Why Is EU Diplomatic Corps So Costly?Expert Voices |Author: Andrey Kovatchev | August 26, 2010, Thursday // 10:04| views
By Andrey Kovatchev, member of the European Parliament from Bulgaria’s ruling party GERB, chairman of the Bulgarian delegation in the European Peoples' Party (EPP) group*
It emerged these days that more than 100 diplomats, who will be working in the newly set European diplomatic service, headed by British baroness Catherine Ashton, will earn more than EUR 165.000 per year, while the bill for employing 80 new officials in the start up phase of the body will be EUR 9.5 M.
When it comes to European bureaucrats’ pay, it is only natural that we, as citizens and tax-payers, should be on the alert so that the EU budget is being spent in the most efficient way and funds misuse, which inevitably undermines the idea of united Europe, is ruled out.
We should not forget however that democracy costs money, but not as much as dictatorship or war. When asked why we need the European Union, Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg's prime minister, once said one had to go to Verdun and see the endless field, dotted with tombs of soldiers, who died in the wars, to understand the answer to this question. Unfortunately the examples of bloody conflicts in Europe are numerous.
In the past European countries allotted budgets for armies and fighting wars. Now the European Union is maintaining an army of diplomats, who defend the interests of all member states. Just like the European Commissioners and European Parliament members, these diplomats represent all European citizens, not just the citizens of the country, where they come from. It is logical that their responsibilities are much bigger, since they represent 500 million European citizens.
For me the most important question is what we expect the European Union to be: a strong economic and political union, or as it is at the moment, an economic giant, but a political dwarf.
The Lisbon Treaty created the European External Action Service (EEAS), whose more than 135 missions around the world will be obliged to defend the interests of the citizens from all 27 member states. This service, just like all other institutions in the European Union, is based on the principle of transparency and accountability.
Catherine Ashton and the European External Action Service (EEAS) that she will head are obliged to report to the European Parliament on all financial and staff matters of the service, which has to ensure adequate geographical balance and a meaningful presence of nationals from all member states.
The European Parliament insisted that the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and the European External Action Service are politically accountable to it, as it is the only European body elected directly by the European citizens.
These diplomats are expected to make sure that the European Union is not only the biggest donor of funds for development and humanitarian aid, but also that its voice is heard in the hottest spots and on the most important issues across the world.
Besides, the European Parliament insists that the new service undergoes a revision in 2013 and should it be deemed necessary, should it turn out that the service is not efficient the way is it meant to operate now, all due changes are made. In my capacity of a member of the Foreing Affairs committee of the European Parliament I have been following the creation of EEAS and vow to critically assess and monitor the results of the work of the new high-paid European diplomats.
*Mr Kovatchev provided this article for publication by Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) on its website and in its newspapers, Sofia Morning News and Sofia Weekly
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