Despite numerous speeches touting the EU’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and climate neutrality by 2050, European Council President Charles Michel is racking up an enormous amount of time flying by private jet, which has cost EU taxpayers €700,000 just in 2022.
Michel does not hesitate to fly his jet to even nearby locations, such as Paris and Strasbourg, with the EU head booking flights with Luxaviation. Not only are the private jet trips producing an enormous amount of CO2, but they also cost a five-digit euro sum per trip, according to French newspaper Le Monde.
As a result of his various flights, Michel cost EU taxpayers €700,000 last year — a record for a European Council president. His predecessors in office, Donald Tusk and Herman Van Rompuy, both stayed under half a million, Bild reported. One of the factors driving Michel’s costs sky-high is that he likes to travel with an entourage.
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Examples abound of the EU leader traveling with a large group of people. On March 10 and 11, 2022, Michel traveled to the EU summit in Versailles with his wife and 22 staff members. Experts believe that he likely flew on the Airbus A320 VIP, the largest luxury jet in Luxaviation’s portfolio.
Michel shows no signs of wanting to slow down his travel either. His travel budget has just been increased by a whopping 27.5 percent to €2.6 million through 2024. The argument his office is using is that due to the war in Ukraine, his position requires “intensive international activity.”
Michel has long put climate change at the top of the EU agenda, but his own personal flight usage raises questions about the sincerity of his beliefs.
Michel makes lofty claims at climate conferences after flying in on private jet
In November of last year, Michel flew on a private jet to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt, along with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. During his speech after the climate change conference, he said, “We are, and will remain, champions of climate action, and we are determined to step up the pace of change. We are committed to protecting nature, the oceans and forests, which are the lungs of the planet, sustaining biodiversity and human life on earth.”
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Later in his speech, he said:
We are also striving to contribute actively to the decarbonization of industry around the world by creating effective, tangible partnerships for a fair and just energy transition, together with the G7 and developing countries.
We know we also have an obligation towards the next generation, towards the young people who are protesting, making their voices heard and appealing to our conscience.
We have an obligation to all citizens in our countries: we owe them the truth and we owe them lucidity.
Michel has used chartered air taxis on 72 trips, including to both the COP27 talks where he delivered the above speech as well as the COP26 in Glasgow held a year before.
Criticism of his frequent jet travel is not new, but MIchel appears to shrug off this criticism and continue flying jets to climate conferences and other events on a frequent basis. Data has shown that Michel traveled using commercial airlines on only 18 of 112 official trips between the beginning of his term in 2019 and December 2022.
Michel responds to criticism of his jet travel
Michel is apparently peeved by press reports that highlight his frequent private jet travel and its growing cost.
The EU head has responded by blaming attempts to “destabilize” and “intimidate” him.
“There is probably an attempt at destabilization or intimidation directed against me on the one hand and against the Council on the other,” he told La Libre.
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He even speaks of vague and hidden forces that are trying to harm the entire EU by calling out his frequent private jet travel.
“I think that the increased role of the Council and the EU on the international stage could worry a number of actors,” he said about reports on his flying habits.
Michel also refers to more mundane possibilities, such as people attempting to eye his powerful and well-paid position in Europe. Some may even enjoy the possibility of flying family members and large entourages of staff to international climate conferences.
“I can’t rule out,” Michel said, “that some are already vying for the top jobs.”