Lately, the European Union has been execrated on a regular basis by this column. Some may think this a little unfair, betraying a natural bias against a continent-sized super-state that has done more to stifle innovation and growth in Europe than to promote it, as it was supposed to do. But it’s hard not to dislike this institution when you see just how much European taxpayers’ money is spent on maintaining a vast army of bureaucrats in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. The Commission claims that the EUR8.6bn budgeted for administration in 2015 represents good value for money, because it is only about 6 percent of the EU’s overall budget of almost EUR146bn, which itself is only about 1 percent of the GDP of the EU. This may be true, but perhaps this figure could be even lower if Commission officials and MEPs weren’t allowed to claim such lavish expenses for staff, travel costs and all manner of other things to make their working lives more comfortable; like the Commission’s 42,000-bottle wine cellar, with its 2,000 bottles of spirits. Think you’ll be needing to drown your sorrows Jean-Claude? With vast swathes of the EU facing the sobering reality of years of grinding austerity, no wonder euro-skeptic parties made such ground in the 2014 European elections. And as you might expect, those at the top are among the most profligate. Apparently, outgoing European Commission President Manual Barroso spent almost EUR650,000 on travel in 2012 (none of it his own money of course), which, curiously, was well over twice as much as the Commission’s globe-trotting foreign affairs chief Baroness Ashton.