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Alejandro Navas García, Professor of Sociology, University of Navarra, Spain

A scandalous luxury

Sun, 22 Sep 2013 17:41:00 +0000 Posted in Today from Extremadura

In the German Land of leave Saxony (capital Hannover), a coalition of Socialists and Greens, headed by the Socialist Stephan Weil, has been in power since February. After a long period of Christian Democratic hegemony, change is finally coming.

In the distribution of ministerial portfolios, Agriculture went to the Green Christian Meyer. Meyer appointed his old friend Udo Paschedag, who had left a post in the regional government of Rhineland Westphalia to move to Hanover, as Secretary of State. It did not matter that the new State Secretary had no agricultural experience: friendship with the Minister seemed to qualify him sufficiently. The agricultural team enthusiastically set about the task of revolutionizing the agricultural structure of the Land. It was to go against the large farms and favor the small farmers; moreover, it ignored ninety percent of the farmers, who cultivate their land conventionally, in order to shamelessly favor the ten percent who follow methods more to the taste of the Greens. Unrest in the countryside was noticeable--agriculture is the second most important sector on the Economics of leave Saxony--but that did not dampen the reformist impetus of the Ministry. President Weil fretted, but he needed the Greens to govern. Until the scandal broke.

To begin with, Paschedag ordered an Audi A8 as his official car, despite the fact that he was entitled to a smaller model because of his position . On the form at application he indicated, by hand, that both President Weil and Minister Meyer had promised him this. The Secretary of State was lying, as it turned out later. In addition, he had a refrigerator installed in his office, expense which was not mentioned in the budget.

An ordinary citizen denounced the Secretary of State to Justice for embezzlement of public funds. The Public Prosecutor's Office opened a research, and although it was immediately closed as no evidence of a crime was found, the scandal had spread its wings. Paschedag hastened to reimburse to the treasury the 3,700 euros that the refrigerator had cost and renounced the Audi A8 and any subject of official vehicle. He explained that he had requested this more comfortable model because of the chronic back pain he suffers. The Minister came out in his defense: "It is true that my Secretary of State made a mistake in apply for that official car, but he has returned it and the Land has suffered no financial loss. Mr. Paschedag is not a freeloader". It did him no good. On September 3, his dismissal was made official. The President could breathe a sigh of relief.

But only for a short time. The Christian Democrat and Liberal civil service examination has demanded a parliamentary commission to investigate what happened and intends to force the resignation of the Minister. Christian Meyer had been characterized during the CDU government by his unrelenting criticism, always ready to denounce in the strongest terms any sign of corruption or bad government. Suddenly he finds himself in the unexpected role of victim of that same denunciation, portrayed by the German saying that censures those who preach water and drink wine. The hunted hunter, who does not understand the world around him. 

As is typical of Anglo-Saxon political culture, ordinary people, more than the fault itself, are outraged by the lie in attempting to justify it. Newspaper archives and diaries are relentless witnesses, and in the discussion on Paschedag the civil service examination has been able to use with glee some words of Minister Meyer himself, uttered in an earlier incident: "Whoever knows the whole truth, but tells only half the truth, is a complete liar".

Regardless of the outcome of this case, I look with envy at leave Saxony. What an outrageous luxury! A couple of thousand euros for the refrigerator and the difference between the Audi A8 and another car of lower range. Here we operate with other magnitudes: millions of euros in the Bárcenas case or hundreds of millions in the Andalusian ERE case. Aren't these North Germans a bit exaggerated? Is so much commotion justified for something so small? I think so. With corruption it is essential to apply zero tolerance. If this cancer is not ripped out unceremoniously at the beginning, it spreads and its metastases end up invading everything. The consequences are plain to see.