Evoke the “Qatargate”, this corruption scandal which splashes the European Parliament, or to bury the head in the sand? The suspense did not last long. On Thursday 12 January, the first meeting of the year of the special committee “on foreign interference in all democratic processes in the European Union (EU), including disinformation” (known as “Inge 2”, second of gender), allowed elected officials to move forward.
The group of MEPs who form this commission has around thirty members. Together, they must work on the techniques used by foreign actors to manipulate information in Europe and influence the elections. In the vast meeting room of the Inge 2 committee, at the end of long corridors on the fourth floor of the Parliament, Latvian MEP Sandra Kalniete (EPP) takes a deep breath, before addressing her colleagues.
“Qatargate opened our eyes”
By the end of the year, she had completely wrapped up the “report” she had been asked to write on behalf of the Inge 2 commission – without mentioning Qatargate, since it had not taken place… Hard to know how integrate into its work this recent corruption case which resulted in the arrest of MP Eva Kaili, suspected of being part of a network paid to defend the interests of Qatar.
During the meeting, in her opening remarks, Sandra Kalniete refrained from alluding directly to Qatargate. But his colleagues took care of it: for the Frenchman Raphaël Glucksmann, president of this Inge 2 commission, it is “fundamental” that he and his colleagues “seize the subject”. The Spaniard Maite Pagazaurtundua (RE) does not hide it: “Qatargate opened our eyes. “No one would understand if we weren’t talking about corruption,” adds the Austrian Andreas Schieder (S&D). And the Polish Beata Szydlo (ECR) adds: “We cannot be silent! »
Some have called for Qatar and Morocco (also suspected) to be the subject of dedicated paragraphs, others have put forward ideas for better combating corruption within institutions – reform of the transparency register, better control of NGOs, etc. –, and the latter called for a report focusing on the scandal, or even the creation of a specific commission of inquiry. In the end, it will be necessary to put the work back on the loom.
For now, Sandra Kalniete’s work describes the threats and attacks facing European democracies, and suggests ways to counter them, only one paragraph has been hastily added. The latter stipulates that the Parliament “denounces in the strongest possible terms the alleged attempts by Qatar to influence MEPs, former MEPs and members of staff of the European Parliament through acts of corruption”. The update insists “on the need to step up efforts to fight corruption and influence campaigns”, and calls for the update of “transparency rules” in the EU.
Everywhere on the agenda
Not enough for Luxembourger Bart Groothuis (RE), who underlines the urgency of “cleaning up this Parliament from top to bottom”. And when the Internet connection of the ecologist Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel falters, when she pleads by video from Germany in favor of the compulsory publication of all the appointments of MEPs, Raphaël Glucksmann dares a joke: “That’s a lobbies trick! A feigned levity, because he and his counterparts know very well that their troubles are not over.
An exceptional meeting of the Inge 2 commission is scheduled for Thursday 26 January. Only one item on the agenda this time: Qatargate. The members of the Foreign Affairs Committee (Afet) of the European Parliament should also be invited. At the same time, the office of Parliament, which brings together the “thinking heads” of the institution, met yesterday to review the rules of ethics of this great house which intends to regain its credibility. As for its rules of procedure, it is also being rewritten. In all cases, the objective is the same: to avoid further scandals at all costs.
During the investigation
December 9, 2022. As part of an investigation for corruption for the benefit of Qatar, the Belgian prosecutor’s office arrested six people and requested sixteen searches. “Bags of tickets” are found at Eva Kaili, Vice-President of the European Parliament (S&D).
December 10. Three people remain imprisoned. Eva Kaili, Francesco Giorgio, her companion and parliamentary assistant, Antonio Panzeri, former Italian MEP.
December 15.Morocco’s involvement in the scandal is confirmed.
January 2, 2023. Parliament announces an “emergency procedure” to lift the immunity of two MEPs: the Italian Andrea Cozzolino and the Belgian Marc Tarabella (S & D).