The Brief – A lucrative day’s work

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [EPA/EFE]

Getting €93,000 for one day’s work is a lucrative business in almost anyone’s world – unless, perhaps, you are a Kardashian. It’s slightly more than Lionel Messi earns and nearly four times as much as Cristiano Ronaldo racks up on a bar bill.

Politicians, particularly obscure provincial leaders in Europe, are not supposed to make that kind of cash.

However, not content with causing a political earthquake that has engulfed national politics in Berlin but also Emmanuel Macron’s Renew Europe group in Brussels, Thomas Kemmerich is now in line for the mother of all pay-offs.

After being elected on the basis of a controversial back-room deal with the far-right Alternative für Deutschland – the first time after WW2 that a German politician gets formal far-right backing – the Free Democrats’ Kemmerich is now in line for a €90,000 windfall for his 25 hour stint as prime minister of the German state of Thuringia.

The short-lived Thuringia premier gets a base monthly salary of €16,617, plus €766 in allowances and a trifling €153 family allowance, making a total of €17,537. Under Thuringia law, one day in office is treated the same as a month, and Mr Kemmerich is also entitled to a six-month transitional allowance totalling €75,468. It works out at almost €4,000 per hour.

It’s all rather un-German behaviour. And the irony is that most Europeans politicians live rather hair-shirted existences.

Italian MPs make around €170,000 a year, but while another handful of states, including Germany, pay their lawmakers roughly €100,000, most earn far less. Bulgaria, Romania and Malta pay less than €2,000 a month.

Of course, such parsimony won’t be found in the Berlaymont, where a European Commissioner trousers €22,000 per month, and Ursula von der Leyen €27,000 per month, most of which is tax-free.

Nobody should begrudge holders of high-office a fair day’s pay. If you pay and treat your politicians badly, you can’t be surprised when they return the contempt. Besides, it is one of the ways to encourage the most able into politics and to ensure that they are not corrupt.

But €93,000 for a day’s doomed premiership is pushing it.

Whether Kemmerich takes the offered cash is up to him and his conscience. But a smarter and more politic approach might be to use that €93,000 to follow Ronaldo’s lead and set another record. It might not buy everyone in Thuringia a beer, but it would be one hell of a good night out.

The Roundup

Many people claim they are flying less to protect the environment but figures from 2018 say otherwise. The aviation industry is doing better than ever and its emissions have more than doubled since 1990.

Europeans should propose together “an international agenda of arms control” at a time when the existing treaties are questioned by other world powers, President Emmanuel Macron said as he laid out France’s much-awaited post-Brexit nuclear weapons strategy.

In a sign that Moscow has taken note of the EU’s plan to deploy a carbon border tax, a top Kremlin adviser has urged Russia’s business giants to start adapting now if they want to continue selling their wares in the single market.

Since the coronavirus outbreak started, the Chinese economy has begun to suffer. As a result, Germany, and particularly its car industry, could also lose out as China is its most important trading partner.

Without the UK, the EU can expect smoother legislative procedures in most Council configurations and policy areas, especially in justice and home affairs, institutional and budgetary matters as well as foreign policy.

Scandinavian governments have raised the bar in their commitment to becoming carbon neutral and several companies have responded by developing new technologies to harness forest resources, widely recognised as the Nordic green gold, in a bid to reduce transport emissions.

Look out for…

European Parliament travels to Strasbourg, NATO defence ministers meet in Brussels.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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