Cathy Ashton doesn’t know how much of €3 million entertaining budget is spent on Europe Day
Last month, EU diplomats the world over were passing round the Ferrero Rocher and raising glasses of champagne to the European project as the EU marked its “national day” of 9 May. Yet, at a time of austerity, EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Catherine Ashton does not know how much her diplomats are spending on receptions to celebrate “Europe Day”.
In an answer to a parliamentary question submitted by London Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis, Ashton replied that it was “not possible to provide details of expenditure specifically for Europe Day celebrations”.
Ashton’s office did release figures on the “representation allowance” for EU diplomats posted abroad. The wining-and-dining budget for 2012 was just over €3 million (£2.48 million). Guidelines recommend that no more than 30% of the annual budget should be used to celebrate Europe Day.
The answer from the European External Action Service claimed that it was “conscious of the severe economic climate” and had “been making efforts to reduce expenditure”.
Marina Yannakoudakis said; “This year’s Europe Day took place in a week when the Greeks and the French voted against austerity measures imposed by Brussels.
“As the French and the Greeks reject austerity again, the European External Action Service should remain mindful of the sacrifices which are being made across the EU.
“It is unacceptable that the European External Action Service should be spending up to €1 million on celebrating Europe Day. It is even worse that Cathy Ashton cannot provide accurate figures of how the money is being spent. This is a disgrace. No wonder auditors cannot sign off on the EU’s accounts.”
Earlier this year Marina submitted a question which revealed that the EU External Action Service was spending €11.9 million (£9.6 million) a year on information and communication.
Marina has also submitted a parliamentary question on the European Commission’s spending on Europe Day, but has yet to receive a response in spite of the deadline for a reply having elapsed.