SISO – How the EU’s Other Half Lives

Five years of recession and austerity, caused by global financial chicanery, are making life miserable for millions across the European Union. The creme de la creme however appear to live high on the hog. 

Dutch journalist Tom Staal pictured confronting Italian MEP Raffaele Baldassarre on a common practice of “signing in and and sodding off” — also known as SISO.

Dutch journalist Tom Staal of GeenStijl (Dutch for No Style) set-off to film the working habits of well-paid MEPs — elected by the austerity-soaked citizenry of 27 member states — at the European Parliament’s second home in Strasbourg, eastern France, and got severely abused for his troubles.

(The video clip is in Dutch but click on the captions symbol — fifth from the right along the bottom — for English subtitles)

While the MEPs’ side of the story has not yet been fully disclosed — and a number of European newspapers are reportedly on the case —  the filmed reaction of the two MEPs confronted by the Dutch journalist reflects an overbearing sense of entitlement, little answerability to cash-strapped European taxpayers who pay their wages and a gross lack of manners.

As the Liveleak website reports: “Both Czech MEP Miroslav Ransdorf and Italian MEP Raffaele Baldassarre struck out at reporter Tom Staal’s microphone, as he quizzed them over why they appeared to be turning up to work in the early evening. Neither politician offered a reply to Staal’s questioning and refused to comment on the accusations of ‘signing in and sodding off’.

The London Daily Telegraph website  reports:  “MEPs are automatically given £91,000 in daily subsistence and in “general expenditure” expenses a year without having to provide any receipts or proof of expenditure. On top of that, the EU parliament’s 754 MEPs each have a parliamentary assistance allowance worth almost £220,000 each a year. “If it really is a case of MEPs claiming expenses without doing any work, then some MEPs have clearly failed to learn from the previous scandals affecting the European Parliament,” said the Open Europe think tanks.  Whether or not the MEPs are guilty of abusing taxpayers, the allowances system in the European Parliament needs to change so that we know that MEPs actually get paid for the work they’re supposed to do. European Parliament officials justified the daily payments and claimed that other professions, such as journalists, benefited from similar arrangements. It’s not for showing up for work. An MEP may start work next day 8/9am and needs to be in Brussels the night before,” said an official.We don’t know where 99 per cent stay in Brussels. They get their per diem and need not say where they stay.”

The rise of populism across the EU has been widely lamented by political elites in EU member states. In France last weekend the Front National was again shown to be a rising political force — coinciding with polls showing the Socialist President’s popularity plumbing historic lows — but the video, just the latest of several that have been made on the same SISO theme, seems to show just how out of touch these “leaders” are.  Interestingly a German TV report from 2008 on the same subject has now been taken down from YouTube. Clearly too embarrassing. 

UPDATE: Meanwhile MEP’s gravy train notwithstanding the financial crisis shows no signs of abating and there are now fears that Germany may abandon the Euro zone and the euro before anyone else. Over on the Slog Blog John Ward warns that the German Chancellor, facing a September election, appears to be on manoeuvres in that direction: ‘Just one year ago, the German Chancellor was calling for “more Europe, not less.” But now she has completed a radical about-face’ says the influential German magazine Der Speigel.


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2 Responses to SISO – How the EU’s Other Half Lives

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