The German EU commissioner obtains a promotion despite his racist, homophobic and misogynist statements and the allegations against him concerning illegal meeting with lobbyists.
Heretofore, Günter Oettinger was the commissioner for digital economy and society; he has been recently appointed to take over the prestigious office of budget and human resources and shall become Vice-president of the European Commission. In the light of recent events, this promotion is surprising and is met with important criticism.
In a scandalous speech, which was recorded and published by an auditor, Oettinger shows inappropriate behaviour and concerning thoughts on several points.
On the record, we can hear Oettinger mocking Chinese people, calling them “Schlitzaugen”, which is a racist description of Asian eyes, the equivalent of ‘chinky eyes’ in English. He then goes on and continues to make fun about the appearance a Chinese delegation he once met.
In context of the competitive advantage of China towards Europe, Oettinger jokes about the quota for women in Germany.
As if this would not be enough, he philosophises about other ridiculous policies in his home country like the “mandatory-homo-marriage”. These comments raise concerns about Oettingers world view, and question his ability to represent the values of the European Union. Not only are these statements and world views unfit for one of the highest officials of the modern EU, but as the commissioner for human resources, Oettinger is also responsible for the compliance of ethical values of all EU employers. As such, the commissioner should act as a role model. When he was asked about his statements, he argued, that they were taken out of context and that he didn’t mean to be offensive.
Moreover, and to complete the picture, Oettinger does not take ethical roles too seriously, as the reports shows about his illegal meetings with Russian investors. Several newspapers reported the commissioner accepted a free travel to Hungary on board of a private airplane of Klaus Mangold, a lobbyist for Russian investments in the energy industry. According to the hungarian journalists, Oettinger used the trip to Hungary to talk with President Orban about the Hungarian energy policy and plans for a Russian constructed nuclear power plant. These plans are controversial due to the EU sanctions towards Russia. To avoid any conflicts of interests, the contact between the Commission and lobby groups is strictly regulated. However not only was the meeting not protocoled or listed, according to the ethic rules of the EU, but officials aren’t allowed to meet with non-registered lobbyist like Mr. Mangold.
When Oettinger was asked by journalists about the non-respect of the ethic rules, he claimed, that these did not apply, because the rules only apply for meetings with lobbyists but not for joints journeys. If this definition represents the spirit of the ethic rules, this is highly questioning. Oettinger argued this way of travelling was the only possibility to get to Hungary in time without missing any appointments. This argument seems to be unlikely as well, as there were several planes connections between Brussels and Hungary at this day. Moreover, if possible, Commissioners can charter their own air planes for their journeys.
All these affairs raise serious questions about the appropriateness of Oettingers promotion. Taking into account that other Commissioners have questionable records as well, it might be unlikely, that the EU is able to fight the growing dissatisfaction and Euroscepticism in the population.