EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - MEPs have elected to boost their monthly allowance for staff and office expenses by 1,500, mirroring a similar move last year despite a widespread austerity drive in EU member states.
The decision by members of the European Parliament's budgetary committee on Thursday (3 March) will see the legislature's overall budget increase by almost 13.25 million in 2011.
MEPs from parliament's Socialist and centre-right European Peoples Party groups supported the proposed raise, while other groups said the decision was unjustified.
German Green MEP Helga Trupel said the move showed EU lawmakers were "clearly out of touch with fiscal realities ...[and] sent completely the wrong signal" to EU citizens. Portuguese far-left MEP Miguel Portas called the decision "misconceived".
Meanwhile, supporters say the extra allowance would enable the hiring of additional staff to tackle the growing workload under the EU's new Lisbon Treaty, in place since 1 December 2009.
"I cannot do the political or control work I have to do if I don't have more staff," said German centre-right MEP Ingeborg Grassle.
Euro deputies are paid 7,956.87 per month before tax, and an additional 300 for the days they officially sign in to work in Brussels or Strasbourg.
They also receive a monthly allowance of 19,709 for staff and other office expenses, with Thursday's decision set to increase this figure.