EU turmoil as finger-pointing escalates over blame for Qatar collusion

European Union has a ‘design flaw’ says expert

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The arrest of MEP Eva Kaili has triggered a wave of accusations between European institutions. Since Belgian police started investigating bribery allegations, speculation has swirled over who might be next in an expanding probe into allegations of Qatari corruption infiltrating EU institutions. EU officials are now engaged in a blame game as to who has left the door open to Qatar’s corruption. 

Leftist MEP Manon Aubry, from the Left Party, threw the opening salvo last Sunday, accusing Eva Kaili’s party and the right-centrist European People’s Party (PPE) of voting against her resolution to condemn Qatar’s human rights record before the scandal erupted.

Despite multiple votes in the European Parliament, Eva Kaili’s Socialists & Democrats (SD) group, as well as the PPE party, kept voting against a resolution aimed at condemning Qatar’s human rights records after it emerged more than 6,000 migrants died while constructing World Cup stadiums.

When the Qatar’s bribery scandal broke out, Manon Aubry branded it the “worst corruption scandal in history” and, echoing the voice of Eva Kaili’s party, slammed Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission for “sweeping [ethics] under the carpet.”

Ursula von der Leyen also came under fire from reporters earlier this week, as she refused to answer questions about her Vice President Margaritis Schinas’ relations with Qatar at a press briefing – triggering fury from the Brussels press corps seeking answers on the biggest corruption scandal to hit the EU in years.

The Greek Commissioner was criticised by MEPs over his tweets in recent months, lavishing praising Qatar’s labour and human rights reforms. The Commission Vice President lauded Qatar’s “considerable and tangible progress on labour reform.”

Amid growing backlash, Margaritis Schinas came out swinging and defended his position is simply that of the Commission itself and of experts. 

He said: “This is the European Commission: We are not improvising here”. 

“Thank God I tweeted,” he added. “You can imagine what type of criticism I would have gotten if I hadn’t tweeted everything I did, everything I said, in the light of day.”

In an usually furious speech, Parliament President Roberta Metsola said the allegations against Eva Kaili were not about “left or right” but about “right and wrong” and urged lawmakers to “resist the temptation to exploit this moment for political gain.”

“Do not cheapen the threat we are facing,” she asked them.

Speaking to, the EU’s top anti-corruption official Daniel Freund accused some MEPs of not being transparent, targeting right-leaning politicians.

“They think they [transparency rules] are a nuisance,” Mr Freund said. 

According to public records, one in four MEPs have at least one second job in addition to their position as MEP, from which they make a gross salary of about €9,400 a month, but MEPs are under no obligation to declare them.

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For instance, Italy’s MEP Sandro Gozi had 20 side hustles in 2021, raking in at least €360,000 a year, according to his voluntary financial declarations. 

Mr Freund added: “On average, politicians on the right have more outside income – they have more jobs with [private] companies. They think it’s normal. I have a different opinion.”

European President Roberta Metsola has pledged to tackle corruption with more transparency rules, suggesting they could lift MEPs’ privileges and immunities. 

Greek MEP Eva Kaili, who has been held at Brussels’ Saint-Gilles prison, will be judged at a hearing rescheduled for December 22 due to a strike at the prison where she is being held.

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