In 2009 the relatively little-known British Labour politician Catherine Ashton, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, decided to sacrifice of her personal interests for the sake of her party, country and the entire Europe; Although the Baroness had no experience or grasp of diplomacy, she finally agreed to take the job of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union.
It is of course possible that the Baroness's annual pay package of $538,000 - which made her the world's best paid female politician, with a better salary than e.g. U.S. President Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel - made it just a little bit easier to make the sacrifice.
Now, when Baroness's External Action Service has come under attack from all sides, she has decided to step down next year, noting that she is tired of all the first class and private jet travel that comes with the job:
"It's quite hard and there's a lot of travel and a lot of sitting on planes".
It is of course possible that the "golden goodbye" type of retirement package she can look forward to makes it just a little bit easier to adjust to a life in retirement. There is yet no information about the value of the package, but at least it cannot be smaller than the modest retirement benefits given to the commissioners, who stepped down a few years ago:
Open Europe has calculated that the 13 outgoing EU Commissioners have cost taxpayer €2.7 million each.
Each one will walk away with an average of €1.3 million in ‘golden goodbyes’ alone. The total bill in ‘golden goodbyes’, including pensions, for those leaving is more than €16.6 million.
Through earnings and pay-offs, the 13 Commissioners will walk away with a total of more than €35.6 million, or €2.7 million each. Their pensions alone are expected to be worth a combined total of more than €11.6 million over their lifetimes (Assuming an average life expectancy of 16.7 years from the age of 65.)
Each Commissioner stepping down is entitled to a ‘resettlement allowance’ of a month’s salary (€19,910 or €22,122 for Vice Presidents), irrespective of how long they have served; a ‘transition allowance’ paid for 3 years worth between 40 and 65 percent of their final salary (this is a minimum of €286,703 but can rise to as much as €438,017 for a long-serving Vice-President); as well as a generous pension worth at least €51,069 a year from the age of 65, for those serving for five years.
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The Baroness also has spoken about her achievements:
Ashton said her main legacy will be the creation of the European External Action Service as an institution.
However, not even this impressive legacy is universally admired. It is reported that there are ungrateful people, who think that the EEAS is in reality a costly anb useless network of "embassies" (delegations) led by overpaid EU "ambassadors" in such world centers as e.g. Suva (Fiji), Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea), Dili (Timor-Leste), Bujumbura (Burundi), Praia (Cape Verde),Port-au-Prince (Haiti) and Dushanbe (Tajikistan).
Not even the usually so friendly members of the European Parliament have learned to love the Baroness's legacy. As late as today the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control committee adopted a less than salutary report:
Czarnecki: EU External Action Service must cease breaching the rulesIn the report on the EEAS, the committee expresses its deep concern regarding non-compliance with the rules that has led to incorrect payments to staff members, legal uncertainty for temporary staff, a failure to respect the Financial Regulation, unrecovered VAT, and a breach of procurement rules. “What we need is more transparency in terms of the EEAS’s structure and expenditure. The EEAS must do better”, said Czarnecki (ECR, Poland Law and Justice).
It's an ungrateful world.
Anyway, best wishes for a very happy flightless retirement, dear Baroness!