New research by Transparency International EU claims 104 MEPs have earned more than €100,000 each over the last four years on top of their MEP salaries.
The allegations have led to calls for Parliament's rules to be tightened.
Commenting on the report, Daniel Freund, head of Advocacy EU Integrity at Transparency International EU (TI), said, “Large outside incomes pose a serious risk of conflicts of interest. Whose interests do these MEPs really represent? That of citizens or the interests of those that pay their side jobs?”
Between nine and 30 MEPs have earned more money from outside activities than from their salary as MEPs, according to TI.
Some 31 per cent of MEPs have paid outside activities, it is claimed.
TI says that, taken together, 1366 side jobs have been declared - a 13 per cent increase since the beginning of the mandate. Many of these declarations contain one-word descriptions of activities such as ‘consultant’, ‘freelancer’ or ‘lawyer’.
Several MEPs have outside activities with registered lobby organisations, possibly breaching rules not to be engaged in lobbying while being an MEP, says the campaign group.
Freund said, “There are concerns that the European Parliament does not take its own code of conduct seriously. There have been at least 24 breaches of ethics rules in the past five years - not a single one has led to sanctions. There has been only one reprimand in the last four years. The President of the European Parliament is the person responsible for making the regime work and needs to enforce the rules.”
The research also claims that outside incomes are particularly high among members of the ENF political group. “Those far-right members most critical of the European Union are the ones with the highest outside revenues - and in many cases we have no idea who is paying them”, says Freund.
Transparency International has now made a series of recommendations, stating that: Parliament needs to fully enforce the ban on lobbying as a side job and ensure that there are no conflicts of interest. It should introduce a cooling-off period for departing MEPs; Members need to provide more detailed information on outside activities, including on their exact activities and the sources of income; Parliament should better monitor the submitted information and cross-check it with other information available at the national level; An independent ethics body should monitor compliance and sanction MEPs in case of false declarations or ethics violations.
Reacting to the findings, German Greens MEP Sven Giegold, Parliament’s rapporteur on transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU institutions said, “The fact that certain MEPs are earning so much on the side of their day jobs is worrying for European democracy. In five years there have been 24 breaches of the Code of Conduct for MEPs but absolutely zero sanctions for those who break the rules, which shows the current set-up of self-control by MEPs themselves simply is not working. It's time for an independent ethics committee to keep MEPs in check.”
He added, “Parliament's rules need to be tightened-up to make sure that members are working in the interests of their constituents and not lobbying their colleagues for money and MEPs must disclose who employs them, including clients if they are lawyers.
“The Greens/EFA have tried several times to improve the situation by enforcing the ban on lobbying side jobs by having MEPs list their possible clients and regular checks on members' declarations. However, other groups do not seem to want to bring greater scrutiny to their own activities.”
He said, “Parliament should take this opportunity to look at how best to overhaul the ethics system. It's scandalous that far-right MEPs seem to be abusing their positions to make money from the very same institution they are attempting to undermine.”
On Wednesday, no one from the ENF group was immediately available for comment.