A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.




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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

What's More Expensive? The Royals or van Rompuy?

EU Presidents - they don't come cheap

When Prince William and Catherine Middleton announced their engagement, they probably knew that the media would go bonkers. What they didn't count on was the protest groups that have rallied around the royal banner in pursuit of a bit of publicity; the ever-present MAC and EDL conflict that has brought many an inner-city suburb to a standstill, anti-cuts demonstrators, and gay rights campaigners have lodged a petition to be the honoured guests of London's over-burdened taxpayers on the big day. The royal family might even welcome the appearance of European republicans - they're far less likely to get into a punch-up than radical Islamists or their street opposition, and, even if they do, have built up their relations with the authorities.

Hundreds of republican demonstrators from across Europe have arranged to meet in London through the British organisation Republic, who seek to take advantage of the royal wedding to raise their profile. They are protesting the taxpayers of Europe having to spend a fortune on supporting royals. I'm not going to go into republics versus monarchies here; I'll save that for the Guardian. But, it is worth noting that a republic - or, at least, a president - does not necessarily save money. And there is no better example of this than the EU itself.

The EU has three main presidents:

1) The President of the Commission, Jose Manuel Barosso, head of the EU's executive body
2) The President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, the man who 'presides' over our elected heads of state
3) The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, who keeps the MEPs in line

Only the latter is elected; the others are appointed. The people have no control over who fills these posts, just as they have no control over the monarchy. With that in mind, let's look at how much they cost the European taxpayer.

Barosso:

A basic salary of three hundred thousand euros
An accomodation allowance of fifty thousand euros
An allowance of one hundred and ninety thousand euros for three years
Travel expenses of seven hundred thousand euros
Presentational expenses (dinners) of three hundred thousand euros

van Rompuy:

A basic salary plus expenses of three hundred and sixty thousand euros
An accomodation allowance of forty thousand euros
A total cost of one and a half million euros
Has twenty-two staff that cost five and a half million euros
The Residence Palace is being renovated at a cost of three hundred million euros to accomodate the President and his offices

So, there you have it. I'm sorry I wasted your time going through the millions of pounds that Barosso goes through in salaries, expenses, and perks. Britain's contribution to the cost of the President's offices alone - £40 million - is the same amount that we spend on the entire royal family, which, according to the BBC, was £38 million in 2010.

The next time republicans and federalists - often the same people - complain about the costs of monarchy, perhaps they ought to take a look at the unaudited accounts of EU officials - if they can get them to publish them, that is.

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