Overnight stays in luxury hotels, intercontinental flights, entry to football matches: German MEPs have many things paid for by third parties on their trips. Numerous politicians violate their disclosure obligations, as an evaluation by the German Press Agency shows. However, several also declare on time. In the course of the corruption scandal surrounding the EU Parliament, such – permissible – courtesies have increasingly come into focus.

The dpa asked all MEPs from the parties represented in the Bundestag whether they had correctly disclosed travel paid for by third parties as well as events and gifts during the current legislature in accordance with the internal rules of Parliament.

How transparent MEPs should actually be

According to parliamentary rules, MPs must report travel and gifts paid for by third parties that they receive in certain functions by the end of the following month at the latest and publish them in a public register. However, there are various exceptions, some of which do not fully penetrate the parliamentarians themselves. An example: Several MEPs announced that they are currently having Parliament examine whether vehicles provided by local authorities for safety reasons are subject to the obligation to register when traveling to Ukraine.

What MPs get paid for

The list is long: According to the documents, Katarina Barley, one of the Vice Presidents of the European Parliament, had a night paid for in November 2021 at the luxury hotel Villa Kennedy in Frankfurt when she was at a press ball. A few months earlier, the SPD politician had been paid for an overnight stay in the five-star Hotel Le Méridien in Hamburg by the Strasburger Kreise organization. According to the organization’s website, she gave the 72 invited guests a relentless look at the European Union in her speech. She was also at a 1. FC Köln game in October 2021 without having to pay admission. When asked about the trips, Barley said: “I have registered a total of 13 trips – regardless of whether they are reportable or not.”

MPs also report trips correctly

There are public documents about the trips on the Parliament website. For Lena Düpont from the CDU, three nights at the Imperial Hotel New Delhi as part of the “Indo-German Women’s Leadership Initiative” are noted. The hotel describes itself as the best five star hotel in the financial center of New Delhi. She also spent three nights at the Royal Beach Hotel in Tel Aviv, paid for by an organization that wants to promote German-Israeli relations.

Her party friend Andreas Schwab also had two nights in this hotel paid for, but also a business-class flight to New York, among other things. He said all trips were closely related to information needs for specific legislative projects. Bernhard Zimniok from the AfD spent two nights in October 2019 at a luxury hotel in India. The journeys by Düpont, Schwab and Zimniok have been reported correctly and entered on the Parliament’s website.

Green politician Reinhard Bütikofer disclosed most of the trips that were at least partially paid for by third parties – all of them on time, usually after just a few days. The documents for the more than 20 trips show that the Australian government paid for five flights – all business class – and seven nights in hotels, among other things. According to the information, the background is an “individual special visitors program” for Bütikofer. As further information from the deputy shows, he had meetings there almost every day – with university, government and business representatives, for example.

More than one in ten MPs does not answer questions

Overall, the dpa asked 85 members of parliament, 74 answered punctually – which corresponds to almost 90 percent. The smallest German delegations from the FDP and Die Linke, each with five parliamentarians, responded in full. The 16 SPD deputies also answered the questions posed in unison. From the Greens there was no punctual feedback from 2 of the 21 deputies – one deputy reported late. The response from the Union was lower: 4 out of 29 elected representatives did not answer the questions on time, and one answer came late.

After the research was published, the other Union politicians also responded to the request. They had all made no trips that had to be disclosed, it said. They also did not receive any reportable gifts. Proportionately, the politicians of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) did not answer most often – here it was four out of nine.

How much is sloppy

Of the more than 30 MPs who disclosed trips or gifts, only 11 certainly met all deadlines. This was not the case for around 20. In addition, 14 only disclosed trips or gifts after the dpa request that could have been declared beforehand. There are no major differences between the parties here. Both Social Democrats, Union politicians Greens and Liberals are there. Only left and AfD do not stand out. When MEPs comment on their mistakes, they say they missed the deadlines by mistake or ignorance.

Criticism from anti-corruption organization

“The deputies don’t take the declarations seriously,” complains Raphael Kergueno from the organization Transparency International. It is not surprising that many explanations come too late. “There is a culture of impunity,” Kergueno said.

What MPs can expect

Probably not much. Because the President of Parliament decides on penalties. Recently, Roberta Metsola herself came under criticism – she had also reported too late a night in a French luxury hotel paid for by a wine brotherhood for her and her husband. So far there has been no talk of sanctions for this.