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Green MEP faces re-election battle amid bullying allegations – POLITICO

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German MEP Manuela Ripa is facing a campaign by some of her own aides to block her bid for re-election to the European Parliament in June 2024, while others have come out in support of her.

In a letter sent July 6 and obtained by POLITICO, a group of nine staffers and three interns alleged that Ripa neglected her parliamentary duties, asked them to perform personal tasks for her and bullied them at work.

The letter accused Ripa of “harsh words, yelling, general lack of respect/courtesy, compulsive and controlling behavior, and sometimes personal insults.”

Ripa told POLITICO that she and her office were “shocked” by the anonymous allegations. She said it was difficult to respond to an anonymous letter “with false, defamatory accusations.” Apart from anonymity, anything can be said without it being necessary to prove it.

“I take this anonymous accusation very seriously, as you can imagine,” the MEP said. She said no formal complaint had been made against her to the European Parliament’s human resources department and added that she had completed Parliament’s “voluntary anti-harassment training”.

On September 22, three current members of Ripa’s staff sent another letter to party officials supporting her and distancing themselves from the first letter. In their letter, also seen by POLITICO, these three staffers said they “at no time experienced direct harassment, abuse of power or otherwise from Manuela Ripa.” They emphasized that Ripa “always trusted us and gave us flexibility in our work” and that they would like to continue working with her in the future.

Ripa did not respond to specific questions from POLITICO about the second letter.

The MEP is the only MEP from Germany’s small green party called the Ecological Democratic Party. She is a member of the Parliament’s Industry Committee. Ripa started working as an MEP in July 2020, when she replaced Klaus Buchner, an MEP since 2014.

Ripa’s accusations of bullying follow POLITICO’s previous report on psychological harassment in the European Parliament. This year there have already been two confirmed cases of harassment by EU lawmakers. The European Parliament is currently working on reforming its anti-harassment procedures.

So far, no member of Ripa’s staff has filed an official complaint against her with the European Parliament. Some say they did not know such a procedure existed. Others say they feared consequences for their future professional lives. In writing the letter, the staffers, whose names are all but one known to POLITICO, say they wanted to avoid Ripa running for office and treating future employees the same way she treated them .

A former assistant, Alexandra Guedes Lobao, wrote in her resignation letter that she was resigning because she no longer wanted to work in “a highly toxic work environment.” The European Parliament services then contacted her to ask if she wished to lodge a formal complaint. However, Guedes Lobao, like others, feared professional consequences at the time, she told POLITICO.

Since joining the European Parliament in 2020, Ripa has had at least eleven parliamentary staff members and eight local aides, according to transparency site ParlTrack. This does not include a number of interns, who are not listed on the website but whose names have been confirmed to POLITICO. A European legislator normally has three parliamentary collaborators at the same time.

Ripa’s accusations of bullying follow POLITICO’s previous report on psychological harassment in the European Parliament. There have already been two confirmed cases of harassment by EU lawmakers this year | Leon Neal/Getty Images

POLITICO spoke with four of the staffers who signed the letter. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared going public could harm their careers. Some staffers showed POLITICO emails and Ripa’s WhatsApp messages to back up the contents of their letter. These messages showed her making requests on weekends and outside of normal business hours. Several staff members spoke of a “toxic work environment” and “yelling and screaming” in the workplace.

In the letter, staff members acknowledge that working in the European Parliament can involve long hours. In Ripa’s case, however, they claim that “these discrepancies do not result from political events or the parliamentary agenda, but are always due to structural inefficiencies and malpractices caused by poor management.” An example of this was Ripa assigning the same task to the entire team at the same time, without informing other members of her office.

A former parliamentary aide to Ripa, who did not sign the letter, said that although he is “a strong supporter of the EU”, the MEP’s behavior “really tested my beliefs in this system.

“It was very difficult for me, this combination of constant stress and the atmosphere in the office, the things that I had to do which, in my opinion, were not tasks for the APAs (parliamentary assistants),” he said. declared the former assistant.

In a response to POLITICO, Ripa dismissed the allegations in the first anonymous letter as false. Ripa’s party declined to comment to protect everyone involved.

Charlotte Schmid, the party’s federal chairwoman, said they “continue to defend the rights of the people as enshrined in the German Constitution with full transparency and determination” and that they will treat “this issue in exactly the same way.” manner. »

In the second letter of support, the three collaborators also stressed that to their knowledge, no official harassment complaint has been filed against Ripa in the European Parliament.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTION SURVEY

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