How many assistants do MEPs employ?

Edit: This article is now outdated – for up-to-date data, head over to a dedicated page.

  • On average, MEPs have 2 assistants in Brussels and 3 in their home country
  • MEPs from Lithuania and Poland have by far the most assistants
  • Lithuanian MEP Antanas Guoga employs the most (27) while 32 MEPs have no assistants in Brussels.

MEPs’ assistants are indispensable for the functioning of the Parliament, even if they are often invisible to the public. It is in fact hard to imagine a parliamentarian serving his electorate properly without a team of assistants. And for the most part, MEPs’ offices are rather small shops – typically with two assistants based in Brussels and three back in the MEP’s home constituency. But how many is too many and how few is too few?

Yesterday, Jon Worth published an update on his overview from 2013 of how many assistants do Polish MEPs employ – oddly enough, three of them have gone high above the usual with nearly 20 assistants in total. I found this intriguing – what could be the reasons behind this? I am not suggesting there has to be some sort of foul play here. Before discussing this, though, I thought it would useful to see the numbers for the whole EP first.

All figures in this post are based on a public source, the list of assistants from the EP website. I tried to make sure the list is as complete and as correct as possible. I only accounted for MEPs listed on the website as active, although with some MEPs leaving and new ones coming all the time, there may be some inconsistencies.

What do figures for the whole EP look like?

On average, my guess that MEPs typically employ two staffers in Brussels and three in their local office was right – the average number is 2.27 for Brussels and 2.83 for local offices.

Overall, there are no huge differences between MEPs from different member states in terms of the size of their Brussels team as the country averages are between 1.55 and 3.05.

But it is figures for local offices where it gets interesting: the minimum average is 0.45 in Sweden while the maximum is 12.82 in Lithuania. That’s right, Lithuanian MEPs employ on average more local assistants than even Polish ones (8.43) which were subject to Jon’s investigation.

You can see all the data presented below – click on the ‘Country’ heading to drill down further and have a look at the other tabs too. The data was collected on 17 March 2015 and while I tried to ensure it is all correct, please let me know if you notice any errors.

MEPs from Eastern European member states generally employ more local assistants, but when it comes to their Brussels teams, it is not so clear, some are below and some are above average. However, both Lithuania and Poland are exceptional because they employ the most local assistants while being below average in terms of Brussels assistants, leaving only the UK (1.67) and Ireland (1.55) below.

MEPs' Assistants - map Brussels

Average number of Brussels assistants

MEPs' Assistants - map local

Average number of local assistants

MEPs' Assistants - map (all)

Average number of all assistants

 

Top 5 local MEP employers

So finally, who are the top 5 local employers among MEPs?

The top award goes to Antanas Guoga, more commonly known as Tony G. I am quoting Wikipedia here – if you were, like me until now, unaware of this singular figure of Lithuanian politics, the talking points are:

  • As a child, he was the Rubik’s Cube champion of Lithuania
  • He has played poker professionally since the age of 18
  • He is known for his outlandish table talk and frequent intimidation of his opponents

Unfortunately, in 2014 Mr Guoga confirmed that he wouldn’t come back to professional poker – I hope to see him using his outlandish table talk skills in Brussels and Strasbourg soon, though. Not so much the intimidation of his opponents, although that depends on who the opponents are.

Mr Guoga succeeded at creating 3 jobs in Brussels and 24 in Lithuania and with 27 assistants in total, he seems to officially have the largest crew in the EP. Well played, Tony G.

Full Name Country Political Group National Party Brussels Assistants Local Assistants Total Assistants
Antanas GUOGA (Tony G) Lithuania ALDE Lietuvos Respublikos liberalų sąjūdis 3 24 27
Valdemar TOMAŠEVSKI Lithuania ECR Lietuvos lenkų rinkimų akcija 2 20 22
Karol KARSKI Poland ECR Prawo i Sprawiedliwość 0 18 18
Petras AUŠTREVIČIUS Lithuania ALDE Lietuvos Respublikos liberalų sąjūdis 3 17 20
Kosma ZŁOTOWSKI Poland ECR Prawo i Sprawiedliwość 1 17 18

The low end: MEP one-man show

Again, I am not saying that high numbers of registered assistants automatically mean something bad. To have 20, 22 or 27 assistants is extraordinary given the averages, but I would be more worried about those MEPs that have the least Brussels-based assistants. There are 32 MEPs running a one-man show in Brussels and incidentally or not, those are mostly EFDD, ECR and independent MEPs.

Maybe we should be really looking at this low end of the spectrum and question those who have too small a team. But even then it does not automatically mean they are not interested in doing their job properly.

Also, some of those on the list below may be fairly new MEPs (having replaced someone during the past few months) which would give them little time to put the team together.

Full Name Country Political Group National Party Number of Accredited Assistants Number of Local Assistants Total Assistants
Damiano ZOFFOLI Italy S&D Partito Democratico 0 0 0
Anders Primdahl VISTISEN Denmark ECR Dansk Folkeparti 0 0 0
Miguel URBÁN CRESPO Spain GUE/NGL PODEMOS 0 0 0
Notis MARIAS Greece ECR Independent 0 0 0
Bruno GOLLNISCH France NI Front national 0 1 1
Amjad BASHIR United Kingdom ECR Conservative Party 0 1 1
Nigel FARAGE United Kingdom EFDD United Kingdom Independence Party 0 1 1
Patrick O’FLYNN United Kingdom EFDD United Kingdom Independence Party 0 2 2
Peter van DALEN Netherlands ECR ChristenUnie 0 2 2
Paavo VÄYRYNEN Finland ALDE Suomen Keskusta 0 3 3
Jean-Marie LE PEN France NI Front national 0 3 3
Sophie MONTEL France NI Front national 0 3 3
Gianni PITTELLA Italy S&D Partito Democratico 0 3 3
Hans-Olaf HENKEL Germany ECR Alternative für Deutschland 0 3 3
John Stuart AGNEW United Kingdom EFDD United Kingdom Independence Party 0 3 3
Bas BELDER Netherlands ECR Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij 0 4 4
Brian CROWLEY Ireland ECR Fianna Fáil Party 0 4 4
Jane COLLINS United Kingdom EFDD United Kingdom Independence Party 0 4 4
David COBURN United Kingdom EFDD United Kingdom Independence Party 0 6 6
Diane DODDS United Kingdom NI Democratic Unionist Party 0 6 6
Louise BOURS United Kingdom EFDD United Kingdom Independence Party 0 6 6
Jill SEYMOUR United Kingdom EFDD United Kingdom Independence Party 0 6 6
Nathan GILL United Kingdom EFDD United Kingdom Independence Party 0 6 6
Mike HOOKEM United Kingdom EFDD United Kingdom Independence Party 0 7 7
Paul NUTTALL United Kingdom EFDD United Kingdom Independence Party 0 7 7
Jonathan ARNOTT United Kingdom EFDD United Kingdom Independence Party 0 7 7
Janice ATKINSON United Kingdom EFDD United Kingdom Independence Party 0 7 7
Steven WOOLFE United Kingdom EFDD United Kingdom Independence Party 0 8 8
Ryszard CZARNECKI Poland ECR Prawo i Sprawiedliwość 0 11 11
Rolandas PAKSAS Lithuania EFDD Partija Tvarka ir teisingumas 0 13 13
Bill ETHERIDGE United Kingdom EFDD United Kingdom Independence Party 0 15 15
Karol KARSKI Poland ECR Prawo i Sprawiedliwość 0 18 18

What to make out of this?

I am not actually completely sure. There are always a few things journalists should keep in mind before turning these sort of numbers into news stories or even scandals:

  • The money MEPs get for their team from the EU budget is fixed
  • It is the same budget no matter the country
  • Unused money goes back to the EU budget
  • Registered assistants are not the only people working for MEPs – there are also staff employed by their political groups and parties

The second point relates to the most likely reason for big teams: lower local wages mean a potentially bigger local team. With lower ‘unit labour costs’, it may simply be possible for Eastern European MEPs to afford having a fairly large local team while paying decent salaries. (Each MEP gets around €21,700 for their team.) But the correlation does not seem to be strong – it is less common to have big teams in some countries with relatively low wages.

The real question is whether all the spots on the team are justified, but we will not know without investigating each team. Still, misuse of staff budgets is not unheard of and as Jon Worth notes, Gazeta Wyborcza alleges that for example Kaczynski’s make-up artist is being employed on the EP payroll, working for PiS MEP Poręba. (Apparently, Gazeta assumes that Jon wrote his blog post to argue for less EU budget – which is also not what I am saying.) And there is a scandal unfolding with MEPs of the French National Front accused of putting their party officials on the EP’s payroll, while MEPs’ assistants should work directly on EU matters.

And while at least one common way of keeping the money home often used in national parliaments – employing a family member – is banned by EP rules, some MEPs are known to have hired their partners who do not share their surnames and who they are not married to. Perhaps most prominently, Nigel Farage also employed his wife until this mandate, although he has famously explained that no one else would want to do that job. (Which was disproved by an HR agency which posted a job advert on his behalf. Farage’s wife now works for UKIP MEP Raymond Finch.)

Let me know what you think in the comments.

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