30 out of France’s 74 MEPs have sources of income besides their elected mandates, according to the French High Authority for Transparency in Public Life (HATVP). EURACTIV.fr reports.
On 24 October, the HATVP, charged with reviewing the income sources of France’s public figures and bringing to light potential conflicts of interest, published the declarations of interest made by French MEPs elected in May.
This is new territory for the Authority, created in 2013 in the wake of the scandal caused by the investigation of former Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac for tax fraud.
The verification of some declarations could prove very delicate. “The work of the High Authority does not end with the publication of these declarations. We must also carry out checks,” the HATVP President Jean-Louis Nadal said.
“By analysing these declarations, we have seen that certain activities, even those that were already public knowledge, had sometimes been omitted by certain MEPs. We have contacted the people concerned for more information,” the President added, without disclosing their identities.
Lawyers in public office
Of France’s 74 representatives in the European Parliament, 30 combine their mandate with another job. The High Authority counts eight lawyers, four doctors, three farmers, and as many teachers and employees of political parties.
The centrist MEP Sylvie Goulard declared an income of 13,000 euros from consultancy work in 2014, while the UMP member Angélique Delahaye made almost €4,000 net per month from farming.
“60% of [MEPs] concentrate solely on their elected mandates, while 40% have other professional activities,” Jean-Louis Nadal explained.
Good news for copyright holders
Publishing is an important source of income for French MEPs. Michèle Alliot-Marie, an MEP for the UMP, declared between 5,000 and 10,000 euros gross income from writing books, without specifying the dates, and the leader of the Left Front Jean-Luc Mélenchon, declared €16,000 in earnings from his book Qu’ils s’en aillent tous, from 2010 to 2011.
Aymeric Chauprade, of the National Front, is leading the pack in copyright earnings, declaring 5,450 euros in 2014, and €92,857 between 2009 and 2013, before his entry to the European Parliament.
Lack of precision
MEPs, unlike European Commissioners, are not required to provide details of their spouse’s activities and sources of income. The level of precision with which they have to declare their income is also different, divided into four brackets of 500 to 1,000 gross euros per month, €1,001 to 5,000, 5,001 to 10,000 euros and over €10,000 per month.
This lack of precision is a source of much criticism.
“On incomes over 10,000 euros per month, MEPs do not have to specifically declare 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 euro… these are big differences,” Pascal Durand, a green MEP, said in an interview with EURACTIV.fr.
The European Parliament generally takes MEPs’ declarations of interests at face value, as it has very limited powers to check their legitimacy.
The French High Authority for Transparency in Public Life is also examining declarations of assets from French MEPs, which will not be made public.
The French High Authority for Transparency in Public Life (HATVP), created in 2013 after the Cahuzac scandal, performs individual checks on declarations of interests and assets from holders of elected office and ministers.
French MEPs, like those from all member states, are already required to make a declaration of interests to the European Parliament, which is subject to light, and often incomplete controls.
The High Authority has no power to investigate the taxes of those in elected positions, but it does share information with the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance.
The HATVP can question MPs over discrepancies between their declarations and the assessments of the Finance Ministry.
Sometimes errors or differences in interpretation can be explained by the complexity of the fiscal legislation or changes to markets, such as the housing market.
However, these declarations also shed light on professional activities (including advisory roles); payment arising from these activities; shareholdings in public or private companies; and voluntary activities that may lead to a conflict of interest.