Monday

2nd May 2016

EU parliament chief censors report criticising his actions

  • Schulz (l) wants to become the next European Commission president (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

European Parliament President Martin Schulz removed a paragraph critical of his stewardship in a key committee report set for debate late on Wednesday (2 April).

“He used his prerogatives to take out one paragraph in the European Parliament’s discharge report,” said Belgian Green MEP Bart Staes.

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The deleted paragraph criticised the centre-left President for delaying the work of the budgetary control committee.

“To my knowledge, it [an EP president removing a paragraph] never happened before, but apparently he has the power to decide what can be voted on in parliament: ‘Yes or No’. So he said: ‘That paragraph cannot be voted, so I take it out’,” added Staes.

Armin Machmer, Schulz’s spokesperson, said in an email the paragraph “was declared inadmissible by the President as it is in contradiction with legal obligations binding the institution … with regard to confidentiality rules.”

He added: “So it is totally standard procedure.”

On the question whether it had ever happened before, he said: “I don’t know whether it was the first time, probably not.”

He could not be reached for comment to clarify his point on “legal obligations” related to “confidentiality.”

Schulz sent the chair of the budgetary control committee Michael Theurer a letter outlining his demands in late March. Theurer turned down Schulz’s proposal and refused to pull the paragraph, but it was removed anyway.

“It is a real scandal,” said German centre-right MEP Ingeborg Grassle, who drafted the text, adding that there is no legal basis in the rules of procedure.

“He can only interfere in amendments but this is not an amendment, it is a text voted by the budget control committee,” she said.

The deleted paragraph notes members of the committee had been invited by the Belgian court to stand witness in a case involving the former Maltese commissioner for health, John Dalli.

Schulz withheld the invitation for two months. He also postponed committee hearings on the case, which involves accusations against senior officials at the European Commission.

Schulz’s move comes amid brewing controversy over his joint role as acting president of the European parliament and his campaign run for the top post at the commission.

Earlier this year, he switched the Twitter profile of the European Parliament presidency into his own personal profile as part of his campaign bid.

The switch means the presidency’s more than 60,000 followers automatically became his campaign followers. The parliament’s presidency Twitter account now only has around 3,500 followers.

He has also been accused of “political hijacking of management positions” by the budgetary control committee after earmarking five members of his cabinet to top administrative posts in the parliament.

His fellow centre-left party members Markus Winkler and Herwig Kaiser are each set to get a director-general post. Starting salaries are around €203,000 a year.

The discharge report says the move undermines staff regulations.

It notes “the Union criticises political patronage around the world, and calls for that principle to be observed with regard to the Parliament’s administration, too.”

Other people working for his campaign are also on the parliament’s pay roll, says Graessle.

“People, coming from the socialist party, they work now for the parliament, parliament has to pay them but they are just the personal press office of Mr Schulz, organising his campaign,” she said.

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