According to Politico.eu MEPs want to stretch the budget for limos and drivers at the EU Parliament with an extra €3 million a year on transport. The European Parliament wants to spend millions buying limousines and hiring chauffeurs to drive MEPs around Brussels and Strasbourg, including €116,000 a year on drivers’ uniforms. Comments one Parliament source: “Why do we need a chauffeur service? The MEPs can’t take a taxi like everyone else?”
Senior MEPs will vote Wednesday on a plan to revamp the chauffeur service, hiring 110 full-time drivers and adding more than €3 million a year to its existing €7 million annual transport costs. At present, the Parliament’s drivers in both Brussels and Strasbourg are contractors who are hired after an open tender process. However, that could change.
On Wednesday evening, the Parliament’s Bureau — President Martin Schulz and his 14 vice presidents — will vote on a proposal obtained by POLITICO called “Reform of the Members’ transport service in the current security situation.” They are almost certain to back it.
The main objective of the plan, according to a memo by Klaus Welle — the Parliament’s secretary-general, who first presented the plan in January — is “the improvement of the security of members” as the Parliament will be able to conduct security screenings of drivers before they are hired. The program is scheduled to be implemented in February 2017.
“At its meeting of 23 November 2015 the Bureau held an exchange of views on the current security situation in Europe and its consequences for Parliament,” the Welle memo says.
According to financial documents obtained by POLITICO, the Parliament currently spends €6.8 million a year on transportation services for members. The planned changes would add €3.7 million to that tab, bringing the cost to €10.5 million per year. But it could be much higher than that as the fine print says “security scanners” for official cars and IT equipment such as “tablet, mobile phone” haven’t been factored into the price tag.
What is included is uniforms for drivers, with €116,000 set aside per year — that’s more than €1,000 a year per driver.
“This is all Klaus Welle,” said a Parliament source. “First they internalized the security service, and now they are internalizing this chauffeur service.” “Frankly I don’t see a reason to do it for cost or security issues. For me it’s crazy to internalize posts. Why do we need a chauffeur service? The MEPs can’t take a taxi like everyone else?”
Unions are unlikely to share that view, however. They have long taken exception to the Parliament’s use of contractors instead of full-time drivers. Welle also argues that sensitive documents carried by MEPs will be better protected if the lawmakers and drivers have more of a bond. “Members are often alone in the car with the driver,” Welle wrote. “Moreover, members often carry highly confidential documents.”
They do, but those documents are not always highly sought after: in 2014, the official car of Viviane Reding, then a European Commission vice president and now an MEP, was broken into. Thieves left behind her official documents but made off with a suitcase and a cottage pie.
Welle also argued that with a Parliament car service they would be able to carry out tougher background checks and install security equipment such as panic buttons. “They can put out all of the excuses that they want, they leave papers all over the place, in every single meeting,” the Parliament source said. “This is a stupid excuse.”
Parliament spokesperson Marjory Van Den Broeke said the possibility of threats to MEPs is not unfounded.
“There have been some incidents and risks established, which we cannot go into for security and personal data reasons. So improved security is one reason to internalize this service,” she said, adding that there have also been concerns about the labor rights of contracted drivers.
- No taxis then for MEP’s?