Thieves have robbed the offices of Members of the European Parliament, despite the claims by the parliament that their reported €20m a year management of security meets “the highest professional standards and provides the best quality.” The thefts were discovered last week as MEPs arrived in Strasbourg as part of the “travelling circus” which sees the parliament shift 1,000 politicians, officials and translators for just four days a month from Belgium to France.
The parliament admits the cost to be an extra €118m a year, but some MEPs estimate the extra cost of the four day shift is as high as€1651m a year.
Among the victims were UKIP MEP Diane James, who discovered two “business dresses” had disappeared from her office, along with work documents.
UKIP MEP Steven Woolfe lost “a proper English suit from Austin Reed,” a shirt and other personal items.
One UKIP MEP said, “It’s no wonder they are stealing clothes off my back, they have been doing it financially to the EU taxpayer for years.”
Following a number of serious incidents, including an armed robbery at a bank inside the building and two other robberies, in 2012 the parliament is believed to have begun to phase out the use of contract security officials and bring security workers onto staff.
It is believed that until 2013, security services were provided by an external company, with security officers at the parliament being employed by that company.
Earlier this year, a parliamentary report on the new system claimed, “The internalisation of general security is designed to provide the MEPs, as well as Parliament’s staff and visitors, with services meting the highest professional standards and providing the best quality.”
A UKIP source said, “Even under the new system, MEPs and anyone accompanying them into the parliament’s buildings are still not required to put their bags and coats through x ray machines as staff and visitors must do.”
According to UKIP, Parliament’s estimates for the 2014 budget allow infrastructure spending of €49.3m in Strasbourg, of which €35.7m is for routine spending on building maintenance, security and energy.
There have been four security incidents in the Parliament in the last three years.
In February 2009, a man brandishing a pistol stole about €60,000 from a bank inside the building. The perpetrator got away.
In May 2010, a canteen was robbed. Again, no suspect was apprehended.
On 4 February 2011, two men held up the Post Office in the Parliament and stole €8,000. Both men got away.
On 18 February 2011, a TV journalist passed through security with a toy metal gun tucked under his jacket. He revealed the pistol, on camera, while standing only a few metres away from the presidents of the Parliament, the Council and the Commission.
The UKIP source added, “The profusion of security personnel certainly lends an aura of importance to the parliament. And as well as contract staff, the Belgian police are also involved externally and for escorts for VIP visitors.
“With greater efficiency and common sense, it should be possible to reduce the security bill by 10%.”
No one from the Parliament was available for comment.