Auteur: ANDREW WILLIS
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - President Jerzy Buzek has launched a lawsuit over an alleged extortion attempt, MEPs have awarded themselves €100,000 in tax-free expenses and a eurosceptic MEP has been slapped with a fine for verbal abuse in stories emanating on Monday (13 December) from this year's last plenary session of the European Parliament.
In an interview with the Polish radio station Radio Zet, Mr Buzek confirmed that an investigation is underway after a woman claiming to work as his advisor placed a telephone call to one of Poland's richest men, looking for a "donation."
The businessman, Jan Kulczyk, was reportedly told by the impersonator in October that the government had decided to sell Poland's third-largest utility, Enea, to his investment vehicle, Kulczyk Holding, and was subsequently given bank account details for his contribution to a "charity".
"This is an unprecedented attempt to make trouble, and must be explained," Mr Buzek, a former Polish prime minister, said. He already informed the public prosecutor's office in Poland of a possible crime "a couple of weeks ago," the EP chief added.
Poland's privatisation of Enea is a long-running saga. Although Mr Kulczyk got exclusive negotiating rights to buy the firm in October, the government later resumed negotiations with other interested parties.
MEPs in Strasbourg on Monday meanwhile began their last plenary session of the year by voting on a new crisis-busting allowance of €100,000 a year in tax-free, proof-of-expenditure-free expenses.
The decision - amounting to €3,600 per MEP - was due to be taken by the bureau, the EP's top administrative body, with the money due to be paid into euro-deputies accounts by 1 January and backdated to July 2009, UK daily The Telegraph reports.
Member states were already infuriated earlier this year when the commission and the European Parliament sought a six percent increase in next year's EU budget, with MEPs now set to approve a more modest 2.9 percent increase on Wednesday.
At the same time, Europe's top court recently ruled against member states in a dispute over EU civil servant salaries. Governments voted in December 2009 to halve a planned 3.7 percent annual increase in salaries for EU officials. But last month the European Court of Justice announced the move was illegal.
One member of the European Parliament could do with a bit of extra cash.
On Monday, Mr Buzek announced that British eurosceptic MEP Godfrey Bloom would not be allowed to receive his per diem expenses for the next seven days because of his "behaviour during the last session" and his refusal to apologise.
Mr Bloom was kicked out of parliament during the last session after he muttered the Nazi motto "One People, One Empire, One Leader" to German Socialist MEP Martin Schulz. Mr Schulz, who is head of the Social-Democrats in the European Parliament, was in the process of giving a fiery speech 'exposing' a Franco-German entente with the UK over economic governance.
As MEPs voiced their outrage at the remark, parliamentary president Jerzy Buzek demanded that Mr Bloom apologise. Mr Bloom said instead that: "The views expressed by Herr Schulz make the case. He is an undemocratic fascist."