Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala (R) is welcomed by European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen (L) and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on July 6, 2022. - The Czech Republic takes over the Presidency of the Council of European Union. (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP)

You don’t have to compare the EU leaders with the head of the Stasi, Erich Mielke, just because the European Parliament (EP) is now planning a miraculous increase in highly paid posts and the EU is giving its employees a salary increase of 8.5 percent to compensate for inflation as a matter of course. Millions of EU citizens can hardly hope for comparable financial aid during the crisis.

One may well ask: Wouldn’t more modesty and a sense of proportion be more appropriate? Because how does that fit into a time when many people have to accept severe losses in their standard of living? When dissatisfied with the financial consequences of the “Fit for 55” climate package, the EP was able to make a correction.

That’s why one may perhaps remember Mielke’s grotesque appearance in the GDR People’s Chamber on November 13, 1989. It illustrates the gap between the self-image of high-level decision-makers, whether in East Berlin or Brussels, and how they are perceived by the citizens, then in the GDR and today in Europe.

Mielke headed the GDR secret service for 42 years. He commanded 91,000 full-time informers and around 174,000 IMs (unofficial employees), who made life hell for many citizens, destroyed families and biographies.

Mielke, on the other hand, saw himself and his Stasi informers as “scouts” in the service of peace, as representatives of goodness. Four days after the fall of the Wall, he spoke for the first and only time in the People’s Chamber to justify his actions. He reaped angry heckling and sneering laughter. And reacted in consternation with the stammered sentence: “I love, I love everyone, everyone.”

It would be an exaggeration to say that the EU makes life hell for its citizens. But even their claim that everything they do primarily serves the well-being of the 447 million inhabitants and is fueled by love for them sometimes clashes with reality. EU leaders are human too, love themselves and their careers and want to be loved by others.

The difference to the GDR: The EU is an open society, not a dictatorship. When questionable things are decided behind closed doors, sooner or later it will come out.

Two affairs are stirring temper in Brussels and generating considerable political opposition. One concerns filling the influential and highly paid post of Secretary General of Parliament.

The German Klaus Welle (CDU) resigns after 13 years. He had turned the administrative office into a center of power and had a say in all important issues, from the agenda to promotions.

The European People’s Party (EPP), the largest group, would like to fill the post again but needs the approval of other groups to do so. The deal behind closed doors in the so-called “Bureau” of the EP, in which the parties coordinate: Alessandro Chiocchetti, a close companion of the new Parliament President Roberta Metsola from Malta, gets it.

Other factions get other posts. A new General Directorate – in EU slang: “DG” – will be created for the left in Parliament.

“Bigger the cake so that you can distribute more” has been the motto in Brussels and Strasbourg for years to pacify conflicts, says an insider. The EP costs two billion euros a year, twice as much as the Bundestag, which is considered the most expensive national parliament in the world. The EP has 14 Vice-Presidents. The Bundestag five.

There are six departments in the Bundestag administration. The number of “DGs” in the EP is to increase to 13, some of which overlap in terms of competence.

In addition to the DG for logistics and conference interpreting, the twelve available include a DG for translation and a DG for infrastructure and logistics. The new DG will be responsible for partnerships with democratic parliaments, although there is already a DG for external policies.

But it is now dawning on some MEPs what an outcry it can cause when citizens and the media look at the inflation of highly paid posts in the EP over the current case. They criticize the agreement and express doubts that Ciochetti has the necessary qualifications to replace Welle as general secretary.

Among them are MPs who took part in the internal meeting of the “Bureau”, such as the Green Vice President Heidi Hautala.

EP President Metsola smugly replies to Hautala: “I am amazed that you did not raise any of these objections in our meetings and now prefer to do so in an open letter.”

The left-wing faction, which has been criticized for being the beneficiary of the deal, is taking a middle course. She calls the media reports “misleading”. And now calls for more candidates to be named alongside Ciochetti for the post of Secretary General.

The other affair about the lavish salary increase for EU employees through an inflation adjustment of 8.5 percent has a similarly high potential for envy and outrage at a self-service mentality. Politically, however, it is less sensitive.

Because nothing new is decided here, but a contractual clause that has existed for a long time is executed. According to this, the EU salaries are adjusted by the inflation rates calculated for Belgium and Luxembourg.

Nevertheless, both developments are highly dangerous for the reputation and acceptance of the EU among its citizens. They widen the gap. If the crisis forces EU citizens to tighten their belts, their representatives in Brussels should do the same.