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It was an unusual step for the president, who is supposed to have a ceremonial role. However, Germany’s politicians are among the best paid in Europe and the move has received wide-spread support.
The coalition government voted through the wage rise for themselves in February in its first few weeks of office.
The draft law for the pay increase passed parliament just ten days after being tabled, but it needed the signature of Gauck to come into effect – something he has refused to give so far.
Germany’s 631 MPs are paid €8,252 a month, plus €4,204 tax free for travel and overnight expenses, placing them at the top end of the table for politicians’ pay in Europe.
Wages were meant to rise by another €415 a month and a further €415 in January 2015 to €9,082 a month.
According to Bild newspaper, Gauck is concerned that the rise is not compatible with the German constitution, which states that MPs’ salary increases should be related to pay rises in the rest of the country. Gauck has now passed the law to a legal team for examination.
Wages for MPs have risen 17.7 percent in the last ten years and 16.2 percent for the rest of the country, Bild newspaper to write that Gauck, who himself earns around €17,800 a month, was the “people’s president”.
Doing the country a service?
And Tagesspiegel newspaper said it was the timing of the pay hike which had also annoyed the president – it was one of the first things the new coalition government did.
“€800 extra a year in a time of stagnant or falling real income is a huge sum,” the paper said. “They could have been a little more sensitive.”
The General Anzeiger in Bonn said that even if Gauck did eventually sign the law, he had sent a “clear signal” that lawmakers could not assume for themselves “a wage increase at a level which most workers can’t even dream of.”
Centre-right Welt newspaper, meanwhile, argued Gauck was right to check the new act. “If the president rejects the law he is doing the country a service,” it argued.
And the centre-left Frankfurter Rundschau agreed. “It would be best if he shelved the law altogether,” it said.
French, Swedish and British MPs have monthly salaries of between €6,000 and €7,000, according to research from the University of Madrid.
In southern Europe, Portuguese and Spanish MPs earn less than €4,000 each month.
Generally, southern European politicians earn less than northern ones, with the exception of lawmakers in Italy, who take home €11,703 a month.
– The Local