For Europhiles, EU waste is like one of the flaws in a lovable old grandpa: inexplicable and irritating at times, but essentially unimportant and easy to brush over, if you don’t think about it too much. There is even an old joke about EU waste:
A village in Spain was twinned with another in Greece.
The Greek village’s mayor visited his Spanish counterpart and could not believe the splendour of his mansion. How on earth, he asked, could the mayor of a small Spanish village afford such a place? “Do you see that bridge?” the Spanish mayor explained.
“The European Union gave us a grant to build a four-lane bridge. But, by building a single-lane bridge with traffic lights at either end, I could use the money saved to build this house.”
The next year the Spanish mayor visited his Greek counterpart.
He was stunned by the Greek mayor’s new house, which had marble floors, gold taps, and exquisite wallpaper.
“How could you possibly afford this?” he asked the Greek mayor. The Greek said: “Do you see that bridge over there?” The Spaniard replied: “No.”
Sadly, the problem of EU waste is all too real – and it is taxpayers’ hard-earned cash that is being wasted. Below are 10 of the top examples of EU waste.
- Common Agricultural Policy. The mother of all examples of EU waste, the Common Agricultural Policy still accounts for roughly 40% of the entire EU budget of £114 billion, meaning that approximately £46 billion was spent on rural subsidies last year, keeping poor African farmers locked out of the European market and raising the price of the average Brit’s weekly shop.
- Unused airports. Between 2000 and 2013, the EU spent £1 billion on airport infrastructure that was never used, according to the European Court of Auditors, while 55% of the total of £3.6 billion was found to have returned “poor value for money”.
- Wages. No fewer than 10,000 Brussels bureaucrats earn more than our Prime Minister’s salary of £142,500, with all the five-star perks to go along with it. Are they doing a good job? Well, one way to check is…
- EU regulations. Though not a directly quantifiable cost, one of the biggest burdens on Britain’s economy of EU membership is the vast plethora of red tape. According to Open Europe, the think tank, just the top 100 EU regulations cost this country £33.3 billion in 2014.
- A lift that goes nowhere. The EU spent £1.5 million of taxpayers’ money on a lift in Sutera, Sicily – but, with annual operating costs of £75,000, the council refuses to operate it, meaning that the shiny structure stays immobile, with local speculation that the proceeds went straight into mafia pockets.
- A mafia motorway. The lift isn’t alone: in 2012, the Italian government repaid £307 million to the EU after it was discovered that an EU-funded motorway scheme simply lined the pockets of local mafiosi.
- An untraceable Egyptian “human rights programme”. Between 2007 and 2012, the EU gave £840 million to this programme, but the Egyptian government published no figures on where the money was spent.
- A blogging donkey. To help the “integration” of European peoples, a real-life donkey travelled around Europe, ‘blogging’ about its experiences as it went – at a cost of £6.3 million.
- A propaganda marathon. The EU spent £358,000 advertising and organising a ‘Marathon for a United Europe’ to “promote and support European citizen ideals”.
- First-class weekly travel between Brussels and Strasbourg. One of the most famous examples of EU waste, every week its parliamentarians, commissioners, hangers-on and truckloads of documents travel hundreds of miles, at a cost of £150 million a year.
All this waste adds up. In 2014, the EU’s own Court of Auditors refused to sign off the accounts for the 20th year in succession, having found that a full £5.5 billion of public expenditure could not be accounted for – though even this could be a significant understatement, according to a 2013 House of Lords report that suggested that the level of fraud could be more than 10 times worse.
The EU is so in denial about its problems, and so keen to prevent criticism, that, when its own chief accountant, Marta Andreasen, claimed in 2004 that the EU’s budget was wide open to fraud and abuse, she was promptly sacked.
When it comes to vanity projects, the EU makes military dictatorships look humble.