Monday, 22 December 2008

Free Christmas ride home for EU workers

The European Union’s institutions in Brussels are squandering millions of Pounds of British taxpayers’ money by paying for their employees’ Christmas travel expenses at a time of economic crisis.

Hans-Peter Martin, an independent member of the European Parliament from Austria, wrote to the press denouncing this “shocking privilege.”

“The money would be better spent financing meaningful social projects,” Martin wrote.

Last year, the European Commission and the European Council jointly spent just under 47 million Euro (USD 65 million dollars) to pay for the Christmas travel arrangements of their 22,800-odd employees. Once a year, EU employees are given a lump sum covering their travel arrangements. The amount varies according to how far they need to go to reach their country of origin. The payment also covers their espouses and children, and no receipts need to be submitted, as long as the travelling takes place within the EU.

A spokeswoman for the commission said her office had already addressed such concerns to MEPs in February. “Like most international organisations or foreign services in the (EU’s) member states, the Commission pays staff a travel allowance once a year. This is foreseen in staff regulations,” said Valerie Rampi of the commission’s administrative unit.

Rampi said the amount spent by the commission, which employs about 20,000 people, totaled 42 million Euros in 2007, with the remaining amount being paid out by the council. This works out at about 2,100 Euro per employee. Any changes to the rule, in place since 2002, would have to be proposed by the Commission and approved by EU governments, and what do you think the chances of that is ?
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