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MEPs' expenses are a ticking timebomb for the European Parliament, writes Stephen Gardner. The Parliament has stalled again on an EU Ombudsman request to publish details of the generous allowances, which amount to nearly £175,000 per annum for each of the 785 MEPs for office and staffing expenses, plus travel and subsistence expenses, which can easily add another £65,000 (a whopping £188 million annual total bill to the taxpayer!).

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The British government continues to do its utmost to avoid any discussion about the Equitable Life debacle that might involve the dreaded C-word: compensation. A European Parliament Committee of Inquiry in May 2007 adopted a special report recommending just that. The UK government bears responsibility, the committee found, because of failures to comply with EU directives on life insurance, writes Stephen Gardner.

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The Hans-Martin Tillack saga has come to a conclusion – of sorts, writes Stephen Gardner. Following a European Court of Human Rights ruling in Tillack's favour in November 2007, Belgian police have returned the German reporter's files, and have paid out costs and 'moral damages'. The Brussels law enforcers had detained Tillack in March 2004 after EU anti-fraud office OLAF said the journalist bribed officials for access to compromising EU documents.

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Just how much taxpayers' money does the European Commission give to organisations whose main use for that money is... lobbying the European Commission, writes Stephen Gardner.

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The likelihood is receding that OLAF, the EU's bungling anti-fraud arm, will ever face serious questions about its role in the hounding of journalist Hans-Martin Tillack, writes Stephen Gardner. This is despite last week's European Court of Human Rights ruling that Belgian police were wrong in 2002 to detain the German reporter and confiscate his files, following wholly unsubstantiated allegations of bribery made by OLAF.

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The European Court of Auditors has refused to sign off the EU's 2006 accounts. No surprise there – it's the unlucky thirteenth year in a row, writes Stephen Gardner. But this year the court's judgement has come hot on the heels of another court judgement, that of the EU's civil service tribunal on the Commission's former chief accountant, Marta Andreasen.

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The European Parliament is fighting a rearguard action against the EU Ombudsman, who wants it to publish details of expenses payments to MEPs, writes Stephen Gardner. Unlike salaries, which are paid by the MEP's home country, expenses come out of the Parliament's account. MEPs themselves monitor the payments via the Parliament's budgetary control committee.

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It is becoming increasingly apparent that the EU budget review launched by the European Commission earlier this year will be largely cosmetic, writes Stephen Gardner. It was Tony Blair who secured in 2005 a promise to carry out a review, as part of a deal on EU spending plans, which are fixed until 2013.

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The European Commission is in the middle of a transparency drive. So it is keen to keep quiet about a letter sent to the Swedish authorities early in October demanding an explanation for the release of sensitive information about an authorisation application for a genetically-modified crop. The Commission has given Sweden two months to respond. Legal action could follow, writes Stephen Gardner.

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Readers may be surprised to hear that the UK has already agreed the EU Reform Treaty (AKA the EU Constitution), writes Stephen Gardner. Or at least the UK government legal service has rubber-stamped it. All that remains now is for Gordon Brown and his peers from other member states to achieve political agreement.

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