Brussels bureaucrats calling for transparency often fail to declare their own assets. Brusselites are known as frequent and vocal advocates of transparency, yet the Brussels bubble they live in is a potential hotbed of corruption, as they are not required to declare their assets, writes the V4 news agency.
Bureaucrats in Brussels consider transparency to be a key element of EU principles. However, it is precisely in the Brussels bubble where this frequently cited fundamental principle is not met. In this micro-world, strong criticism is formulated by politicians who fail to report on their own finances while in office, leaving loopholes for corruption.
Although MEPs are required to submit a declaration, they do not need to include any assets in the document. MEPs only need to report where they receive additional income from on top of their monthly salaries. The declaration sheds no light on how many cars or properties a given politician has, nor does it reveal whether they have any investments or debts. Thus, European taxpayers are unable to keep track of any changes in the wealth Brusselites amass during their terms in office. The most vocal advocates of transparency – for example Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal ALDE group, or European People’s Party group leader Manfred Weber – have failed to disclose their assets publicly, while in certain member states politicians are obliged to declare all the assets they possess.
Not long ago, it came to light that Manfred Weber has used his own residence in a remote village as the headquarters of his political “ghost” office, draining some 400 thousand euros out of the EU budget. In another instance, V4NA also proved that Mr Weber likes to save on EU expenses that do not have to be verified with invoices. The politician has even saved the cost of interpreters – to the tune of a poultry few thousand euros – when he ran for the office of European Commission president and used crude machine translator on his election website to plant his campaign slogans into all of the EU’s languages.
The members of the European Commission, are bound by somewhat stricter rules, as they must submit so-called a declaration of interests document. Here, they must include every position they have held in the past ten years and any financial interests which may lead to a conflict of interest. They must also indicate the type of positions they may hold in bodies performing public duties. In EC Vice President Frans Timmermans’s declaration of interests, however, numbers are nowhere to be found. Only a few positions are listed with no reference to remunerations or income.
European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides was somewhat more communicative in her declaration of interests, but she only updated the document after her corruption scandal. First, it turned out that no sooner had she signed the EU’s deeply flawed vaccine procurement contracts than 4 million euros landed on her joint bank account with her husband. Later it was also revealed that Ms Kyriakides had been in contact with major vaccine manufacturers for years.
The chief advocates of transparency in Brussels can hardly be accused of living modestly. V4NA also presented this when we traveled to Tervuren, the luxury paradise of the Brussels elite, on a filming assignment. Here, in one of Europe’s most expensive and heavily guarded towns, the average European taxpayer cannot even take a casual stroll. Our crew has been filming in this posh neighbourhood packed with luxury homes for only a few minutes when two officers arrived. They searched our crew’s vehicle, emptied their bags and seized their phones to delete some images. They even confiscated our cameraman’s memory card unlawfully.