Friday, 4 September 2009

EU diplomats costing us billions

The European Union has been accused of spreading a federal message around the globe via a network of embassies which cost taxpayers billions of pounds a year.

A survey by the Taxpayers' Alliance claims EU diplomats based in lavish residences are being publicly funded to the tune of £3.4 billion a year as part of an EU "Foreign Service".

The Alliance says the EU's own diplomatic service - which the European Commission says does not exist - "has quietly grown to effectively challenge the British Foreign Office around the globe".

The property portfolio of "EU embassies" is worth £55 million pounds, says the Alliance, while the occupants enjoy classic diplomatic perks, allowances, and even, in some cases, butlers and chauffeurs.

Dr Lee Rotherham, EU Policy Analyst at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "British taxpayers are funding EU diplomats to supplant our own Foreign Office around the world. The EU has its own agenda that is often in conflict with British national interests, but they are still pursuing it using our money.

"While the Foreign Office talks about the EU serving Britain's needs, well-paid employees of Brussels are promoting a country called Europe around the globe. It is astonishing that British ministers are still in denial about the way this harms our international standing"

A former UK Ambassador to Washington, Sir Antony Acland, said: "Members of the public will be surprised at just how active the EU's own diplomatic corps already is today. The EU Constitution in the form of the Treaty of Lisbon will take the process even further."

One Commission insider insisted: "There are no 'EU diplomats', just European Commission representatives pursuing contacts in the wide range of issues the Commission is responsible for, such as trade. They do not replace national diplomats and ambassadors."

But the report insists that the efforts of the Commission's delegates in more than 120 "ambassadorial residencies" around the world are progressively usurping the UK's "global standing", absorbing "huge amounts" of taxpayers' money in the process.

"Brussels has developed an identity on the world stage in its own right. The EU now has a budget of £3.4 billion a year to be spent on its international affairs programme, called the External Relations programme. This is distinct from its international development budget" says the report.

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