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The Case of the Absent Dr.

by nanne Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 11:13:12 AM EST


For Germany more often not in Europe
- satire poster from netzpolitik.org
The face of Dr. Silvana Koch-Mehrin smiles at me on every street of Berlin. More than any other party, the free-market FDP is putting on a personal campaign, around its pretty and apparently also clever candidate.

Dr. Koch-Mehrin has spent much of her time in the European Parliament on the tough job of staying in the eyes of the German press. In this she has succeeded, by smiling and playing up her role as a working mother. Quite what she does in Europe is less well-known, for good reason.

That reason is, Dr. Koch-Mehrin has attended only 41% of the sessions in the European Parliament. Now, she has gotten two babies in this time. So this low number is somewhat understandable. But even taking into account her maternal leave, her attendance lies at a paltry 62%. Moreover, she has not produced any legislative reports, and asked only a few questions.

It appears, then, that Dr. Koch-Mehrin has been largely absent from the European Parliament. The record shows quite clearly what she has been doing: staying present in the German media; writing and publishing a book on 'new feminism', and raking in over 80,000 euros of added income through speaking fees and other extra-parliamentary work.

All of this would make for a minor and quickly ignored story if not for the bone-headed manner in which Dr. Koch-Mehrin and the FDP have gone forward against the press and bloggers. Instead, Dr. Koch-Mehrin now finds herself in a media storm that could knock down the FDP's expected gains at the polls.

The details of the presence, absence and activity of all MEPs can be read on the website parlorama.eu. This site was launched in April but then briefly closed under the weight of complaints against it, but re-opened around the end of May.

A right-leaning German newspaper, the FAZ, took this survey and wrote a brief story (de) about the German MEPs. Dr. Silvana Koch-Mehrin apparently did not like this report, and got the court in Hamburg an injunction against the paper, which promptly had to write a correction. For this injunction, Dr. Koch-Mehrin gave a declaration under oath that she had attended over 75%. At a later session of the court in Hamburg, the injunction was lifted.

A West-German journalist who writes on the Ruhrbarone blog was present at that session and published a post in which he asked whether Dr. Silvana Koch-Mehrin had lied under oath about her attendence number (see here and here (de)). In response to that, the lawyers of Dr. Koch-Mehrin also decided to issue threats to that blogger.

Koch-Mehrin had another run-in with the media when she did an interview with the regional public broadcast station SWR. The interviewer Thomas Leif asked her a few questions about her attendence, which Koch-Mehrin quickly denounced as false. After the interview was taken, the SWR got a letter from the General Secretary of the FDP who wrote that the questions should have been communicated beforehand and demanded that the segment be cut out of the broadcast.

All of this has culminated in a last minute media-storm about the FDP candidate that could seriously hurt the FDP's relatively high numbers in the polls. In recent polls, the FDP has consistently been getting around 10%, a lot more than the 6.1% they got at the last elections. But those numbers should now be under a lot of pressure.

(via Jon Worth; see more German language media reports in the FAZ, Zeit, Spiegel, Stern, Süddeutsche Zeitung, ARD Tagesschau, and a good video report on the NDR broadcast Zapp)

Is the liberal party in Germany and a member of the European ELDR party and ALDE group in the European Parliament, but has always been a right-liberal party beholden to business interests.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 11:15:54 AM EST
Oops.  What are the book reviews like?
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 12:20:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eeehm, mixed, I think. The Spiegel seems to think that it is a largely reasonable book that fits the politics of the FDP, and notes that there was some editorial work from the party leadership involved, but also states that there is nothing really controversial or new to be found.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 12:44:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
has always been a right-liberal party beholden to business interests.

Well... IMO not always. There was a time they stood for social market liberalism, it was them who first made Brandt a chancellor for the SPD, and sustained his successor Helmut Schmidt, until they jumped ship in the early eighties to coalition with the CDU/CSU.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 04:58:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, the FAZ is making nice buy running an interview with FDP honcho Guido Westerwelle.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 12:47:48 PM EST
It took me a while to work it out but she added the 59 days maternity leave to the days that she was in Brussels, rather than reduce the total number of days she could have been in Brussels due to her maternity.

It is a clever trick. The assumption that she would have spend those 59 days in Brussels, if she had not had her kids in that time - which of course runs against the fact, that she only spend 62% of her time in  Brussels, so actually she should have only added 36 (or maybe 37) days and not 59 days....

by PeWi on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 03:01:28 PM EST
instead of 62 that should have been 41% - changes it slightly - but does not change the trick she used and her ability to insist on having been there 75% of the time...
by PeWi on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 03:03:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the SZ article, I see FDP employees were also following DB's example in astroturfing: they left a couple of 'nice' comments in the critical blogs.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 05:08:21 PM EST
This is a problem we've talked about on ET before - those who have political ambitions consider the EP as exile and stay on the national scene. The lack of power of the EP, and the hopeless lack of information and the resulting disconnect between citizens and union-level politics and policies, make a European career uninviting for most. People like Koch-Mehrin compound the problem by flipping off the EP and working their reputation at home. It's a vicious circle.

A French candidate who will be elected to the EP today, namely Rachida Dati, is highly likely to offer us another example of this behaviour over the next parliament's life.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 03:17:10 AM EST
There are some MEPs who want to work in the EU first. Two faction leaders: Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Martin Schmidt being two.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 06:01:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course there are. They get stabbed in the back by the arrivistes who work at their home careers.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 07:43:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Danish SocDem chairwoman Helle Thorning-Schmidt came in straight from a career as MEP, with virtually no time in the Danish parliament before she became chair of the ScoDems.

It's a pity that she's a pathetically useless hack. But the SocDems seem to like her.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 09:35:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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