Current Affairs Politics

The European Union, A Political Pyramid Scheme

Corruption, patronage, nepotism, inefficiency and irresponsibility are terms which have become synonymous with the internal bureaucratic workings of the European Union. From top to bottom, high-flying commissioners to lowly paper-pushers, the casual breaking of rules and regulations by the legion of officials in Brussels, Strasbourg and elsewhere within the EU has become a sort of institutional norm. Indeed the pan-European general public has long ago adopted a resigned acceptance of these attributes, a demoralised feeling that they are a necessary evil to kept a dysfunctional political and economic union at least superficially working. That is why the news media in the various national member states of the EU rarely focus on the controversies of the European gravy train or pork-barrel, and certainly not with the attention they once brought in the 1980s and ’90s. What’s the point? The EU is hopelessly incompetent, everyone knows it, no one is willing to do anything about it for fear of being cast as “anti-European”, so matters are simply left as they are. This, of course, breeds an extraordinary level of bravado and self-entitlement within the Eurocrat elites, who now make little effort to conceal the riches they accrue, whether through their salaries, allowances and expense claims, or through obvious incidences of malfeasance. Knowing that the can away with murder, they do so with gay abandon.

Take this all too rare investigation from the European edition of the US news and current affairs website, Politico:

“Nearly half of EU Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Creţu’s closest staff resigned during her first year in office over concerns about the Romanian’s work habits.

Current and former employees described an office in disarray amid the departures of her head of cabinet, deputy head, and her communications chief, among others.

The unusually high turnover — with 8 out of 19 people in her private office gone in 12 months — came in the wake of concerns about the commissioner’s light work schedule as well as her tendency to combine official trips with leisure travel and to ask staff to perform personal tasks, such as doing laundry, shopping for groceries and chauffeuring family members.

Several aides in Creţu’s personal office left because they feared that they would not be able to defend her. The staff grew so concerned that the commissioner was taking too much time off that her then-head of cabinet warned against blocking her schedule for “commissioner time” or “no meetings” because it might look suspicious.

A copy of the commissioner’s personal schedule for the past 12 months, which POLITICO obtained, often showed no meetings on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Staff sources said an open schedule meant she usually wasn’t working during those times.

Among the 28 commissioners, Creţu has one of the highest absentee rates at the weekly meetings of the full Commission, or College, missing nearly a quarter of them.

Creţu, a 48-year-old politician who worked briefly as a journalist in her youth, shows a cavalier attitude to Commission rules that fed the frustrations of members of her cabinet, the sources said. For example, former and current staffers said, Creţu smoked cigarettes in her office, flouting an institution-wide ban.

“Everyone said, ‘You can’t do this,’” according to a former staffer, “but she said, ‘In Romania, a minister can do whatever they want.’”

Creţu’s bumpy ride in Brussels comes at a difficult time for Romania on the EU stage. She was appointed by Victor Ponta, the former prime minister who resigned last month and faces corruption charges. His wife is one of Creţu’s close friends. According to several sources, Creţu has told her staff she plans to run for public office back home in the future.

As EU regional policy chief, Creţu is not in charge of one of the Commission’s higher profile portfolios. She has made few legislative proposals. But she does oversee spending of more than €350 billion on economic development projects in the EU’s poorer regions for the 2014-2020 period, roughly a third of the bloc’s budget.”

Read the whole thing for an insight into the lives of the new European aristocracy.

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