Thursday

3rd Dec 2020

Van Rompuy used official EU cars to drive family to Paris

  • EU official car licence plate (Photo: EUobserver)

European Union Council President Herman Van Rompuy used the EU's official cars to drive himself and nine members of his family from Brussels to Paris as part of their summer holiday, EUobserver has learnt.

During the August break this year, the Belgian former prime minister used the Council's chauffeur-driven official car service to take himself and his wife, his children and two grand-children all the way from the EU capital to Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport and back, according to an institutional source.

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The president's spokesman, Dirk De Backer, confirmed to this website that the trip took place.

"The president and his family went on holiday via Paris. The transport there was done by protected car," he said.

But Mr De Backer stresses that the use of such official vehicles is normal for such a high-level public figure.

"Let's put this in context: Just because the president goes on holiday does not mean he is no longer the president, requiring the same level of protection," he continued. "Protection is applied all year round."

"This was done as it was required by the security services of the Council to maintain what is called a 'chain of protection'."

"This means that they do not want any luggage sent apart from him and, secondly, that members of the family travel together with him."

"And this does not happen all the time. He is not going on a holiday every day," he continued, adding that this has so far only occurred once, but that such use of official cars will occur again in the future when Mr Van Rompuy holidays with his family. "It happens once a year."

It takes roughly three hours to make the 300-kilometre trip from Brussels to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Mr de Backer did not know the full cost of the excursion, but reckoned it amounted to around €50.

"It's about 500 kilometres from here to there. At 10 litres per hundred kilometres and a euro per litre, that's just €50. You can do the mathematics."

However, this security protocol should raise eyebrows across the road from the Council building. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso would never be allowed to make such use of official cars, according to a commission official.

"There are strict rules for commissioners taking drivers on a mission outside Belgium and on private use of cars. Using chauffeurs and cars for family trips is not permitted," the official told this website.

The European Parliament's rules also do not permit its president, Jerzy Buzek, to use the official cars for such activities.

"The official cars can only be used for the transport link to and from work," said a spokesperson for the European Parliament. "They are definitely not for going shopping or taking your family on holiday or that kind of stuff."

Mr Van Rompuy is also enjoying a privilege that when he was prime minister of Belgium he was denied.

According to Dominique Dehaene, spokesman for the current prime minister, Yves Leterme, Belgian prime ministers are not allowed to use official cars to transport family members on holiday either, "and Mr Leterme surely has never done that."

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