MEPs should fund own foreign trips, German Green says read full article at

MEPs ought to pay for their very own international journeys to keep away from suspicion of undue affect, a German member of the European Parliament (EP) has mentioned, after rebelling over a latest go to to Azerbaijan.

“We get a budget from taxpayers for expenses like this to unquestionably ensure independence and integrity,” German Inexperienced MEP Niklas Nienaß informed EUobserver.

However there’s additionally “a lot of so called ‘friendship groups’ to various countries in the [EU] Parliament, which offer nice trips and exclusive gatherings outside the official EP protocol,” he mentioned.

“You’d think that a paid vacation or a nice party wouldn’t change your stance on political issues. But then, if it isn’t working, why do the [foreign] regimes continue to pay for it?,” Nienaß added.

The MEP spoke out after noisily resigning, final week, from “Rumra & Smart villages”, a cross-party group coping with funding in distant areas.

MEPs’ bills are paid for by the EP once they journey on official delegations.

Additionally they get a particular allowance of €4,716 a yr to spend on unofficial international work journeys. They’re meant to declare any reward or hospitality value over €150.

However two of Nienaß’ former Rumra colleagues, German liberal MEP Engin Eroglu and Slovenian conservative MEP Franc Bogovič, in addition to 5 of their European parliament workers, final September travelled to Zangilan, within the Nagorno-Karabakh area in Azerbaijan, partly on Baku’s payroll.

They lined their very own flights, however uncared for to declare that Azerbaijan put them up on the Marriot lodge in Baku and wined and dined them on their four-day journey, which included visits to a winery, a carpet museum, and vacationer points of interest.

Nagorno-Karabakh is the scene of latest ethnic warfare between Azerbaijan and Armenia and senior Western diplomats do not go there for concern of wanting like they’re taking Azerbaijan’s facet.

Azerbaijan, a fearsome dictatorship, has a repute for shady PR tactics and so-called caviar diplomacy — luxurious journeys for international politicians in return for favours.

It’s also negotiating new power offers with the EU, bypassing Russia, in an intrigue of geopolitical proportions.

However amid the apparent potential for controversy round Rumra’s journey to Zangilan, Nienaß’ fellow MEPs deliberate the journey behind his again, he mentioned.

“Everybody knew that this is a politically-delicate request and that I have advocated for the highest level of independence from the start of the intergroup [Rumra]. Yet, I was knowingly left out,” Nienaß mentioned.

“Trust has been broken that we built up among years,” he mentioned of his resignation.

Eroglu had been a hawkish critic of Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev previous to his journey. However each he and Bogovič spoke properly of Azerbaijan whereas they have been there and after coming again.

And despite the fact that nobody was levelling accusations of corruption, their dealing with of the Zangilan go to risked additional harming the parliament’s repute within the wake of the Qatargate bribery affair, Nienaß indicated.

“I wouldn’t put this trip in the same basket as Qatargate. But, of course, it shows how third countries try to influence EU law makers. And that it is accepted,” he informed this web site.

“Questioning of the integrity of some of our members hurts the integrity of all of European politics,” he mentioned.

Human error

Particulars of the Zangilan journey first emerged in an investigation by, a Stockholm-based on-line media, on 16 January.

The parliament additionally uploaded an itinerary following media questions.

Eroglu and Bogovič denied wrongdoing and blamed their preliminary non-declaration of Baku’s hospitality on human error by their assistants.

The go to arose after Azerbaijan’s EU ambassador contacted him final June to see a “smart village” in Zangilan, Bogovič informed

“During the discussions with the Azerbaijani counterparts we were focusing on the issues related to the revival of rural and mountainous areas and we did not discuss or comment the ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia,” Bogovič mentioned.

Erogul and Bogovič additionally defended their actions in an e-mail to Nienaß, seen by EUobserver.

“We paid for our own flights, did not accept presents of any sorts,” they mentioned, upon studying of his Rumra resignation.

“We even had an explicit agreement with the ambassador of Azerbaijan to the EU that we would not mention or touch upon the conflict with Armenia during our trip in any way,” they added.

However for all their pledges of excellent religion, Nienaß mentioned visits of this kind ought to in future be brazenly funded out of the EP’s personal pockets solely.

“Trips to third countries always have to be paid fully by the members … It should be clear, that we only work for the benefit of the European people,” he mentioned.

‘Dissolve friendship teams’ name

Nienaß advocated the “dissolution of the friendship groups” between international capitals and MEPs as a method to “regain trust” with the EU public.

“We must also strengthen whistleblower rights,” he mentioned.

“It cannot be, that assistants who know of wrongdoing in their offices have to face sanctions if they speak up,” Nienaß mentioned.

It stays to be seen if his proposals catch the eye of parliament reformers within the wake of the nonetheless unfolding Qatargate affair.

However, the Swedish and German investigators, plan to shed extra gentle on the Zangilan journey in upcoming articles on EUobserver, opening it up as a case examine for debates on how present parliament ethics codes work in day-to-day Brussels life.

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About Andrew Rettman

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