European Parliament President Martin Schulz today (13 March) brushed off accusations of hypocrisy made by Marine Le Pen’s National Front, after he reported the far-right party to anti-fraud investigators.
Le Pen’s Brussels office said Schulz – who it branded a “hate-filled socialist” – was breaking rules over European Parliament accredited assistants.
Schulz’s spokesman Armin Machmer said the “accusations were unfounded”. The president had asked the institution’s services to prove that and would publish the results of their investigation, he said.
Schulz had previously told OLAF, the bloc’s anti-corruption agency, that 20 National Front officials were being paid from the EU budget as MEPs’ assistants. In fact, according to NF documents, they were functionaries in the party’s national organisation, a Parliament statement released Monday (10 March) said.
A parliamentary source said the alleged fraud cost €7.5 million. OLAF must now decide whether or not to investigate, a process that can take months.
Le Pen yesterday (12 March) sent out a press release, headlined “The boot is on the other foot”.
“Martin Schultz [sic], without any evidence and through pure calculating bias, slandered our assistants and threw them to the lions,” the National Front said.
The party would make a formal complaint against Schulz, the release said, before calling on the media to give its “fraud” allegation attention.
Schulz had made the accusation a few days before France’s local departmental elections at the request of “his friend” Manuel Valls, it said. Valls is France’s socialist prime minister and has warned against the risks of the National Front’s growing popularity.
In a diatribe full of ranting rhetoric, and apparently based on a Google search, it claimed Schulz assistant Herbert Hansen was working for a travel agent. Euregio Tours was an agency connected to the SPD, the German party that Schulz belongs to, it alleged.
“The first page of Google search results shows that he […] will not deal with European affairs, nor even policy, but tourism,” the release, sent by Le Pen’s assistant Ludovic de Danne, said.
“Martin Schulz is a good illustration of these hate-filled, pathetic socialists who are so predictable across Europe,” it continued, before calling on Schulz to refer himself to OLAF.
Hansen was not based in Brussels, Luxembourg or Strasbourg, as parliamentary rules required, but in Aix-la-Chapelle, according to the National Front.
Schulz spokesman Machmer said Hansen is an accredited parliamentary assistant, living and working in Brussels. One of his tasks is managing visiting groups to the Parliament. According to the institution’s rules, that cannot be done by members of the president’s cabinet, he added.
The Euregio Tours connection was separate from his parliamentary work. “In his free time and on a benevolent basis, Mr Hansen has also been in charge of study visits for a number of years,” Machmer said.
Elections in France
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned Sunday that the National Front could win the next presidential election in 2017, saying their policies were a “disaster” for the country.
The National Front is leading in some French opinion polls, benefiting from discontent with President François Hollande and with high levels of unemployment.
Polls showed that it could win an “unprecedented” score in forthcoming local elections on 22 March and 29 March, Valls said.