position in this Eurochamber legislature after ceasing to be a spokesman for that party in the Catalan Parliament by opening a judicial process in a case of alleged tax fraud.
The EP table and the EP Budget Committee have demanded that this increase be accompanied by a new regulation to prevent abuses, especially in the last countries to join the European Union (EU), where some MEPs would have more than a dozen local assistants
The European anti-fraud office (OLAF) recently opened an investigation against the extreme right-wing National Front of Marine Le Pen, who would allegedly be using those funds for the salaries of party workers dealing with national policy and tasks that have nothing to do with the Eurochamber . Some news reports pointed out in recent weeks that OLAF could investigate that same case with regard to Podemos, but there is no confirmation of any formal file opening against the formation of Pablo Iglesias.
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