French far-left leader investigated for fraud of EU funds

86687981_oThe French judicial authorities have opened an investigation into the finances of the leader of the French far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon. It is alleged that he while he was a Member of the European Parliament for two terms, he illegally used EU funds intended to pay salaries of parliamentary assistants to pay for work done for his national far-left party back home.

This massive investigation being carried out by the French authorities began over a year ago when then President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, accused MEPs from the French far-right National Front party of misusing EP funds in this manner. At the time, National Front leader Marine Le Pen accused Mr Schulz of waging a political campaign to damage her chances in the French presidential elections, held this May.

Schulz denied the charges at the time, but it has subsequently emerged that the kind of “fake job” practices which the National Front MEPs were accused of, may have been standard practice right across the French political spectrum. Most dramatically, two former French MEPs from the Liberal Group, Sylvie Goulard and Marielle de Sarnez, were obliged to resign from the Government of newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron within days when the French authorities started to investigate their finances from their time at the EU Parliament.

French media report that the full investigation covers MEPs from left, right and centre including the French Socialist, Green and Republican parties. This forces one to ask whether the creation of “fake jobs” and misuse of public funds for party political purposes is a national phenomenon, rather than one linked to one political party.

Ironically, France has consistently refused to consider ending the wasteful practice of the EU Parliament having two seats, one in Brussels, Belgium; the other in Strasbourg, France. The French insist that the EU Treaties declare the French city to be the official seat of the EP. At the same time, the French political class has consistently been one of the least engaged or effective at the EU Parliament, many of their MEPs holding a second mandate at national level and using the EP as a source of personal funding.