Democracy is under attack: EU Parliament President
The visa waiver for Qatar that was supposed to be voted this week will be sent back to committee given the context.
Roberta Metsola, the President of the European Parliament, said on Monday that democracy "is under attack" after Belgian investigators charged a senior Greek MEP with corruption, money laundering and involvement with a criminal organisation.
"The European Parliament, dear colleagues, is under attack. European democracy is under attack and our free and democratic societies are under attack," Mestola said on Monday before MEPs.
This comes after Greek MEP Eva Kaili was charged with corruption on Sunday and remains in custody after Belgian investigators discovered "bags of cash" in her home.
Kaili was suspended as Vice-President of the European Parliament yesterday over "corruption allegations involving Qatar" at the World Cup.
Belgian police are investigating alleged corruption allegations that figures working on behalf of Qatar paid huge bribes to European politicians in order to influence the policy debate in Brussels.
I recall being astonished at the speech Eva Kaili gave last month in the European Parliament defending Qatar’s human rights record.— Barry Andrews MEP (@BarryAndrewsMEP) December 10, 2022
She was arrested yesterday amid a probe into Qatari corruption.
She should step down from her role as VP of European Parliament. pic.twitter.com/NJ1dSpNmua
Kaili, who has publicly expressed support for Qatar's recent labor reforms, was one of four suspects charged and detained. Two more have been released, and investigators have searched at least one more MEP's home.
The Belgian federal prosecutor's office did not disclose the identity of the four, but a judicial source confirmed to AFP that Kaili was among those charged.
"Four individuals have been arrested by the Brussels investigating judge who is leading the investigation," the federal prosecutor's office stated.
"They are charged with participation in a criminal organisation, money laundering and corruption. Two persons have been released by the investigating judge."
The arrests came after raids in Brussels yielded 600,000 euros ($630,000) in cash, according to prosecutors. Computers and mobile phones were also seized by police.
Read more: European Parliament VP detained in Belgium corruption case
Qatar has denied any involvement with the matter, stating that "any claims of misconduct by the State of Qatar are gravely misinformed," a government spokesperson told reporters.
But Metsola announced yesterday she "has decided to suspend with immediate effect all powers, duties, and tasks that were delegated to Eva Kaili in her capacity as Vice-President of the European Parliament," a spokesperson said, adding that she expressed support for the Belgian authorities investigation.
"I must choose my words carefully in a manner that does not jeopardize ongoing investigations or in any way undermines the presumption of innocence, and I will," she said.
"So, if my fury, my anger, my sorrow do not come across, please be assured that they are very much present."
"These malign actors linked to autocratic third countries have allegedly weaponized NGOs, unions, individuals, assistants, and members of the European Parliament in an effort to subvert our processes."
Metsola further added that the visa waiver for Qatar that was supposed to be voted on this week will be sent back to the committee given the context, considering that Kaili was strongly lobbying for the visa waiver to be adopted.
I am in politics to fight corruption.— Roberta Metsola (@EP_President) December 12, 2022
To stand up for Europe.
We will meet this test head on.
There will be no impunity.
There will be no sweeping under the carpet.
There will be no business as usual.@Europarl_EN stands against enemies of democracy wherever they come from. pic.twitter.com/60SW8TzV1K
An investigation conducted by the Observer and reported by The Guardian on October 30 revealed that in the past year, Qatar has spent more money on gifts and trips, stays in lavish hotels, business class flights, and free-of-charge attendance to special events for British MPs than any other country.
From October 2021 to October 2022, Qatar spent an amount of £251,208 in gifts to members of the British parliament, an amount that surpasses what 15 other countries spent in donations combined together to British MPs.
This is sixfold what the UAE had spent (£37,661) in gifts and hospitality given to MPs, the second-highest foreign government donor.
In the last five years that transpired to October 2021, MPs declared about £100,000 worth of gifts and hospitality, but more than double that in the last year alone.
Observers consider this to be a clear show of ramping up efforts to "charm" British MPs ahead of the World Cup.
According to Transparency International, it was "extremely concerning" that MPs were accepting "thousands of pounds worth of hospitality from foreign governments with questionable human rights records" and that this could "leave the door open to undue influence."
The government of Qatar declined to comment upon request, according to the report.
Read more: Unpaid salaries; most common complaint among Qatar migrant workers: UN