Updated | Spendthrift EU Commissioners, but Maltese Karmenu Vella bucks the trend on air taxis

Maltese Commissioner Karmenu Vella has spent far less than the average on the air taxi expenses revealed in a Freedom of Information request

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s ‘foreign minister’, is more likely to need air taxis than environment commissioner Karmenu Vella
Federica Mogherini, the EU’s ‘foreign minister’, is more likely to need air taxis than environment commissioner Karmenu Vella

A three-year bid by the transparency NGO Access Info Europe to gain access to the financial reports of EU Commissioners’ travel missions, has revealed some egregious cases of inflated travel expenses.

The use of the "air taxi", totalling €25,000, was among almost €500,000 in EU commissioners' transport and hotel bills during January and February 2016.

The data for January and February 2016 shows that the 28 commissioners travelled on 261 official missions, visiting 26 member states and 23 countries outside the EU, typically lasting no longer than 2 days in six out of 10 cases: total cost, €492,249 – an average of €8,790 per month.

But the analysis of the 261 missions shows that the European Commission is actually economical about its travel budget. Many nights spent less than €200, and during almost five missions, Commissioners paid more than €500 for a hotel room per night.

Indeed it was a visit to Baku, Azerbaijan costing €75,000 that was the most expensive trip, made by foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.

The Commission has that said such “air taxis” can be used if no commercial flights are available that fit a commissioner’s schedule.

The other expensive trips listed by Politico included European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s two-day visit to Rome in February 2016, which cost €27,000, and a trip to a series of countries, including Somalia and Turkey, by Christos Stylianides, the commissioner for humanitarian aid, for a total of €11,000.

However, Maltese commissioner Karmenu Vella bucks the trend of air taxi expenses… surely an indication that his environment, maritime and fisheries portfolio requires less emergency travel than Juncker or Mogherini.

PDF of Karmenu Vella's expenses declarations here

Vella had the second-highest number of missions – 13 (the highest was Marianne Thyssen’s 16 trips in those two months) – and spent a total of €12,291: an average of €945 per mission, and far less than the €1,886 average for each commissioner.

The European Commission has defended its spending by holding that it was done within EU rules. Mina Andreeva, a commission spokeswoman, said the use of air taxis was only allowed where commercial flights were either not available or their flight plans did not fit in with a commissioner’s agenda. Security concerns would also allow the chartering of a private plane under commission rules.

In Juncker’s case, Andreeva said there had been “no available commercial plane to fit the president’s agenda” in Italy, where he met the Italian president and prime minister, among other dignitaries. She stressed the €2,927 per person cost of the flight.

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