Calls by EU foreign affairs supremo for a £23 million increase in the budget of her already bloated diplomatic service were criticised today by a Conservative MEP. Marina Yannakoudakis, Member of the European Parliament for London, called the budget increase “shameful” when she had identified nearly £14 million wasted by the service on activities such as school visits and film festivals, audiovisual products and all-expenses paid holidays in Thailand to provide “relief for staff”.

Baroness Ashton’s demand for a 5.7% increase to her budget is part of EU calls for a 6.8% increase in its budget, an increase which would cost EU taxpayers a further £7.2 billion.

In a series of official parliamentary questions, Mrs. Yannakoudakis asked Baroness Ashton’s service how it spends its budget for information activities as well as so-called “respite trips” for staff posted overseas.

The answers showed that the EU External Action Service (EEAS) was spending £9.7 million (€11.9m) a year on information and communication, including websites and junkets for journalists. The EEAS also revealed that it had provided financial support to Euronews to broadcast a version of the channel in Farsi. The European Union already contributes millions of euros each year to Euronews including paying for airtime to secure favourable coverage of its policies.

On respite trips, the EEAS admitted to spending £4 million (€5m) a year on sending officials on holidays of between six and fifteen days a year to exotic locations including the Thai resort of Phuket. The trips were described by Ashton’s service as “an incentive as well as a compensation for hardship postings.”

Marina Yannakoudakis MEP said: “The External Action Service was meant to be budget neutral and yet the much-criticised Baroness Ashton continues to ask for inflation-busting increases.

“The EU has tried to justify these unacceptable rises by claiming that money spent at the EU level is spent more efficiently. How can they have the nerve to claim this when money is being wasted on tropical holidays and propaganda? It’s shameful, it must stop and Baroness Ashton must withdraw her request for an increase to her budget.”

Full question and answer on respite trips
Full question and answer on information