In an answer to a parliamentary question submitted by London Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis, the European Parliament revealed today that it had spent over £9 million (
€11.1 million) on EU orchestras.

EU support to thirteen separate orchestras cost the taxpayer at least £9 million over the past five years with spending highest in the years following the economic crisis. Last year alone, the EU spent over £2.5 million pounds (€3.15 million) on what it terms cultural “ambassadors”.

The European Commission also admitted that it invited the orchestras to perform at EU events including information days and cultural forums. The Commission estimated the cost of these performances at around £830 (€1,000) per artist. A full-size orchestra consists of about 100 players which would bring costs to an additional £83,000 per performance. These costs are outside the £9 million figure quoted by the European Commission.

Marina Yannakoudakis MEP said “Spending millions of pounds every year on orchestras which are used to trumpet the achievements of the European Union is an outrage.”
“I am particularly angry to see spending on the rise during a period when ordinary Europeans are suffering during a prolonged economic downturn. To put it another way, the EU is literally fiddling while Athens burns.”

“These costs fly in the face of common sense. How can the European Union justify spending thousands of pounds each year on the European Union Chamber Orchestra when it gives a similar amount to the Chamber Orchestra of Europe? This is madness!”

“The EU has lost its focus. It needs to concentrate urgently on returning the EU to growth. A thriving cultural sector can produce economic expansion, but the EU is misusing culture to promote a European identity. I call on the European Commission to reconsider its use of Culture Programme funds at a time of recession and to immediately root out duplication and waste in the subsidies it provides to EU orchestras.”