LONDON – European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker spent almost €25,000 (approximately £22600) on a private plane to take an EU delegation to Rome, an investigation into expenses has revealed.
The chartered flight – known as an “air taxi” – was just one part of almost €500,000 (approximately £452,000) EU commissioners spent on transport and hotels during January and February 2016.
The investigation, by Spanish-based pressure group Access Info Europe and Belgian magazine Knack, took almost three years to produce results after “Kafkaesque delays.”
The 28 EU commissioners have their accommodation and travel costs covered by expenses while on trips abroad and receive an allowance to cover food if they are away for more than six hours. The amount they can claim varies depending on which country they are visiting.
A commission spokesperson said that Juncker had made his trip by private plane to Rome because there had been “no available commercial plane to fit the president’s agenda.”
She said: “Being a member of the European Commission is a political function. Attending events is an integral part of the job. Commissioners are all over the world, ambassadors of Europe, including [in] their home country.”
Other expenses revealed include the head of EU foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, claiming €75,000 (approximately £67,000) on a trip to Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Access Info Europe’s executive director and founder Helen Darbishire told the Telegraph newspaper that it had been a struggle to get the expenses.
She said: “It’s been Kafkaesque. The pattern of resistance and obstruction has clear parallels with what happened with MPs’ expenses.
“I cannot see any rationale for not letting European taxpayers know how their money is being spent. The EU should be setting a gold-standard in terms of transparency.”
Former Ukip leader and MEP Nigel Farage said: “Juncker spending €26,000 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.”
The amount of EU money claimed in expenses by politicians in Brussels is the subject of an ongoing European Parliament investigation. Earlier this year BI revealed that former UKIP leader Paul Nuttall MEP was claiming expenses for office costs that were well in excess in the actual amount he was charged by landlords.