Suspicion of corruption in the European Union: what next?

Status: 12/17/2022 4:04 AM

Searches, arrests and bags of euro notes: A corruption scandal in the European Parliament rocked Brussels and overshadowed the week of the plenary session in Strasbourg. The troubling question: What will be revealed next?

By Jacob Meyer, ARD Studio Brussels

A red official seal is stuck to the door of Office No. 069 on the 12th floor of the European Parliament building in Strasbourg. Next to him is a note, stamped with the seal of Parliament, which reads: “Office closed, no entry.”

Jacob Meyer
ARD Studio Brussels

Usually Eva Kaili works here with her staff, the elected Greek MP for the PASOK Socialist Party. But there was nothing normal in the European Parliament a week ago.

Kylie is being held with her partner Francesco Giorgi, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzieri and lobbyist Niccolo Vega Talamanca. Together, Giorgi and Panziri founded the NGO “Fight Impunity”, which Qatar and Morocco are said to have used to buy political influence with money and gifts.

Reportedly, Kylie and her entourage took the money. Belgian detectives found bags of cash while searching homes.

Sealed Eva Kylie Office: No one is allowed to work in Office 069 at this time.

Photo: AFP

An attack from outside? Better not

The scandal became public this past weekend. The following Monday, the members and staff of the European Parliament set off for the plenary session in Strasbourg. The disclosure of the connection to Qatar is already a dominating topic on the train from Brussels.

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Many MPs seem quite upset. They understand that their organization’s reputation is at stake; An institution that saw itself as a European leader in the fight against corruption and the rule of law. It is not the first scandal involving misappropriation and fraud in the European Parliament – but no one can recall a scandal of this magnitude.

And immediately the troubling question resounds: What next?

petrified mines

A tense meditation reigns in the parliamentary corridors of Strasbourg: in the cafeteria foyer the male Basque choir sings “Hallelujah”, on the edge of the plenary hall Austrian schoolgirls from Wales and Steyr sing at the invitation of their country’s Christian Democrats.

But in the adjoining plenary session, expressions were stony, and many were stunned when Parliament Speaker Roberta Metsola commented on the issue for the first time on Monday afternoon.

The Christian Democrat from Malta talks about an attack on Parliament and on Europe’s democracy and way of life. This looks like an attack from the outside.

In fact, the opposite is true: scandal is raging in the middle of parliament. Kylie is one of his 14 deputies until she was removed by a near-unanimous plenary session in the middle of the week. Ex-MPs and Parliament staff were implicated.

Great loss of reputation

The socialist group quickly dumped Kylie. President Iratex García Pérez announces the opening of an internal investigation. However, there are internal criticisms of the Spaniard’s crisis management. They say they are not in control and make tactical mistakes.

In plenary, accusations of blame are limited. The leader of the EPP’s parliamentary group, Manfred Weber, even called for the scandal not to be exploited for party politics. Obviously, the concern that their ranks would be affected is too great, and the loss of reputation caused by the revelation so far is too great.

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In pro-European groups, there is growing concern that right-wing parties may abuse the scandal to create sentiment in their favor in the upcoming European elections. So Parliament is doing what it can in this case: the office assures the Belgian authorities of full cooperation.

All legislative projects related to Qatar have been halted: there are no planned visa facilities for travelers from the emirate at the present time. Parliament also wants to study the decision to open European airspace further for the state-run Qatar Airways.

New rules for an old problem

And the EU Parliament stresses: it has relatively strict lobbying rules, but association representatives must be registered in a similar registry in order to gain access. Members of Parliament usually have to post meetings with lobbyists online.

But the corruption scandal exposes loopholes in the rules: in the future, discussions with government representatives from non-EU countries will also be recorded. Parliamentarians want to issue declarations of assets, show their extra income and ban any form of outside funding for their staff and parliamentary groups.

Until now, Parliament practically controls itself, and the Ethics Committee consists of deputies. In the near future, outside experts will check whether everyone is following the rules. The European Union Commission wants to make a proposal in this regard.

The Greens and the left in parliament feel vindicated – they have been calling for an independent ethics committee for some time.

The treatment has just begun, and the damage is great. The scandal constituted the week of the plenary session in Strasbourg. While the EU’s 27 heads of state and government took a surprising number of far-reaching decisions at the last summit this year, the EU Parliament is busy with other things: itself.

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