What is the European Parliament corruption scandal in Qatar and who is Eva Kylie?

What is the European Parliament corruption scandal in Qatar and who is Eva Kylie?

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BRUSSELS — The European Union’s de facto capital has been rocked by explosive allegations that World Cup host Qatar bribed current and former European Parliament officials to try to influence decisions at the highest level.

After at least 16 raids in Brussels on Friday, Belgian authorities seized more than $630,000 in cash as well as electronics while holding six people for questioning. On Sunday, a Belgian judge accused four of themsaying they were suspected of money laundering, corruption and involvement in a criminal organization on behalf of a “Gulf state”.

Belgian media identified the country as Qatar and reported that the accused included European Parliament Vice President Eva Caille and her partner, parliamentary assistant Francesco Giorgi, as well as former European Parliament member Pierre Antonio Panzeri. Others reportedly involved in the investigation include the head of a Brussels-based syndicate and an unnamed Italian national.

European authorities have not yet confirmed which country is involved. Qatar has denied wrongdoing.

In the EU institutions, this is being talked about as the biggest scandal in recent times. German Foreign Minister Analena Berbock said the response would test “Europe’s credibility”.

Here’s what you need to know.

Who is Eva Kylie and what is she accused of?

Before being charged in this case and deprived of office, 44-year-old Eva Kaili was a Greek member of the European Parliament and one of its vice-presidents.

Vice-presidents can deputize for the institution’s president when necessary, including presiding over monthly plenary meetings where important decisions are voted on. They also have a say in administrative, personnel and organizational matters.

But their power is limited. The European Parliament has 14 vice-presidents and 705 members. It is also the weakest of the three key institutions of the European Union.

Belgian police arrested Kylie, known in Greece as a former news anchor, and charged her with involvement in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption. according to Agence France-Presse.

The fallout was immediate: her political group in the European Parliament, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), expelled her, as did her political party in Greece, PASOK-Movement for change. European Parliament President Roberta Mezzola removed Kylie from her “powers, duties and tasks” as vice president on Saturday.

According to The Belgian newspaper L’Echo, law enforcement officers who raided Kylie’s home on Friday found bags of cash. They also questioned Kylie’s father, who was found with a suitcase full of cash as he left the Sofitel hotel in Brussels. Investigators suspect he was tipped off about the ongoing police operation, L’Echo reported, citing police sources.

How is Qatar supposed to be involved?

Belgian prosecutors suspect that “third parties in political and/or strategic positions in the European Parliament have been paid large sums of money or offered significant gifts to influence the decision of the Parliament.” Belgian news outlets widely reported that the “Gulf country” suspected of being behind the scheme was Qatar, although EU authorities did not name it.

Search recently traveled to Qatar to meet with Labor Minister Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, although a previous trip arranged for a European Parliament delegation was postponed by Qatari officials with little notice, Politico reported.

Back in Brussels, according to Politicoshe attended a vote by the European Parliament’s Justice and Home Affairs Committee — of which she is not a member — to support a proposal for allowed Qataris and Kuwaitis to travel without visas within the Schengen area of ​​the EU.

She also describes the country as a “labor rights favorite” in a November 21 debate on alleged human rights abuses during the construction of World Cup infrastructure. At the end of this debate, the European Parliament condemned the deaths of thousands of migrant workers during the construction of eight stadiums, the expansion of the airport, a new metro, many hotels and miles of new roads. The European body criticized both Qatar and soccer’s governing body FIFA.

Qatar’s government has denied any involvement in the alleged corruption scheme, which has made headlines as the World Cup is in its final rounds and the country seeks to portray itself as a visionary and key geopolitical player.

For Qatar, the World Cup is a high-stakes test and a show of influence

“The State of Qatar categorically rejects any attempt to be linked to allegations of wrongdoing,” Qatar’s mission to the European Union said in a tweet on Sunday. “Any association of the Qatari government with the reported allegations is baseless and seriously misinformed.”

What does this mean for European politics?

The allegations raise new questions about corruption and trading in influence in European Union institutions, putting current and former officials under scrutiny and possibly leading to calls for an overhaul of institutional oversight.

In Brussels, the revelations were greeted with shock but not surprise, with EU observers and experts noting long-standing concerns about the bloc’s institutions, particularly the European Parliament.

“Whatever its final outcome, the ‘corruption’ scandal in Qatar revealed an inconvenient and, for most Europeans, already obvious truth. Money does buy influence in the EU,” wrote Alberto Alemanno, Jean Monnet Professor of European Union Law at HEC Paris, in an opinion piece for Politico Europe.

“While this may be the most egregious case of alleged corruption that the European Parliament has seen in many years, it is not an isolated incident,” Michil van Hulten, director of Transparency International EU, said in statement.

The European Parliament has “allowed a culture of impunity to develop” thanks to lax financial rules and a lack of independent ethics oversight, van Hulten said, adding that MEPs have blocked attempts to change that. He called on the European Commission to publish its “long-delayed proposal to set up an independent EU ethics body with investigative and enforcement powers”.

This was said by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission Named for the creation of such a body, but the official tasked with doing so admitted that it would likely lack the ability to investigate or enforce.

On Monday, von der Leyen called the allegations against Kylie “very serious.” Josep Borrell, head of the bloc’s foreign policy and security department, said they were “very worrying”.

For now, the scandal is a gift to critics of the EU, especially leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, who regularly criticizes the bloc for criticizing democratic flaws in EU countries.

on monday morning Orbán’s Twitter account posted a meme which shows a group of men laughing hysterically with the words “And then they said [European Parliament] is seriously disturbed by corruption in Hungary”.

Kylie’s partner, Francesco Giorgi, was also arrested and charged, his phone seized by Belgian law enforcement, according to The Belgian newspaper Le Soir.

The European Parliament designates George as accredited assistant of Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino, who is part of the same parliamentary group as Kylie and who chairs delegation for relations with the countries of the Maghreb (North West Africa).. Georgi describes himself on LinkedIn as a “political advisor in the field of human rights, EU foreign affairs with a wide network of contacts with parliamentarians, politicians, EU institutions, NGOs, diplomats”.

Georgi is listed as the founder of the Brussels-based global company the non-profit human rights organization Fight Impunity, whose president, Pier Antonio Panzeri, is also involved in the corruption investigation.

Panzeri, 67, was a member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2009. Among other positions, he chaired the delegation for relations with the Maghreb countries (DMAG) as part of the S&D group. He founded Fighting impunity in 2019 and now serves as its president.

According to Le Soir, Belgian investigators suspect Panzeri of running a criminal organization to influence decision-making in the European Parliament with money and gifts on behalf of the Qatari government.

On Friday, Italian police detained Panzeri’s wife and daughter, who were the subject of a European arrest warrant, according to Politico and The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

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