European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday slammed Brussels planning chief Pascal Smet for alleging that Eurocrats routinely take drugs.
The remarks by Smet, the Brussels state secretary for urbanism, “are unacceptable,” Barend Leyts, Michel’s spokesperson, told POLITICO. “President Michel asks for respect for all the men and women in the service of the European Union, especially in these very challenging international times.”
POLITICO last week revealed that Smet had alleged “a lot of people working for the European institutions take drugs” during a closed-door meeting with the European Commission’s Office for Infrastructure and Logistics in Brussels (OIB) in January.
The regional politician’s comments were intended to ridicule the feigned outrage of EU civil servants who have expressed doubts over the European Commission’s plans to move several agencies from the EU Quarter to Brussels’ poorer Northern Quarter, which has a reputation for crime and drug use.
During the meeting, Smet implied that there was plenty of drug consumption going on in the EU Quarter and even suggested that cocaine is a popular drug among EU staffers, saying that “in Schuman, they are dealing drugs too … and probably not the same drugs they are dealing [in the Northern Quarter], but probably a little bit whiter.”
Michel’s condemnation of Smet’s comments came in response to an open letter in which Renouveau & Démocratie, the largest union representing EU civil servants, called on Michel to “react to the attack.” The trade union argued that, as the budgetary authority responsible for the institution’s building policy, it was the Council president’s duty to “defend the reputation, the work and the honor of EU officials.”
Last Friday, all of the unions representing workers in the EU institutions sent a letter to Budget and Administration Commissioner Johannes Hahn demanding Smet withdraw his “intolerable” comments.
A Commission spokesperson declined to clarify if Hahn had reacted to the letter, saying the institution “does not comment further on internal meetings.”
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, who received a similar letter from the unions, also declined to comment on the controversy.
Renouveau & Démocratie President Cristiano Sebastiani said that, in addition to apologizing to the offended civil servants, Smet needed to commit to being more transparent about plans that could see up to six EU agencies relocated to the Northern Quarter. The unions insist that the relocation scheme has been opaque and want more information in order to ascertain if the move makes financial sense.
But others believe the regional politician should face more serious consequences. MEP Eva-Maria Poptcheva, a Spanish member of the Renew group, this weekend demanded that the politician “apologize and resign.”
“We, in the @Europarl_EN will not accept such insults of the [EU] civil service who works hard also to the benefit of [Belgium] and its citizens,” Poptcheva tweeted. “You should instead dedicate your efforts to making BRU safer for all.”
Eddy Wax contributed reporting.
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