The EU Parliament is the only parliament in the world that is not allowed to propose its own laws. Every official in Brussels has more power than a member of parliament. Yet the country is covered in election posters. What can we do?

Should you go to the European elections? I’m undecided. The voting documents arrived last week. This time it’s about everything, they say.

On the way to school every morning I pass the election statements of the parties. The SPD promises to do more against hate and incitement. That is what it says on a poster at the entrance to the zoo. I am also against hate. But I fear that if the Social Democrats take matters into their own hands, we will end up with another “democracy promotion law”, as the SPD calls its permanent subsidy for unemployed political scientists.

The FDP promises freedom for the economy, the economy loves freedom just like we do. I like to believe that. However, things often turned out badly when corporate managers were allowed to act as they wanted (see financial crisis). Less bureaucracy would certainly have been more appropriate, but that probably didn’t sound snappy enough.

The Greens are for human rights and order. Interesting combination, I thought when I read that. I would have preferred something with more feeling from the Greens. What order do you mean? That of the chair circle?

If I had to choose, I would probably end up with Volt: “Don’t be an asshole.” In the end, isn’t that exactly what matters: not having become an asshole? However, I have doubts as to whether the politicians in Brussels, of all people, can help you with this.

A few years ago I made a long visit to the EU Parliament. A parliament that is the only representative body in the world not allowed to propose its own laws always seemed worth a trip to me. Lunch with the EU MP started with the question: “Who will take over, you or me?” Of course I took over. Many MPs no longer have their wallets with them when they meet people from out of town for dinner, as I was told.

The result of my trip was a column in which I compared Brussels to Rome – minus the palm trees, the gladiators and the sun. Everything else is as you know it from the films. There is the full sense of power of an elite that decides the fate of millions of people with the tip of a finger – there is also the smiling condescension for the provinces from which the money comes, which is then turned into rivers of gold in the center of the empire. The text earned me a nomination from the European Union for the “biggest European policy faux pas” of the year.

I don’t get the impression that much has changed since then. By democratic standards, the EU ranks somewhere between Bangladesh and Upper Volta. Do you think that’s an exaggeration? I recommend the conversation that the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” had with EU MP Nico Semsrott.

Semsrott is this depressive satirist who always runs around in a black hoodie and in 2019 he entered the EU Parliament together with Martin Sonneborn for the fun party “The Party”. In the meantime, he had a falling out with his colleague over a joke. Whatever: Semsrott gave the “SZ” a pretty spectacular interview.

He reported how he once had the daring idea of ​​asking the parliamentary administration about the amount of travel expense reimbursement for the years 2019 to 2023. Semsrott is a member of the Budget Control Committee, so one would think that such information would be a given. But not in Brussels. Officials there simply refused to release the numbers. He could now go to Luxembourg and sue the European Parliament, but he doesn’t have the strength to do that.

On this occasion I learned that in some cases EU MPs do not even have to submit receipts for their expense claims. So you can just make up trips if you want and still get them reimbursed. This is also considered completely normal. Semsrott has written a book about his experiences. It’s called “See Brussels and Die.” I got it immediately. Let me put it this way: after reading it you know that you have to apologize to Upper Volta.

You shouldn’t always focus on the negative, that’s true. The EU also has its good sides. One of these is the realization that we can be more lenient with ourselves. The fact that Germans find themselves in bureaucracy is not even disputed by those who always claim that something like a national character is pure invention. But it turns out that it’s not just Germans who love bureaucracy. The Italians, Frenchmen and Belgians are also crazy about constantly covering the world with new rules and regulations.

Almost every week, the administration abandons an order that is intended to make Europe an even safer, more sustainable and even more exemplary continent. Where does this desire to prescribe come from?

One explanation would be that among the inhabitants of the EU archipelago we are dealing with an above-average number of sadistic people who live out their power fantasies by issuing ever new guidelines. That has a lot going for it. However, I think the reason is simpler: the obsession with regulations is primarily about self-justification.

If the officials in Brussels were as lazy as they are often accused, they would waste their time all day in the city’s establishments, where, as I have been able to see for myself, you can have fabulous meals. Unfortunately, there are also a number of people in the Brussels civil service who feel that they have to do something for the money they earn. So they constantly come up with new laws to make what is good even more perfect.

What else are they supposed to do? Nobody needs the huge device. 32,000 people work at the commission alone. There are also the MPs and their staff. Conveniently, most of them are available twice, in Brussels and Strasbourg.

I have nothing against the EU, on the contrary. When I recently took part in Wahl-O-Mat, the AfD came in last place among the parties I selected. However, sometimes my patience is put to a severe test. When the Iranian mass murderer Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash at the beginning of the week, there were spontaneous demonstrations of joy, particularly in Iran.

Was everyone happy that the man they called the Butcher of Tehran had met his deserved end? No. In addition to Russia and China, both Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief, and Charles Michel, President of the European Council, expressed their sincere condolences on behalf of Europe.

How do you get rid of such canails? When I asked a similar question on Twitter, I received less than encouraging information. “The situation is hopeless,” a reader wrote to me. Another pointed out that Borrell was a social democrat and Michel was a liberal – so don’t vote for the SPD and FDP, was the recommendation.

Some readers suggested voting for The Party on June 9th. Maybe I really should do this. The writer Sibylle Berg will be appearing alongside Martin Sonneborn. I have been friends with her for years. “Cheap rents, cheap energy, cheap promises”: This also exceeds the power of Volt’s posters. So: all votes for Martin and Sibylle. Sometimes only humor can save you.

Read all of Jan Fleischhauer’s columns here.

Readers love him or hate him, but very few people are indifferent to Jan Fleischhauer. You only have to look at the comments on his columns to get an idea of ​​how much what he writes moves people. He was at SPIEGEL for 30 years, and at the beginning of August 2019 he moved to FOCUS as a columnist.

Fleischhauer himself sees his task as giving voice to a worldview that he believes is underrepresented in the German media. So when in doubt, avoid herd instinct, platitudes and mental patterns. His texts are always amusing – perhaps it is this fact that provokes his opponents the most.

You can write to our author: By email to or on Twitter @janfleischhauer.