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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

EU expenses reveal Commission president Juncker spent £24,000 on single flight

The president of the European Commission claimed sum for a private flight to Rome

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker spent tens of thousands of pounds on flights while on EU business
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker spent tens of thousands of pounds on flights while on EU business

The European Union has been rocked by an expenses scandal after it emerged that senior officials had claimed £500,000 (Dh2.39m) back for travel in just two months during early 2016 – working out at around £1,700 for each trip.

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the high representative of the Union for foreign affairs and security policy, Federica Mogherini, are reported by the Daily Telegraph to have spent tens of thousands of euros on hiring private jets and staying in hotels.

The figures – which came out after a three-year delay described as “Kafkaesque” by Helen Darbishire, executive director of Access Info Europe, who fought to have the information released – show that almost £100,000 was spent by the EU commissioning planes which were referred to by the Union as ‘air taxis’.

It is claimed by transparency campaigners – who are threatening legal action to have the full scale of the spending revealed - that these sums could just be “the tip of the iceberg” and that the actual total could run into millions of euros.

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The former leader of Ukip, Nigel Farage, told the newspaper: “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.”

Mr Juncker was revealed to have spent £24,000 on a two-day trip to Rome: only £450 of this was for his hotel, which means that the remaining £23,500 went on flights for himself and his entourage. The Commission allows senior staff to charter planes when no commercial flights are available that are considered to pass security standards.

A further £57,000 was laid out for a charter flight back from the G20 summit in Turkey in 2015 for Mr Juncker and his entourage because no acceptable alternative travel arrangements could be made.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Ms Mogherini claimed £67,000 for a visit to the Azerbaijan capital, Baku.

With the UK government mulling over a Brexit ‘divorce bill’ payment of £36 billion bill, it’s unfortunate timing for the Commission. Eurosceptic members of the Conservative party reacted with fury at the weekend after the Sunday Telegraph revealed that these moves were afoot.

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

“The Commission still doesn’t get it, they are making exorbitant ­demands for money, like the divorce bill, only to splash the cash on wasteful spending and out-of-touch perks.”

A senior Tory minister added: “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.”