Thursday

2nd Feb 2023

MEPs' perks under spotlight in EU elections

The British tabloids have shifted their shrill focus from national politicians' perks to those enjoyed by MEPs, while events in Italy have taken a farcical turn.

After days of frenzied reporting on the expenses excesses employed by British politicians, UK tabloid the Sun reports that during the five-year term of the EU parliament, an MEP can clock-up over €2 million in expenses. The papers says that MEPs can claim five relaxing sessions of mudbaths, hydromassage, hydrotherapy and acupuncture every month with a doctor's note.

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  • Mudbath - British tabloids say MEPs can enjoy paid-for spa tratments if they have a doctor's note (Photo: VideoVik)

In Italy, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's love life continues to fill pages. Mr Berlusconi is likely to address the parliament over his alleged affair with an 18-year old model, Noemi Letizia.

After attending her birthday party at the end of April and giving her a diamond necklace worth €6,000, Mr Berlusconi's wife filed for divorce, saying she could no longer live with a man "who frequents minors." Mr Berlusconi and his partymen claim that the scandal is being artificially blown out of proportion ahead of the EU elections, as he supposedly attended the birthday party as a friend of Noemi's father.

Elena, the flashy daughter of Romanian president Traian Basescu admits in Cotidianul that she "no longer looks like in the magazines" because of the "few hours of sleep" she gets on the campaign trail throughout the country.

Dubbed "Romania's Paris Hilton," the 28 year-old former model is running as an independent in the EU elections after quitting her father's party. Polls show she will make the three percent threshold.

Turnout

Voter turnout remains a theme in several countries as governments battle with an apathetic electorate.

Only one third of Finns are sure to vote in June, while another 30 percent feel that they are fairly sure about voting, a poll for Helsingin Sanomat shows. The survey indicates that the percentage of those Finns who say that they will definitely vote has fallen particularly among those aged 18 to 25. In 2004, the overall turnout for the European Parliament elections in Finland clocked in at 41.1 percent.

The law deciding succession to the Danish throne is to be put to a referendum on the same day as the European elections (7 June) in an attempt to boost peoples' interest in turning up at the polling stations. The new law would give equal rights to males and females to inherit the throne.

Germany's Tagespiegel reports that east Berliners are not interested in the European elections and only few are clear that many decisions which affect community issues are taken in Brussels. In the former west Berlin, voters are more "familiar" with the EU, remarked one CDU politician, and have therefore taken more advantage of EU programmes and funding.

As many as 80 percent of the French feel positive about Europe, while 60 percent say they feel both French and European, according to a Eurobarometer survey presented by the European Commission in Paris on Monday.

Some 62 percent think that the European construction costs France too much however. Seventy two percent judge Europe too far from its citizens and 57 percent say it has little impact on their daily lives. Only 28 percent say they are well informed on the functioning of the EU.

Jobs in the EP and political campaigning

UK liberal MEP Diana Wallis has thrown her hat into the ring to be the next leader of the liberals in the European Parliament, after current leader Graham Watson steps down. She told parliament.com she will bring a "totally different style" to the group and aims to make it a "real political force."

Rzeczpospolita reports that the Polish establishment is considering alternative scenarios for Polish conservative MEP and former premier Jerzy Burzek, in case he does not get the European Parliament president job. Polska XXI, a rightist faction which splintered from the Law and Justice opposition party, would like him to run as its candidate in Poland's next presidential elections. The ruling conservative Civic Platform party sees him as the potential next prime minister.

With a yearning look towards the European Parliament, where they long to be represented again, Bavaria's Greens have chosen an Amnesty International campaigner as their candidate.

Barbara Lochbihler, director of AI Germany, is focusing her campaign on human rights and the EU. The Sueddeutsche newspaper remarks that this was a canny choice as AI reports are eagerly read by Green voters. It also notes that the choice seems to be working in practice as well as in theory, as no one left early from the event where she was speaking. Bavaria has not had a Green politician elected to Brussels since 2000.

In the first of two televised debates scheduled before Spain goes to the polls on 7 June, the two candidates that top the country's ruling Socialist and opposition Popular Party lists, Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar and Jaime Mayor Oreja, concentrated primarily on the economy. Mr Oreja accused the Socialist party of giving the economy a "heart attack," with Mr Aguilar responding that the opposition had no interest in reducing the country's high unemployment, hoping instead to use it as a way of returning to power.

In France the official electoral campaign was launched on Monday and will stop on 5 June, Liberation reports. The Interior ministry has approved 160 lists, including the "anti-Zionist" one of controversial comedian Dieudonne. The lists contain some 3,115 candidates competing for 72 MEP seats.

Meanwhile, despite his 81 years of age, far right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen is as fresh as ever and actively campaigning, Le Monde writes. Mr Le Pen is leading the list of his party, the National Front, in the south-east district, travelling across its three regions in his private jet and participating in several lunch and dinner debates.

Polish daily Rzeczpospolita is alarmed by election posters put up by the neo-nazi NPD party in Saxony, Germany urging a "Halt!" to the "Polish invasion" and for "criminal foreigners" to "Get out!" NPD is campaigning in local elections, but has put up the material to provoke a reaction when Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the region on her EU campaign trail in the coming days.

Europe does feature! As does religion

While elections for the European Parliament are frequently dominated by debate on national issues, a second referendum on the EU's reformist Lisbon treaty scheduled for this autumn has pushed European issues to the fore in Ireland.

Speaking at the launch of his party's European manifesto in Dublin, leader of the main Irish opposition Fine Gael party, Enda Kenny, disputed the claim made by Lisbon opponents that 80 percent of the country's national laws originate from Brussels, saying the figure was closer to 30 percent. Fine Gael support the treaty.

However the manifesto of another opposition party, Sinn Fein, is against the re-running of the Lisbon referendum, calling instead for "a new treaty for a new time." Party leader Gerry Adams also called for the six counties in the north of the country that are part of the UK to adopt the euro currency.

Religion and shock tactics have kept the Polish press busy after Polish political parties on Monday published their election clips.

The right-wing Law and Justice party opted for a touch of glamour, the ruling Civic Platform party quoted the late Pope John Paul II and fringe groups went for shock tactics with zombies and t-shirts depicting Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Law and Justice have poached telegenic young actress Ania Cugier-Kotka, who publicly supported Civic Platform in Polish general elections two years ago. The actress plays a voter disillusioned with the government's promises of good wages for teachers and doctors. Law and Justice candidate Michal Kaminski in the video boasts of speaking three languages - the party's leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski speaks only Polish, a point of embarrassment when he led the country in 2007.

Prime minister Donald Tusk referred to a famous quotation of the late Polish pope in saying the country needs a "transubstantiation."

But his religious reference paled next to a clip by independent politician Wojciech Cejrowski who wore a Holy Mary t-shirt while saying he will vote for the tiny right-wing Prawica Rzeczpospoilta party because they do not stand idly by while the pope (Benendict XVI) is being "smacked in the gob" by his critics.

The Polish Workers' Party, a fringe leftist outfit, showed a zombie-like patient in an ambulance forced to put coins in a metre when his life support machine stops working.

Analysis

MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils

European Works Councils can play a key role for workers and their unions to bargain effectively — but what are they, why have they been neutered, and why is big business objecting to greater powers?

Analysis

MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils

European Works Councils can play a key role for workers and their unions to bargain effectively — but what are they, why have they been neutered, and why is big business objecting to greater powers?

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