Juncker Spent £24k of EU Money on Private Flight To Rome

Some scandalous levels of expenses emerged yesterday as the EU finally disclosed documents which show that senior officials have spent tens of thousands of pounds on private jets and luxury hotels. The figures give a small insight into where the UK’s huge contribution to the EU has really been going all these years.

Those embroiled include Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured above), the president of the European Commission, as well as the head of EU foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini.

The figures, published after three years of “Kafkaesque” delays, reveal that EU officials spent more than £90,000 on chartering planes which are described on their expense claims as “air taxis”.

The disclosures have echoes of the MPs’ expenses scandal exposed by The Daily Telegraph, which led to reforms of the British parliamentary system.

Campaigners said that the figures are just the “tip of the iceberg” and are now threatening legal action against the commission unless it releases travel expenses for all of last year.

The published expenses have also been stripped of any information that identifies hotels or itemised receipts – such as Mr. Juncker’s bar bills!!

The disclosures come as the UK considers paying Brussels a £36 billion bill to settle the Brexit divorce when it leaves the EU in 2019, a move which had already prompted a backlash from Conservative Eurosceptics.

A Government source said: “One of the many reasons why people voted for Brexit was Brussels’ love of lavish spending.

The expenses disclose how the commission spent nearly £500,000 of taxpayers’ money on travel expenses in just two months during early 2016, at an average cost of £1,700 a trip.

Mr Juncker spent £24,000 on a two-day trip to Rome for meetings with the Italian government.

His hotel cost him £450, meaning that the bulk of his bill was for the £23,500 for flights for himself and his entourage. The same flight with a budget airline would have cost around £150 per person.

The Commission’s code of conduct allows for the use of chartered planes when no commercial flights are available, if they do not fit into the commissioner’s agenda or for safety reasons.

The 28 commissioners have accommodation costs covered while abroad and receive a daily allowance to cover food if spending more than six hours out of Belgium. The per diem, which can be claimed without the need to produce any receipt, varies depending on the country being visited.

Bulgaria, the cheapest, has a maximum claim of £51. The UK and Denmark are the most expensive at £113.

The most expensive overnight stay listed on the expense claims was a £567 hotel room in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The figures were obtained by Access Info Europe, a Madrid-based campaign group, after a three-year battle.

Helen Darbishire, the organisation’s executive director and founder, was disappointed that three years after seeking disclosure the number of travel reports was so limited.

She said: “It’s been Kafkaesque. The pattern of resistance and obstruction has clear parallels with what happened with MPs’ expenses.”

A commission spokesman said Mr Juncker had made his trip by chartered plane because there had been “no available commercial plane to fit the president’s agenda” in Italy, where he met the Italian president and prime minister, among other dignitaries.

In addition to Mr Juncker’s £450 hotel stay in Rome he also claimed £135 as his total per diem payment.

As a group, the EU commissioners spent 467 nights outside Belgium, which is equivalent to eight nights per person per month.

During five of those trips hotel rooms costing more than £450 a night were booked.

The “ceiling” for hotel rooms for commissioners in the EU is £270.

Mr Juncker and his delegation also claimed £57,000 for a charter flight back from the G20 summit in Turkey in 2015 because the return trip could not be completed with a Belgian air force plane.

Ms Mogherini claimed £67,000 for a visit to Baku in Azerbaijan. The commission said “air taxis” were chartered 28 times in 2016, more than twice a month.

The travel is paid out of the EU budget, to which Britain contributes an estimated 12.5 per cent.

One senior Tory minister said: “This makes the case for reforms. It’s exactlywhy we’re leaving the European Union and why we need much more transparency when it comes to our money.

“Taxpayers across the European Union deserve better.”

Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, said: “Juncker spending €27,000 on a private jet at taxpayers’ expense is clearly over the top especially when many normal flights are available.

“I suppose these junket expenses are all part of the make-believe ‘Brexit bill’ which these commissioners have plucked out of thin air and are trying to extort from our government.”

Westmonster Dave is the editor of alt-politics.com

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