Nearly a third of EU legislators declare outside earnings

Politico — Nearly a third of legislators in the European Parliament have paid side jobs, with many earning hundreds of thousands of euros on top of their EU salary, according to a study by the NGO Transparency International, an organisation which leads the fight against corruption in EU member states.

In total, MEPs declared 1,366 side activities worth up to €41 million since 2014, according to the analysis of public filings by parliamentarians.

Top of the list of the 232 outside earners in the 751 seat European Parliament is Italian Socialist Renato Soru who, as director of telecoms firm Tiscali, has made around €1.5 million during the current parliamentary term, according to the Transparency International report with number two the Lithuanian, Antanas Guoga (EPP), whose supplementary activity is listed as poker player. Also among the top 10 earners are liberal leader, staunch federalist and EP’s Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt (at No. 3) and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage (at No. 6).

The top ten includes four more members of the European Peoples Party and two others from Eurosceptic groups.

Having extra jobs is within the Parliament’s rules if properly declared, but the report argues it can present a “serious risk” of conflicts of interest. Such moonlighting also raises questions about whether legislators are devoting the required time and energy to their constituents’ needs and the job of legislating.

The study also finds inadequate oversight of MEPs’ outside work. Of 24 members who breached the Parliament’s code of conduct on outside activities in the past five years, none have been sanctioned for ethics violations, it says.

Transparency International EU says that there is a risk of conflicts of interest. For example, four elected representatives continue to earn money from companies listed on the European Union official lobbyist register.

Under European Parliament rules, MEPs are allowed to have an outside activity and be paid for it as a way to “stay in touch with their profession and to return to a previous job when they leave office.

“Several MEPs had a professional life before, to which many of them return after the end of their mandate. Some were even elected on the basis of their previous activities and must keep in touch with the reality on the ground,” a Parliament spokesperson said. “Citizens and civil society can always address themselves to the MEPs for further clarifications regarding their disclosed information,” the spokesperson said.