Madrid, 31 January 2017 – Following a massive public response to Access Info’s campaign to crowd source requests for Commissioners’ expenses, the organisation has written to Vice President Frans Timmermans calling for the data to be proactively published.
In under two days on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 January, a total of 119 people from across Europe submitted a total of 168 requests for access to the 2016 travel expenses claims of the 28 European Commissioners.
“The rapid response to this campaign demonstrates the huge public interest in getting this information into the public domain,” stated Andreas Pavlou, Access Info’s EU Researcher and Campaigner. “The sensible and efficient solution would be to publish all the data online in bulk and in machine-readable formats.”
The Commission has never proactively published the official travel costs and Access Info spent almost two years in back-and-forth requests and appeals to establish that this data would be released to the public after the Commission first tried to deny access to the documents on the rather remarkable grounds of protecting the privacy of the Commissioners. In spite of this situation, a Commission spokesperson told a journalist from Politico.eu on the topic, that “We are very transparent.”
Transparency around the spending of public funds on official travel by EU Commissioners has been a hot topic recently with questions raised around the spending by President Juncker on an air taxi to Turkey in 2015, as well as a ‘free’ flight that Commissioner Oettinger took to Hungary using a lobbyist’s private plane in 2016.
The reaction from the Commission to spending of public funds on official travel is that “the rule is quite simple: you have to take every time the cheapest travel option.” Access Info questions whether this is really the case, as clearly it might be appropriate for senior EU officials to take business class tickets at times, even when a cheaper option might be an overnight bus.
In a further twist to the story, the Commission denied Access Info access to the contracts signed with private travel companies, including those providing air taxi services, on the vague grounds of commercial interests. Working with The Good Lobby, Access Info has prepared a formal appeal (known as a “confirmatory application”) to challenge this denial.
Andreas Pavlou also noted that Vice President Timmermans has stated: “Transparency is one of the few tools we have to reconnect with very sceptical citizens.”
“In order to address concerns about lavish spending in Brussels, one obvious measure is be up front with details of how taxpayer’s funds are spent on basic activities such as travel by the Commissioners,” concluded Pavlou.
For more information, please contact:
Luisa Izuzquiza, Communications Officer | Access Info Europe
Andreas Pavlou, Campaigner and Researcher | Access Info Europe
Send an e-mail or call +34 913 656 558