EU’s €3.4bn for diplomacy is value for money

The Taxpayers’ Alliance, the right wing pressure group, has been dealing with EU questions with a report entitled “EU Diplomats.” The report’s author, Lee Rotherham, is a well known right-leaning eurosceptic, and the report departs in a well worn vein: anything the European Union does is about creating a state, and hence it must be wasteful. Of course this did not stop the eurosceptic press and blogs jumping on the bandwaggon and citing the report in recent days.

Let’s look at the numbers Rotherham comes up with. The headline figure is that the European Union spends €3.4 billion a year on External Actions. Set this in the context of the EU’s annual budget of €120 billion, itself less than the budget of the government of Sweden and indeed less than the cash paid out by the Department of Work and Pensions in benefits in the UK each year, it’s not as if the EU is spending vast quantites of money on its external activities. The money is also not spent on salaries as the Taxpayers’ Alliance imply with their intentionally vague wording; these funds are used for purposes such as strengthening democratic institutions in countries beyond Europe’s borders and for post-conflict reconstruction.

Indeed it has long been a priority for the UK government, and David Miliband in particular, that the European Union should be involved in dealing with practical matters that its Member States could not do alone. Given that the EU comprises 6 large countries and 21 small ones without major diplomatic corps, the rationale for the EU acting beyond Europe’s borders is clear.

The report also cites concerns about the level of pay officials working in the European Commission’s offices overseas receive. As has been clearly seen in the UK, public sector pay budgets are currently tight and a good case has to be made to maintain staffing numbers in the UK’s missions overseas. The EU must not be immune to similar pressure. With a new European Commissioner for External Relations (or High Representative for Foreign Policy should the Treaty of Nice be ratified) due to be appointed this autumn, an examination of staffing arrangements is undoubtedly needed.

6 Responses to “EU’s €3.4bn for diplomacy is value for money”

  1. Will Straw

    @jonworth on @leftfootfwd points to the flaws in Taxpayer Alliance report on EU diplomacy

  2. Clifford Singer

    RT @wdjstraw @jonworth on @leftfootfwd points to the flaws in Taxpayer Alliance report on EU diplomacy

  3. Robert Brown

    I am beginning to have a problem with the way these debates are being phrased. I am at fault as well. We always try to make the debate in terms of whether we should be in the EU or not, this plays into the hands of euro-sceptics because the EU is not popular.

    But this debate leads to nothing of value. We will not in the near future, under any foreseeable government, pull out of the EU. We have too much to lose and too much to gain. Not just in trade and the economy but in diplomacy, culture and social policy.

    Instead of entering into the debate about whether to get out of the EU, we should structure the debate differently. We should create a debate aboit the best way to make the EU more accountable, more democratic and most of all of greater benefit to European (including British) citizens. On this debate we hold the highground, because it is exactly what the Lisbon Treaty seeks to establish.

  4. Ben Wegg-Prosser

    Very smart & spot on RT @leftfootfwd Exposé of the Eurosceptic prejudices of Taxpayers Alliance by @jonworth –

  5. The Earl

    Robert Brown is wrong. Stop peddling the lie that Britain is better-off in the European Union.
    This article is also (predictably) wrong. We all know the EU is a leftwing racket, run for socialists by socialists.
    Don’t defend the EU, please.
    It is a meddling, bureaucratic, undemocratic institution that craves power for itself at the expense of member states’ governments.
    No wonder LeftFootForward supports it.

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