After Qatar and Morocco Gate: With an action plan against EU corruption

The corruption scandal in the EU Parliament with Qatar and Morocco is spreading further. Now transparency and lobbying rules are to be tightened.

Journalists are crowded in front of a cluster of lawyers

Eva Kaili’s lawyers are now demanding answers, as here on December 22 in Brussels, Belgium Photo: Olivier Matthys/ap

BRUSSELS taz | As a reaction to the corruption scandal involving Qatar and Morocco, the European Parliament wants to significantly tighten transparency and lobbying rules. A so-called cooling-off period of two years is planned. During this time, ex-MPs are no longer allowed to do lobbying. In addition, the parliamentarians should disclose official meetings, trips and gifts in the future.

The proposals are part of an action plan that Parliament President Roberta Metsola presented to the group leader on Thursday. The Belgian judiciary accuses former MEP Antonio Panzeri of founding a lobby organization after his departure, through which money is said to have flowed – among others to the former vice president Eva Kaili.

Panzeri, Kaili and their partner Francesco Giorgi have been in custody in Belgium since mid-December. They are accused of “membership in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption”.

The police secured around 1.5 million euros in several raids in Brussels. In Kaili’s apartment The investigators found 150,000 euros in cash. The Greek is said to have tried to influence parliamentary policy in favor of the Emirate of Qatar. Panzeri is said to have accepted money from Morocco.

Enlightenment focuses on EU Parliament

In addition to the EU Parliament, other institutions are said to have been exposed to attempts to influence them. The EU Commission has initiated an internal review; an ex-commissioner was in contact with Panzeri and his lobby group.

So far, the focus enlightenment but on the European Parliament. It removed Kaili from all posts. At next week’s plenary session in Strasbourg, MEPs want to appoint a successor to the former Vice-President. The Luxembourger is considered the most promising candidate Marc Angel. Like Kaili, he belongs to the social democratic S&D group.

Also in the coming week, Parliament wants to discuss stricter transparency and lobbying rules. Metsola’s proposals, which include a ban on so-called friendship groups, are not enough for everyone. The Green MEP and transparency expert Daniel Freund speaks of a “big step”. However, the reform package still falls short.

“Disclosure of MPs’ assets at the beginning and end of the legislature is perhaps the strongest incentive against accepting bribes,” said Freund. A reform of the code of ethics must be comprehensive and public.

Another MP resigns

Some MEPs are even calling for a committee of inquiry. According to the applicable rules, however, it can only be initiated after the investigation has been completed.

After the spectacular revelations in December, the Belgian judiciary is no longer making any headway. Investigating judge Michel Claise is said to have conceded that so far there has not been enough evidence against Kaili exist.

Nevertheless, the biggest bribery scandal in EU history is spreading. On Wednesday, the Chair of the Human Rights Committee in the European Parliament, the Belgian socialist Marie Arena, resigned from office. It had previously become known that she had traveled to Qatar at the expense of the emirate – without reporting it. Arena denied all allegations.

However, she was close to Panzeri, who also used to head the Human Rights Committee. This committee is now in focus, as is the social-democratic S&D, to which almost all suspected politicians belonged. However, the comrades reject any collective guilt. According to the S&D group, the findings so far are only “the tip of the iceberg”, and other parties are not immune to bribery either.

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