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16th Feb 2019

Investigation

Barroso tops commission travel expenses in 2012

EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso's travel expenses in 2012 were almost three times as high as those of foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The EU commissioners' expenses for 2012 and 2013 were released by the EU commission following a freedom of information request filed by EUobserver. The correspondence and figures can be found here.

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According to the figures released by the secretary general of the EU commission, Catherine Day, Barroso's travel expenses in 2012 amounted to €649,336.72, more than double the expenses he filed in 2013.

He was followed by Ashton, with €280,962.69 and development commissioner Andris Piebalgs, with €202,406.94.

In 2013, Ashton ranked first, with €468.728,77, followed by Barroso (€262.058,89) and Piebalgs (€235.343,42).

Another jet-setter, with expenses above €100,000 a year, was economics commissioner Olli Rehn, who in 2012 and 2013 was still battling with the eurocrisis and travelling to capitals to secure bailout payments for the troubled southern economies.

Italy's industry commissioner Antonio Tajani also travelled for more than €100,000 a year, as did the commissioners for energy, trade, humanitarian aid, neighbourhood and enlargement, regional policy and climate change.

At the other end of the scale is transport commissioner Siim Kallas, who only spent €40,364.01 in 2012 and Croatia's Neven Mimica, who joined the commission only in July 2013 and spent 27.695,89 on travels that year.

In total, EU commissioners spent €3.4 million on travelling in 2012 and €3.3 million the following year.

Day refused to release a more detailed account of the expenses citing privacy concerns and a "disproportionate administrative burden" for the commission to process and blacken out the personal details in over 1000 mission cost documents per year.

A Barroso spokesman said that 2012 was a "particularly intense year regarding international commitments of the president".

He cited G8 and Nato summits in the US which were done in one go to save costs, a G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico coupled with an EU-Mexico summit, a climate summit in Rio de Janeiro, the UN general assembly in New York, as well as other summits in Asia and Russia.

Even though the EU is represented by both Barroso and EU council chief Herman Van Rompuy at all international summits abroad, the spokesman said Barroso travels on his own, on commercial airlines.

Van Rompuy, as a former Belgian prime minister, can still use the Belgian airforce plane available for state dignitaries. But the spokesman said he was not aware of them travelling together on any of these big international trips.

Apart from international meetings, Barroso also went to other destinations in 2012.

Early July 2012, he went to Israel and Palestine, despite Ashton - the foreign policy chief - going there twice that year. Later in July, he joined Piebalgs on a trip to Tanzania in July, in order to "strengthen political dialogue and launch major poverty reduction programmes".

Long weekends in Portugal - Barroso's home country - are also listed in the EU commission's weekly agendas for 2012.

On Friday, 17 February 2012, for instance, Barroso delivered a speech at the Catholic University of Lisbon. He returned to his home city one month later, on 23 March, also on a Friday. On Monday, 1 October 2012, the calendar again notes that Barroso is in Lisbon, attending the launch of "Social Innovation prize Diogo Vasconcelos".

For her part, Ashton went on 31 missions in 2012 and on 35 the following year.

"Obviously these missions vary in terms of length and destinations and therefore costs. What is common to them is aiming to keep the costs as low as possible," her spokeswoman Maja Kocijancik told this website.

EUobserver understands that unlike Barroso, Ashton sometimes travels on Van Rompuy's plane, when it can be arranged.

Money for guests

EUobserver also asked for the 'representation' costs of all EU commissioners in 2012 and 2013, meaning the costs related to guests invited to the commissioners' offices or to the college of commissioners as a whole.

The college of commissioners has the highest figure, mostly for luncheons with other governments which come to visit the EU commission: €139,790.49 in 2012 and €98,837.21 the following year.

Individually, Barroso again comes first for meetings, often hosting several in one day. On 24 January 2012, he received Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban and Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament. Such meetings accounted for €70,647.96 in 2012, almost double as much as in 2013 (€39,933.25).

The second-highest spender when it comes to 'representation costs' last year was Italian commissioner Tajani, who is listed with €20,552.18.

For 2012, German energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger comes in second with €23,742.25, followed by Estonian transport commissioner Kallas (€23,027.22) and Tajani (€22,295.57) who are all ahead of Ashton (€21,021.96). In 2013, Ashton spent even less - just €6,446.61 - on representation costs.

A low spender is Malta's Tonio Borg, who replaced John Dalli as health commissioner in November 2012, and only claimed €11.60 for that year and €2,939.89 in 2013. Cypriot education minister Androulla Vassiliou also ran up few such costs, accounting for €1,547.33 in 2012 and €1,854.60 the following year.

EU officials must slash expenses, Brussels warns

The European Commission has said EU institutions should show solidarity with crisis-hit EU citizens by, for example, sending fewer staff on foreign trips. But drastic cuts, such as scrapping EU agencies, are not foreseen.

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