Kariņš' flying habits turn out to be expensive at EU level

Travel expenses of the Latvian delegation to the European Council summits covered by the European Union (EU) budget between 2019 and 2022 were the largest among the Member States, more than a fifth of all payments in total, reports Latvian Television's broadcast "Kas notiek Latvijā?" (What is happening in Latvia?) on December 28.

Between 2019 and 2022, payments to Latvia from the EU to cover flights to summits totalled EUR 557,274, according to the information provided by the General Secretariat of the European Council. During this period, a total of 15 meetings of European leaders took place, to which Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš (New Unity) and a delegation traveled using charter flights on private aircraft. Information on all European Union (EU) countries shows that the amount paid to Latvia is the highest – more than a fifth of all payments in total.

As reported earlier, the opposition has questioned the validity and reasons for Kariņš using private jets for his foreign visits. Kariņš responded by saying that the Latvian government should consider buying a jet for its own needs. The State Audit Office has also been asked to examine the issue.

When it was revealed that the special flights used by Kariņš as Prime Minister for the European Council meetings were paid both from the State budget and the budget of the Council of the EU, the program “What is happening in Latvia?” sent a request to the press service of the Council of the European Union about how much the Council has covered to pay for travel expenses of all heads of state to the European Councils in the period since 2019. The reply from the EU Council Office, received on Christmas Eve, summarizes four years of data. There are no data for 2023 yet. The data received show that a total of EUR 2,692,857 has been spent on travel expenses during this period. Tthe amount reimbursed to Latvia is 20.69% of the total.

Romania is second behind Latvia with EUR 499,799, followed by Estonia with EUR 404,380 and Finland with EUR 328,383. 


20231222 EUCO Travel Costs 2023-12-22 11_20_23.xlsx


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Latvia is one of four countries – alongside Austria, Finland, and Malta – which have been reimbursed in all 15 summit meeting cases. Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Sweden have been reimbursed 14 times.10 countries have not claimed refunds at all, while three more countries - Cyprus, Luxembourg and Spain – only once.

The differences in the amounts reimbursed are great. In only two cases for Latvia, expenditure per flight per meeting of the European Council has been less than EUR 30,000. In the meantime, the amounts reimbursed to Lithuania and Sweden do not exceed EUR 5,000 once. The totals received by Sweden and Lithuania for 14 trips are EUR 36,253 and EUR 34,439 respectively. They are smaller than Latvia's average reimbursement for each of the fifteen trips.

The amounts paid to Estonia and Finland suggest that the northern neighbors have also traveled constantly on specially leased aircraft, however, the average amount per trip is significantly lower than for Latvia. Only Romania beats Latvia in this position.

It should be noted that in three cases the amounts indicated by the EU Council office do not coincide with those previously presented in the reports of the State Chancellery to Saeima deputies – in all cases, the previously indicated amounts in Latvia were higher.

The financing by the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU from the budget of the Council of the EU to enable countries to cover travel expenses to the European Councils by national leaders and their accompanying delegations shall be allocated to both travel and accommodation expenses in accordance with rules issued by the General Secretariat in 2018. However, the instruction issued by the Cabinet of Ministers in 2010 “procedures for covering travel expenses of Latvian representatives up to and after the meeting of the Council of the European Union working groups and meetings of the Council of the European Union and hotel (accommodation) expenses” is still in force in Latvia. This instruction prescribes the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the national coordinating body in relation to European financial resources to cover travel and accommodation expenses.

The program “What is happening in Latvia?” has requested various types of information and documents from both the State Chancellery and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in recent weeks, their analysis will follow.

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