The European Parliament leader’s proposal to hire 110 drivers proves unpopular with the rank-and-file. A vote on setting up a European Parliament limousine service was delayed Wednesday as MEPs questioned the need to spend an extra €3 million per year on cars and chauffeurs in fancy uniforms. The proposals worry the Brussels’ taxi and limo-world –which supplies the Brussels institutions with vehicles – as this is not the first time the European Parliament proposes to have its own limo-fleet.
Tara Palmeri (POLITICO) reported Tuesday that the Parliament’s top staffer, Secretary General Klaus Welle, wanted to revamp the car service, hiring 110 full-time drivers and ending the practice of using contractors. The move would add more than €3 million a year to the Parliament’s €7 million annual transport costs. The price tag for the driver’s uniforms alone would be €116,000 per year.
Welle pitched the revamp as a way to improve security for MEPs. He argued that they will be able to vet drivers and install panic buttons in cars as MEPs often carry “highly confidential documents.”
But the idea of spending millions on luxury cars and drivers did not go down well with many MEPs.
“Introducing panic buttons seems totally absurd,” Estonian liberal Kaja Kallas wrote Wednesday in a blog post.
“It seems to me that having a designated car service makes us more visible as targets, if anything. When we use taxis or sharing economy cars, the drivers do not know that we are MEPs, whereas in the car service it is clear that we are. Not only to the driver, but also anyone who has basic knowledge of how the car service works.”
She said drivers did not have to be directly employed by the Parliament to be considered safe by MEPs.
“The drivers can be contractors whose background check has been done by the Parliament, if you really think it is necessary,” she wrote. “But please economise on the uniforms, nobody sees them anyway.”
The Bureau — President Martin Schulz and his 14 vice presidents — was slated to vote on the proposal on Wednesday evening, but decided to hold off, with Parliament spokesperson Marjory van den Broeke saying: “A number of members of Parliament wanted to have more information on the cost, possible alternatives, etc.”
Euroskeptic MEPs including UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage used the limo controversy to highlight excessive spending in the Parliament and as a reason for the U.K. to leave the EU.
“If ordinary taxpayers knew how their money was being blasted around in Brussels they would come and burn this place down to the ground in disgust,” Farage said in a statement.
“The EU is a racket to take money from those who don’t work for the EU and transfer it to people who do work for the EU. “
The proposal is part of the 2017 budget so even if the Bureau approves the plan it needs to be voted on by both the Budget Committee and then by all MEPs.
- Brussels limo companies keep supplying the Parliament.