Thursday 18 January 2018

EU bureaucrats plan to fork out €3m for luxury dinner service

The European External Action Service offices in Brussels
The European External Action Service offices in Brussels

Matthew Holehouse in Brussels

EU diplomats want to dine in style by ordering a €3m dinner service fit for an emperor.

The EU's foreign office, otherwise known as the European External Action Service (EEAS), will buy an array of crystal glassware, silver cutlery and fine bone china to host banquets for visiting dignitaries.

The tableware is enough to serve up to 3,600 officials and foreign guests at its Brussels headquarters and 140 embassies around the world. It will come embellished with the flag of Europe. The EEAS has a staff of 3,400 and a budget of €630m. It is running 17 military and civil missions worldwide and disburses hundreds of millions in EU aid.

The EEAS has pushed nations to shut down national embassies, and used the mergers to justify budget increases. And now, it appears poised for a major expansion.

New tender documents have been revealed that seek a credit line worth up to €200m to buy property around the world. Many of the EU's current outposts are rented.

"If we need further confirmation of the pretensions and aspirations to grandeur of this organisation, this dinner service is it. It is absolutely appalling," said Geoffrey Van Orden, a Conservative MEP. "We must put a scythe to the costs of the EEAS before it gets out of hand. We can no longer tolerate these false ambitions, not least when we are cutting back our own embassies."

The tableware, costing up to €550,000 will comprise up to 3,360 sets of dinner plates, soup plates and ice-cream dishes, as well as hundreds of pie dishes, salad bowls and coffee pots, according to documents sent to potential bidders. They will be made of "top-quality" fine white china. Each item is painted with a gold rim, and a gold EU flag.

The crystal service will cost up to €450,000 and comprise up to 3,360 sets of glasses for wine, water, whisky, champagne, brandy and sherry. They must be "top-quality crystal with a minimum lead content of 24pc" that will "retain their sparkle". Each carries an engraved EU flag.

The bulk of the cost falls in the silverware, for which up to €2m has been set aside for up to 3,360 place settings. The knives and forks will be "simple, with a discreet decorative element or raised motif" and be "manufactured from top-quality silver-plated metal".

The silver service also comprises up to 280 salad sets, 140 sets of cake knifes, soup ladles, sugar tongs and serving trays, 140 ice buckets, 420 salt cellars and 280 candelabras. Tenders must be "free of all duties, taxes and other charges, including VAT, as the EU is exempt from such charges", bidders are warned. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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