EU deputies are generally prohibited from lobbying. In Sweden, all tax returns are public. In the U.S., restrictions are placed on sideline income.
Transparent MEPs: Elsewhere, parliamentarians are not allowed to line their pockets on the side. Picture: reuters
The CDU/CSU and FDP celebrate the ten-tier model as a prime example of greater transparency. But in international comparison, the coalition’s ideas are rather lax. Almost everywhere, from Estonia to the United States, stricter rules prevail.
In the UK, for example, parliamentarians must publish all sideline activities that bring in more than 550 pounds a year, and all donations over 1,000 pounds. Relevant real estate and shareholdings must also be declared, even if they belong to a spouse or children. And: Parliamentary journalists must also declare supplementary income – in order to make influence by politicians or parties transparent.
In Sweden and Finland, there is complete transparency. There, the tax returns of all citizens, including members of parliament, are public. There are also transparent members of parliament in the Netherlands, where the amount of additional income is also limited.
In the USA, members of Congress must also disclose all income, including that of their spouses and children. The additional income of U.S. parliamentarians is also limited: They may not exceed a certain percentage of their parliamentary allowances. An MP who earns hundreds of thousands of dollars on the side, like Peer Steinbruck, is impossible in the U.S. and the Netherlands.
EU Parliament used to be just as casual
In Estonia, members of parliament must disclose what they own in real estate and shares, how much money they have in their bank accounts and – as in the USA – how much private debt they have. Sitting on supervisory boards, a favorite sideline of German parliamentarians, is prohibited in Estonia.
In the EU Parliament, however, the side jobs were as casual as in the Bundestag for a long time. That has changed to some extent since a bribery scandal was uncovered by the Sunday Times in 2011. Since 2012, MEPs have had to declare all income exceeding 5,000 euros a year. These do not have to be declared in euros and cents, but – similar to the Bundestag – in five increments from 500 to 10,000 euros a month.
Citizens’ groups criticize the fact that the public does not find out whether an MEP earned 10,000 or 100,000 euros a month. However, MEPs must state in which jobs they earned how much money before becoming a parliamentarian – going back three years. More importantly, lobbying activities are generally prohibited.