Von der Leyen: Millions are waiting for answers on EU budget
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The German MEP and a member of the CDU party, formerly led by Angela Merkel, has been accused of frivolously squandering EU taxpayers’ money by refurbishing his workplace.
Almost £20,000 were spent on an automatic window closing mechanism.
Doors with a special security device cost £21,000.
In addition to the office itself, whose reform cost exactly £405,436.36, there were also expenses for a so-called “showroom” for £170,161.15.
Mr Wieland is the head of the working group for buildings within the EU Presidium.
Responding to accusations of improper use of taxpayers’ money, the German MEP told The Guardian: “This is an idea lab where we test ideas, whether they are useful, usable – and we want to think out of the box … I am deeply convinced that testing costs money, but not testing costs also money and sometimes even more.”
He added: “Most of the costs which are at stake are behind the walls and it’s not a luxury.”
His group in Parliament, the EPP, also responded in his defence to the accusations.
They wrote in a statement: “Wieland highlighted that all decisions concerning the creation of the Idea Lab were taken ‘unanimously’ by the Bureau, in which all the political groups – including the Greens – are represented.
“He has been personally targeted as Vice-President responsible for the building policy of the Parliament, although he co-chairs this responsibility and all decisions are discussed and taken jointly by Parliament’s Bureau.
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“In addition, he underlined that the idea of a ‘luxury renovation’ of only his office is completely ‘offensive, misleading and directed to damage the reputation of the entire European Parliament’.
“The price was ‘indeed high’ but the surface renovated serves as a testing area for a wider concept of offices and meeting rooms, including new integrated technology, IT, access control and security as well as innovative facility management solutions to be tested prior to a possible larger scale implementation.
“The costs of €1,700 per square metre for regular renovations is included in the costs of the Idea Lab such as the deconstruction of former bathrooms and storage rooms built in the 90s, resulting in an increase of 20 percent of the office space of the entire floor.”
Daniel Freund, a German Green MEP, responsible for overseeing the parliament’s 2020 spending, said: “Looking at this from the perspective of a budget controller, I find it very difficult to justify that kind of expense to the EU taxpayer.
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“I am conscious as well these are bad stereotypes, that there is a perception that the European parliament is expensive.
“We need to be very conscious of how we spend taxpayer money and this project is not a great example of that.”
He added: “There has never been a dedicated budget and no budget oversight.
“I want to make sure that the money is spent according to the rules, so that needs to be clarified now with the administration or the rules need to be changed to make sure projects of this size have proper accountability.”
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