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German electioneering

European Parliament reprimands Schulz

Martin Schulz's past advocacy of working-abroad bonuses for EU staff has resulted in a reprimand from the European Parliament. Its former president is now the German Social Democrats election rival to Chancellor Merkel.

Europäisches Parlament in Straßburg - Abschiedsrede Präsident Martin Schulz (Reuters/V. Kessler)

December 2016: Martin Schulz departs the EU parliament in Strassbourg

European Parliament on Thursday confined itself in a majority vote to a mild rebuke for Germany's Martin Schulz after the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in report issued Wednesday wrote of questionable handling of taxpayers' money.

Schulz last month said his conduct had been "correct."

The 61-year-old, who was the EU assembly's president from 2012 until early 2017, switched to German national politics in February, becoming the center-left Social Democrats challenger to Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservatives.

European Parliament, which meets both in Strasbourg and Brussels, in its Thursday reprimand from the Belgian capital, highlighted in its criticism what it described as a "permanent business trip" to Berlin by a Schulz confidante.

Markus Engels was sent in 2012 from EU headquarters to its bureau in Berlin, already his usual place of residence, on a contract that provided a 16-percent expatriation bonus and a frequent daily allowance.

OLAF's report, widely interpreted in Brussels as a decision not to launch an official probe, also criticized the personnel practices of the former Schulz-led administration, including the way promotions were remunerated.

Schulz's conduct was slammed by Inge Grässle of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who chairs the assembly's Budget Control Committee.

CDU Inge Gräßle (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Murat)

Schulz practiced favoritism, the CDU MEP Grässle claimed

"Martin Schulz practiced pure favoritism and decided just arbitrarily, without abiding by the law," Grässle asserted.

German Social Democrat Jens Geier, a leading SPD figure within the European Parliament's Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) described Grässle's remarks as "dishonest."

Statements by Grässle and her allies were merely a "political maneuver to gain advantage in the German federal parliament election campaign," said Geier.

Schulz, himself, has said little about the accusations.

On March 25, he told the German "Bild am Sonntag" (BamS) newspaper: "The majority only emerged in the Budget Committee, because anti-Europeans, conservatives and Greens came together. I have to live with that."

The administration of the European Parliament had confirmed that my conduct was correct," Schulz insisted.

In February, SPD General Secretary Katarina Barley told "BamS" that Merkel's Christian Democratic Party and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union were "thrashing indiscriminately around because they can't summon enthusiasm for their own candidate."

In February, the SPD's ratings soared from the low 20-percent level but in recent weeks have lost traction around 30 percent - ahead of two regional polls, in Schleswig-Holstein next Sunday, and North Rhine-Westphalia on May 14.

ipj/sms (dpa, AFP)

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