German Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently marked 15 years at the helm of Europe’s top economic power, with her popularity intact and public trust in her leadership reaching new heights. Mrs Merkel has said she will step down when her current mandate runs out in 2021 with plans to leave politics altogether. As she finishes out her fourth term, she will tie Helmut Kohl’s record for longest-serving post-war leader, leaving an entire generation of young Germans with no recollection of another Chancellor.
Calls for her to stand for another mandate can now be heard, spurred by the confidence engendered by her steady handling of the Covid-19 outbreak in Germany, where infection levels and deaths have remained lower than those of most European partners.
The vast majority of Germans say they trust her “hammer and dance” strategy of tighter and looser restrictions based on rising or falling infection – a decision that she has called “among the most difficult decisions of my time in office”.
Her time as Chancellor has seen plenty of controversy, though.
For example, in 2012, a German civil servant admitted he “did nothing for 14 years” in a frank retirement email sent to colleagues.
The man, who at the time was 65 years old, sent a farewell message to 500 colleagues on his retirement day after learning his job was axed due to cuts.
Merkel shamed: Leaked email exposed German civil servant who ‘did nothing for 14 years’
In the email sent to other civil servants in Menden, in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia, he boasted that he had earned €745,000 (£613,000) for doing no work.
He wrote: “Since 1998, I have been present but not really there.
“So I’m going to be well prepared for retirement – Adieu.”
The admission that a civil servant could be paid for 14 years without doing any work was extremely embarrassing for Mrs Merkel, as at the time she was leading calls for austerity cuts to the public sector in eurozone countries such as Greece and Spain.
The unnamed man, who had worked in a municipal state surveyor’s office since 1974, accused authorities of creating inefficient, overlapping and parallel structures, even employing another surveying engineer to do the same job, leaving him with nothing to do.
He added: “Of course, I benefited from the freedom that came by to me.”
He also accused the Menden city authorities of buying unusable computers and software but has since refused to publicly detail his allegations.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
He said: “I do not wish to say anything else.
“That email was not intended for public view.”
The email was leaked to the Westfalen-Post newspaper.
Volker Fleige, the former Mayor of Menden, said he felt a “good dose of rage” when he read his words, as the employee had not once complained about not having enough to do while in employment.
Mr Fleige said there would be no sanctions against the former civil servant and that, following budget cuts, his job would not be filled.
A claim similar to the one made by the German civil servant was put forward by Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who worked as a member of the European Parliament for South East England for twenty years.
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Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage
The European Parliament
In 2004 documentary “The Real Face of the European Union”, Mr Farage claimed Brussels’ voting system was a “sham”, as MEPs were not expected to do any work.
Mr Farage said: “I will tell you what MEPs are here for. They are here to vote and vote often and vote regularly.
“Sometimes we vote up to 450 times in the space of 80 minutes.
“I have to confess, hands up, I don’t know what is going on half of the time.
“I haven’t even read all of the documents so massive are they.
“It could be that my fellow MEPs down there are all Albert Einstein and all absolutely understand what is going on but I suspect that is not the case.
“In fact it is rather paying monkeys because what happens is that the civil service draws up a list and if it says vote number 50 and the piece of paper says vote yes, you vote yes.
“And if it is number 59 and it says vote no, you vote no.
“It is an absolute farce and a complete sham, masquerading as democracy.”
The former Ukip MEP then showed on camera a “classic example” of EU voting, while introducing his “assistants” who do a “massive amount of reading and work behind the scenes” and tell him effectively what to vote for.
He added: “There we have 40 individual different amendments that we are expected to vote for.
“Now I defy every man or woman in that chamber to understand all of those 40 amendments and to make balanced decisions.”