In its combination of sanctimony, self-importance and taxpayer-funded extravagance, here—from Germany—is a perfect little tale of today’s political class:
Education Minister Annette Schavan flew to a personal audience with Pope Benedict XVI using a military jet, at a cost of around €150,000 – despite commercial flights being available – according to a report in Der Spiegel.
Her trip with three advisors involved a general audience and a short private conversation, after which the minister reported that he was looking forward to his trip to Germany. And although there were several commercial connections between Berlin and Rome, Schavan used a Bundeswehr jet, at a cost of around €150,000, the magazine reported on Saturday – she said she could not have fitted everything in otherwise.
Guidelines say that ministers should only resort to such measures, “when the journey cannot be undertaken by using public transport or cars, or if other crucial official business cannot be conducted without using the airforce’s airplanes.”
Schavan said that she could not have made it to a reception of the German ambassador on the evening before her meeting with the pope if she had taken a commercial flight. She had been taking part in the Islam conference in Berlin that afternoon until at least 3 p.m.
Her spokesman said her return journey by military jet was also necessary because she had to deliver a speech to the expert forum on education in the economy in Nordhorn, Lower Saxony, as soon as she arrived back in Germany.
Ah yes. Well, I’m sure the meeting with the pope was of vital importance, as indeed must have been the minister’s attendance at the ambassador’s reception and, of course, the not-to-be-missed “expert forum on education”.