• Marta Andreasen, the courageous former chief accountant of the European Union, will not give up. In 2002 she was fired for refusing to sign off on the European Commission’s accounts. But she has continued to hold the EU politicians and eurocrats in Brussels to account, exposing fraud, waste and corruption on her website. In 2009 she was elected as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), an office she uses to shine the light of exposure on the dark dealings of the EU’s priviledged politicians and civil “servants.” In a January 26 article entitled “MEPs should hang heads in shame over ‘jollies,’” published by Public ServiceEurope, Ms. Andreasen exposed recent records of lavish spending by the eurocrats for foreign junkets.
“Members of the European Parliament are happy to preach austerity, but do not expect them to cut back on luxurious foreign trips,” she says. “The European Parliament's central office is notorious for being opaque when it comes to divulging costs for fear of bringing their Institution into disrepute,” notes Andreasen. “Whatever possessed them to become so forthcoming when asked what were the most expensive delegation trips for 2010, we will never know. Delegations, for those of you that do not know, are groups of MEPs that travel to various points around the globe under the auspices of building better relations with parliamentarians and other political organisations.”
“In reality,” reports Andreasen, “and barring a small number of MEPs genuinely committed to a region or country's wellbeing, they are treated as a jolly by all and sundry. Some MEPs switch delegations in order to see as much of the world as possible. Fancy an all-expenses trip to the Seychelles? Join the African-Caribbean-Pacific Delegation. Rio or Buenos Aires more up your street? That would be Eurolat then. I am told that there is, of course, some work involved — but usually no more than a day or two. The rest is made up of trips around the country, visiting points of 'political' interest.”
Let the Good Time Jollies Roll
Marta Andreasen's article provides a couple of accounting tables listing the delegation destination, number of days spent, number of MEPs, total cost, cost per MEP and cost per MEP and day. She reports:
The real cost of these jollies have finally been revealed. The figures came to light in a written response from the European Parliament central secretariat to members of the Budgetary Control Committee, of which I am a member. All the other political parties and groups were privy to the same information as I was, but I am the only MEP to date to raise the costs in public. Why? Because the UKIP is the only party in the EP that refuses to go on delegation trips as point of principle. I nearly choked on my coffee when I saw that one trip of the EP's African-Caribbean-Pacific delegation to Kinshasa over eight days cost taxpayers more than €1m for 50 MEPs, or a massive €20,000 [$26,300] per MEP.
The same delegation took a trip to Tenerife, which cost €11,000 [$14,469] per MEP over seven days for 64 MEPs. To illustrate the extravagance of these trips, an eight-night stay in a junior suite in the Ritz Hotel London is a snip at an eye-watering €5,400. Even as the financial crisis was starting to bite hard in 2010 — MEPs were rewarding themselves with self-serving and largely pointless delegation visits to Mexico, the Seychelles and the Democratic Republic of Congo. And even within the European Union, the costs of trips were astronomical. One can only imagine the opulence that greeted MEPs in Rome, where a seven-night trip broke down to each MEP spending €1,600 per day. Once again, it seems MEPs are happy to preach austerity to anyone but themselves. These figures are an appalling abuse of taxpayers' money. They should hang their heads in shame.
Shame, however, seems to be a foreign concept to the exalted political class in Brussels that run the EU, a constantly morphing and expanding entity referred to euphemistically by EU insiders as “The Project.” Fraud, waste, corruption, and accounting “irregularities” are so endemic to EU institutions that the EU’s own Court of Auditors has refused for the past 17 years to give the EU’s books a clean bill of health. Repeated exposure of the problem and the resulting public outcry has brought repeated promises of reform — but little of substantive reforming action. Marta Andreason’s book, Brussels Laid Bare, is a double-barreled, no-holds-barred exposé of the fraud and corruption she uncovered in the European Commission’s books and the political buzz saw she ran into when she refused to turn a blind eye to the unethical and criminal conduct so rampant in the Brussels machine. (The full text of her book is available online here.)