Access Info Europe, a Madrid-based non-governmental organisation, has launched a campaign for access to full information on European Union (EU) commissioners’ travel expenses.
The NGO urges citizens to participate in the ongoing campaign to request for the 2016 travel expenses of the 28 European Commissioners.
The Executive Director of Access Info, Helen Darbishire, said “With this campaign, we are mobilising members of the public to help break the secrecy about how European citizens’ taxes are being used on official travel.”
The campaign came into existence after the discovery that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker spent £63,126 on air fare to Turkey for the G20.
The Executive Director also stated that her first requests for this information were rejected on the grounds that the EU is protecting the privacy of the Commissioners.
Within two days of the launch of the public campaign a total of 168 requests were submitted by a total of 119 people from across Europe for Access to the 2016 travel expenses spent by 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,” he added.
Access Info’s made further requests for copies of the contract signed with private travel companies, including providers of air service which was denied by the commission on the ground of protecting commercial interests.
In reacting to proactive disclosure of spending public funds on official travel, an EU official said “the rule is quite simple: you have to take every time the cheapest travel option.” Access Info raises the question on whether that is really the case.
Andreas Pavlou also noted that Vice President of the commission Timmermans has stated that: “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.