15 JUN 2011
Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, has hit back at criticism of the size of the EU's delegation on the Pacific island of Fiji.
Ashton came under fire after PublicServiceEurope.com revealed on June 9 that her External Action Service and the European Commission employ 33 people in Fiji's capital Suva at a total cost of around €3m. The island has a population of 850,000 and a GDP per capita of €3,000. The story, which was later picked up by national media in the UK, came to light as a result of a question posed by the Italian MEP Lorenzo Fontana.
Nigel Farage, leader of the eurosceptic UK Independence Party, told PublicServiceEurope.com: "I wonder why so many people are needed on that idyllic paradise South Pacific island. 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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Our men in Fiji on £3m a year