9 JUN 2011
Does the European Union need a larger delegation in Fiji than in London, asks Justin Stares.
The country has a population of just 850,000. The GDP per capita is €3,000, and the size of the EU delegation is 33. Welcome to Fiji, the Pacific archipelago boasting dozens of uninhabited islands of outstanding natural beauty.
Correspondence between an Italian Euro MP and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has revealed that the European taxpayer is today forking out €1.7 million a year in salaries alone - for ex-pats posted to the newly formed European External Action Service delegation in Fiji. When you factor in "infrastructure and other costs", along with the no doubt much lower salaries of an unspecified number of "local agents" - the total annual cost of the EEAS delegation in Fiji last year was precisely €3,146,930. There are nine full-time diplomats.
Alongside this far-flung branch of the EU diplomatic corps work another 24 staff officially employed by the European Commission. They also theoretically answer to Ashton, given that she is commission vice president. In all, therefore, Brussels is represented in Fiji by at least 33 officials; there are more hard-working EU officials in the Fijian capital Suva than there are representing the commission in London.
In addition to Fiji, staff in Suva also take care of what must be strenuous diplomatic ties and trade relations with other Pacific nations such as the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Nauru, the Republic of Palau, the Cook islands and Niue. "I wonder why so many people are needed on that idyllic paradise South Pacific island," said UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage when talking to PublicServiceEurope.com. "There is no way that Cathy Ashton needs such a large presence. After all there are only 30 people working in London for the commission, but in Suva they have 33. And €3m for internal EU admin in Fiji is absurd, just absurd."
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