EU officials demand 28 percent funding hike for President Charles Michel’s office
Charles Michel could be in line for a €500,000 rise in his office funding to pay for Ukraine war diplomacy, POLITICO can reveal.
Brussels officials are asking for a budget increase of 27.5 percent for European Council President Charles Michel, mostly to pay for more international travel as he deals with the diplomatic fallout from the Ukraine war, according to an internal document seen by POLITICO.
The budget “related to the function of the President of the European Council” would rise from €2 million to €2.5 million in 2024, under the estimate of expenses and revenues for Michel’s office.
This increase is “mainly due to travel expenses in view of the continuing intense international activity following the war of aggression of Russia against Ukraine,” the document said.
The budget demand is likely to infuriate some European governments, who are already concerned that Michel is spending too much time on external diplomacy instead of coordinating compromises between EU countries.
The higher budget estimate also reflects salary increases driven by inflation, as is the case in other departments of the Council. Overall, salary-related expenditure in the Council is expected to increase 6.1 percent, according to the document.
Barend Leyts, the spokesperson for Michel, stressed this concerned a “technical document in which the cabinet was not involved or consulted. The cabinet does not intervene in this type of procedure. This is an estimate of the costs.”
A Council official said the technical tables in such a document are “difficult to read” and pointed to a different table in the document for travel expenditures.
According to that table, actual travel costs in 2022 were €1.7 million and the expectation for 2024 is that this will go up to €1.9 million, leading to a 12 percent increase. The Council official added this is partly because of inflation and that Michel did a lot of travelling in 2022 because of Russia’s war in Ukraine. “We obviously don’t know when this crisis will come to an end,” the official said.
However, according to that same table, the estimated travel budget for 2023 was down to €1.4 million, leading to a 34 percent increase between the budget for 2023 and the projection for 2024.
The estimates are not final. The document has been sent to the Budget Committee, where it will be discussed.
Some EU countries have privately voiced skepticism over what they see as an excessive travel program for the European Council president.
“This budget is for 2024, which is still a long way out. At that point, can you still argue that a massive increase of Michel’s travel budget is caused by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine?” said one EU diplomat.