EU Parliament Suspends Work With Qatar As MEPs Demand Corruption Probe


By Benjamin Fox and Eleonora Vasques 

(EurActiv) — The European Parliament has suspended its work with Qatar as MEPs demanded the establishment of an independent ethics body and inquiry into the Qatargate corruption scandal.

Qatargate is shaping up to be one of the biggest corruption scandals in the EU’s history as Belgian police continue to investigate allegations that figures working on behalf of Qatar, the Emirati state and World Cup host, have paid European politicians huge bribes to influence the Brussels policy debate.

At the Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg on Monday (12 December), the Green and liberal Renew Europe groups both called for an inquiry committee to be set up alongside an independent ethics body with a mandate to investigate the EU institutions

“It is now our duty to put in place the strongest possible measures to ensure that such corruption can never happen again,” said Terry Reintke, Greens/EFA Group president.

On Friday, Greek MEP Eva Kaili, her partner Francesco Giorgi, and the ex-MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, the president of the NGO ‘Fight against impunity’, were arrested and charged with corruption by the Belgian authorities. Kaili has been stripped of her post as a vice president of the European Parliament.

On Monday, a group of socialist MEPs who are either themselves or their assistants involved in the investigation stepped down from their positions in the Parliament. 

Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella suspended himself from the Parliament’s socialist group, while fellow Belgian MEP Maria Arena stood down as chair of the human rights committee (DROI). Italian Pietro Bartolo suspended his position as group spokesman on visa liberalisation while Andrea Cozzolino suspended his role as S&D spokesman on urgencies. 

For its part, the Socialist group released a statement calling for an Inquiry committee into foreign interference within the EU institutions and added that it had launched its own internal investigations.

On Saturday (10 December), European Parliament President Roberta Metsola decided to “suspend with immediate effect all powers, duties and tasks” of Kaili, as European Parliament Vice-President, Metsola’s spokesperson told EURACTIV.

The Parliament president opened the plenary session on Monday by saying that “these have been among the longest days of my career. I must choose my words carefully, in a manner that does not jeopardise ongoing investigations or in any way undermine the presumption of innocence”.

Metsola described as ‘’malign actors” the third countries involved in the investigations, which “have allegedly weaponised NGOs, unions, individuals, assistants and MEPs in an effort to subdue our processes”. Though Qatar has been implicated in the scandal, the Emirati state has flatly denied involvement.

The Parliament chief also confirmed that the EU assembly would fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation. She also sent back to the civil liberties committee the file related to the recommendation for a visa-waiver agreement with Qatar and Kuwait.

EU lawmakers have made last-minute changes to this week’s plenary agenda, agreeing to hold a debate on the subject on Tuesday and vote on a resolution on Thursday.

Despite its frantic response to the scandal in the last 72 hours, the Parliament has frequently been accused of a lax attitude towards policing the access of lobbyists and MEPs’ financial interests. 

Unlike in the United States, the so-called EU Transparency Register does not require lobbyists to declare who their clients are or publish contracts, and MEPs are not required to fully declare any outside interests or disclose how much money they receive from them.


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