Statement: The Commission has two hot-air balloons which are used by DG X as a means of communication to bring a “European feeling” to public occasions, notably European Summits. The Commission has been accused of wasting hundreds of thousands of ECUs supporting this publicity.
Response: This is incorrect. The Commission’s 2 hot-air balloons were purchased at the respective costs of 30,000 and 42,500 ECUs; the second balloon costs more as it was specially designed to take disabled people on board. The expected life span of a hot-air balloon is on average 4 years. Since the costs are spread over about 30 events per year (in 1992 there were 2 events in Great Britain, 2 in Italy, 1 in the Netherlands, 3 in Belgium, 5 in Spain, 8 in Germany, 12 in France and 1 in Luxembourg), the cost per event is only around 500 ECUs. Therefore, the total running costs per year for both hot-air balloons amount to 15 000 ECUs. Transport, insurance and accommodation costs are normally borne by the organisers of these events at which the Commission participates. The Commission applies very stringent criteria: any connection with commercially or politically-orientated events is ruled out. About 2 million people have seen the EC hot-air balloons in 1992.