MEPs’ vast side job earnings prompt watchdogs to sound alarm

New data appears to show European Parliament legislators collectively declared between €3.9 million (£3.31m) and €11.5 million (9.76m) in income beyond their MEP salaries. Though MEPs are allowed to have outside income, they must submit details about it in publicly available financial declarations.

The vast numbers have alarmed watchdog groups given the presented data is often unclear, which raises questions about the nature of MEPs’ side jobs and whether there could be an ethical clash.

Vitor Teixeira, a senior policy officer at Transparency International EU, said: “We found significant outside income and worryingly vague financial declarations.”

Polish MEP Radosław Sikorski, a member of the European People’s Party, is listed as the member with the highest outside earnings but has hit back at the claims.

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He said the NGO’s findings were inaccurate and disputed the report’s data.

In a statement, the Polish politician said: “The declaration of financial interests to the European Parliament includes several listings that have been made twice in order to satisfy reporting requirements.”

He guaranteed his side income was “much smaller” than reported and, pointing to separate income declarations made to the Polish parliamentary administration, said he “will update the declaration to make this clearer”.

Given that MEPs self-declare their earnings — declarations that are not subject to institutional checks — the sums could be even higher.

The issue with outside activities, the report emphasises, is that the current system has limitations in preventing conflicts of interest.

The report reads: “It cannot be excluded that some MEPs’ holdings or involvement in external organisations could have an impact on their voting, including in Committee sessions.”

MEPs’ listed job descriptions in their declarations are “vague” or “generic” – such as “economic activity”, “freelancer”, “retired lawyer in activity” or “owner of a consulting company”.

But their salaries call for bolder titles. Mr Sikorski, for instance, declared €40,000 (£33,956) a month for “consultancies”, without specification whatsoever on what his activities look like.

According to Transparency International EU, the usual justification for second jobs — a practice known as moonlighting — is for elected officials to stay connected with their industry and to potentially return to a previous role when they leave office.

Other MEPs say they do it to be in touch with “the realities of their electorate”.