Members of the European Parliament spent more than $6.2 million on luxury trips abroad in the first half of 2015 alone, it has been revealed. The taxpayer cash was splurged on five-star hotels and first-class travel to exotic destinations, and comes on top of generous salaries and expenses.
€4,890,385 of taxpayer cash was spent between January and June of last year on ferrying members to interparliamentary meetings in Latin America, Fiji, the Middle East and eastern Europe. Half of the cost went on MEPs’ expenses; another €685,000 was spent on officials’ expenses, and over a million euros paid for interpreters to facilitate the meetings.
The sum accounted for 87 per cent of the parliament’s expected annual budget for such trips but, rather than rein in their excesses, a note on the parliament’s budgetary documents explains that “therefore, a transfer from the contingency reserve … will be necessary” to pay for members attending similar meetings in the latter half of 2015.
Astonishingly, a five-day meeting between delegates from the European Parliament and those from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group delegation held in Fiji in June 2015 accounted for 24 per cent of the members’ travel expenses alone. Four British MEPs attended the meeting: the Liberal Democrat’s sole representative in the parliament, Catherine Bearder, and Labour MEPs Neena Gill, David Martin and Derek Vaughan.
Another €1,002,528 was spent on committee meetings, such as the Committee on International Trade’s trip to Vietnam’s Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on 6 to 10 April 2015, during which MEPs including Ms. Bearder stayed in the five star Hotel Sofitel Saigon Plaza; and the Fisheries Committee trip to Azores, Portugal, from 7 to 10 April 2015, where MEPs stayed in luxurious four star hotels.
Ms. Bearder also racked up the most trips during the last parliamentary term, between 2009 and 2014, heading off to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Surinam; Samoa; Denmark; Togo; Kinshasa; Congo; and Luanda, Angola. She is voting to remain in the European Union (EU).
The second most avid junketer in the last parliament was Labour’s David Martin, who visited Surinam; Denmark; Lusaka; Zambia; Tenerife; Trinidad and Barbados.
The figure does not, however, include the European Parliamentary groups’ ‘study days’ – meetings of the parliamentary groupings, which typically take place in European destinations, during which Members and their staff enjoy sightseeing tours and hospitality. As these trips are organised by the parliamentary groups rather than the European Parliament, figures on these trips are notoriously difficult to come by.
It also comes in addition to the generous salary of €6,400.04 a month (£4,912.07) after tax, plus £239.20 a day for turning up to the parliament.
The information was uncovered by the UK Independence Party’s MEPs, who don’t take part in foreign junkets. UKIP justice spokesman Diane James MEP said the figures were evidence that the EU is merely a “racket to extort money” from taxpayers to the benefit of eurocrats. She has urged voters in tomorrow’s referendum to therefore think carefully before heading to the polls.
“Ordinary people will be shocked that their MEPs live such a salubrious life at the taxpayers expense,” Ms. James said.
“The Eurocrats attitude seems to be ‘I play while the simple people can pay and obey the laws that I make.’
“Before voting tomorrow, voters and taxpayers should realise that the EU is a racket to extort money from the taxpayer for the benefit our current rulers — the Commissioners and MEPs. I am certain that MEPs don’t have to travel so often and stay in 5-star hotels, they are just milking the taxpayer in typical EU fashion.”
She added: “Gorbachev was correct when he suggested that the EU’s political union was trying to replicate that of [the] Soviet Union. The UK needs to get out of this EU racket and take back control of its money, its laws and its borders.
“This will be better for our democracy and for our pocket.”