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Conservative MEPs defend taxpayer-funded trip to Croatia

PUBLISHED: 06:52 24 June 2014 | UPDATED: 10:42 24 June 2014

Geoffrey Van Orden MBE MEP

Geoffrey Van Orden MBE MEP

Photo Parlement Europeen

Eastern region Euro MPs defended a taxpayer-funded four-day “study” trip to Croatia last week, claiming important work was being done and it would have cost no more to hold it in Brussels.

Eastern region Euro MPs defended a taxpayer-funded four-day “study” trip to Croatia last week, claiming important work was being done and it would have cost no more to hold it in Brussels.

The three Conservative MEPs in our region have come under fire for using their parliamentary allowances to fund the trip.

UK Independence Party MEP Stuart Agnew accused the party of hypocrisy, after campaigning on a ticket against wasting taxpayers’ money.

“I do not like the presumption that MEPs can go trotting around the European Union inspecting this that and the other. It is Croatia’s business,” he said.

Patrick O’Flynn, fellow Eastern region UKIP MEP, added: “This trip must cast into severe doubt any idea that Conservative MEPs have the interests of taxpayers at heart.”

Vicky Ford, Geoffrey Van Orden and David Campbell-Bannerman were all on the trip, organised by their fellow right-of-centre MEPs in the European Conservatives and Reformists group, which is now the third largest in the parliament.

Mr Van Orden was instrumental in creating the grouping in 2009.

The organised study days and working groups were held in Croatia at the invitation of a European Parliament member who hails from the island of Korcula.

The trip was to Dubrovnik, but six of the MEPs were ferried to the holiday island of Korcula. Vicky Ford attended for three days, and did not take part in the cultural trip to the Croatian island.

The MEPs used their expense allowances to pay for the visit. Mr Van Orden’s wife also joined him on the trip, but he confirmed this was at the couple’s own expense.

The MEPs said in a joint statement that any meeting of the ECR group – which includes MEPs from a number of countries – would involve travel and accommodation expenses.

“MEPs discussed our agenda and priorities for EU reform over the next five years. We were also able to gain a better understanding of the political situation in Croatia.

“The ECR is a large and growing group with MEPs from many European countries and wherever we meet – whether in Brussels, Strasbourg or elsewhere – it will involve travel and accommodation expenses.

“Existing and incoming MEPs are provided a daily allowance by the parliament, from which their accommodation was paid. Accommodation and travel costs for spouses were paid by spouses themselves.”

“The visit lasted four days and each of them involved a full programme of official business.

“The sessions included briefings from international experts on organised crime, regional funding and the issue of health tourism, as well as meetings with Croatian politicians to discuss their country’s recent accession to the EU and its priorities.”

Conservative MEP have also hosted study days in Windsor and in London.

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