It appears that Der Spiegel is going to serve us the saga of Martin Schulz and his cronies only in small instalments, so that we can expect further details to emerge in the coming days or weeks. Given that Schulz’s light-handed favouritism was legendary even by the European Parliament’s standards, there is probably a lot more to come.
For today the news is that there is now documentary proof that Schulz was fully aware of
his Berlin-based aide Markus Engels receiving
(a) a 16% top-up on his salary, amounting to 840 Euro each month, as a so-called “expatriation allowance” to compensate him for the hardship of having to move from Germany to Brussels (theoretically his place of work), and
(b) at the same time daily mission allowances to compensate him for the fact that he was working in Berlin while (theoretically) he was based in Brussels,
thus cashing in twice where he was entitled to no compensation at all. Indeed, he was not only fully aware of this illegal “special arrangement”, but in fact this arrangement was made upon his personal initiative and orders.
Here is a copy of the note in which Schulz orders Mr. Engels’ (theoretical) hierarchical superior to send Mr. Engels on a “long-term mission” to Berlin in order “to support my activities in Germany”:
Which begs the question: what were those “activities” that the former EP President is referring to? Is it normal for an EP President to have a special personal aide in the capital of one Member State (or perhaps all?) to carry out some unspecified “activities”? Is it not rather the President’s task to ensure the smooth and fair functioning of the EP, which take place nowhere else than in Strasbourg and Brussels? Did those “activities” have anything to do with Mr. Schulz’s personal political career, for example to prepare a possible future bid for the German chancellorship? If so, how is it to be justified that Mr. Engels’s salary was paid by the European Parliament and not, as would seem appropriate, by the German Socialist Party?
Der Spiegel further reports that Germany’s Social Democrats are now in panic mode, trying to explain away their new leader’s apparently fraudulent practices as something “normal”. As they claim, the contractual arrangements under which Mr. Engels was working “are not unusual in the European Parliament”.
But this clumsy attempt to whitewash of Messrs. Schulz and Engels, in fact is a nasty slur against the EP as a whole, cheekily suggesting that everyone working there is as corrupt as they are.
This is an insult to all those among the EP’s (and other EU institutions’) permanent staff who rightfully receive expatriation allowances because they are indeed expatriates, and those who rightfully receive mission allowances because they are indeed on mission. In addition, “long-term missions” such as that of Mr. Engels are not usual at all, and the EP has explained to Der Spiegel that currently only 13 out of its 7.400 permanent staff currently are on such missions. Maybe it would be worthwhile to find out who these 13 people are, and what kind of mission they are on: are they perhaps also part of Mr. Schulz’s inner circle, and therefore benefiting from similar arrangements as Mr. Engels?
There is urgent need for the European Parliament to clarify matters.