The Chair of the European Parliament’s powerful Budgetary Control Committee, Ingeborg Grässle, has vowed to open an official investigation into the accusations of fraud surrounding former EP President Martin Schulz. The scandal which was revealed by German weekly Der Spiegel on Saturday, was compounded by further revelations by UK newspaper the Sunday Times today.
Ms Grässle, who chairs the EP committee charged with overseeing proper use of EU funds, accused Schulz of having created a “Stalinist system of cronyism” during his five years as President of the Parliament. She has on numerous occasions in the past raised questions about dubious appointments of Schulz’ political cronies to sensitive positions in the EP administration, including in the EP financial, personnel and legal departments. Her committee’s responsibilities include “consideration of fraud and irregularities in the implementation of the budget of the Union, measures aimed at preventing and prosecuting such cases, the strict protection of the Union’s financial interests.”
“Schulz was shamelessly bending regulation according to his political ambition. I will see to it that these revelations are thoroughly investigated,” said Grässle, a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. So far Martin Schulz has refused to respond to the accusations and has let other members of his SPD party – which recently selected him as its candidate to face Merkel in the forthcoming German federal elections – make public statements, dismissing the revelations as CDU party politicking.
- Extensive use of a private jet, chartered at a cost of €20,000 an hour, to travel between Brussels, Strasbourg and Berlin.
- High-handed attitude towards staff: one junior aide to Schulz changed jobs after having been ordered on several occasions to iron the President’s trousers – not part of his job description.
- Shoehorning political allies into well-paid posts in the EP administration without going through proper recruitment procedures, and in many cases persons neither suited nor qualified for their jobs.
- Regularly entertaining staff and allies at the exclusive Au Crocodile Michelin-star restaurant in Strasbourg.
All of this is very far from the carefully-cultivate man-of-the-people image that Schulz has cultivated and is now trying to present in the German election campaign. His five years heading an EU institution clearly led to him getting further and further out of touch as he expanded his lavish lifestyle. His accumulation of power led to him abusing it by infringing the EP financial and staff regulations to promote and enrich his closest collaborators.
It is to be hoped that the current EP leadership will not seek to cover up any of Schulz’ activities but will facilitate a thorough investigation into each and every one of the accusations.