A ball of money smashes EU Parliament reputation

The scandal widens while Belgian police investigation goes further. All front pages open with the Qatar-scandal while UK media take a milder approach

London, 11 Dec. 2022 – It won’t be easy from now on trusting EU law on cash cap after one of the worst corruption scandals since the Union was born exploded yesterday. The Union’s credibility is hit from multiple sides in a case involving corruption, money laundering, bribery, use of a public international institution for personal gains, and more included an irreparable damage to a process of transparency implementation on lobbies procedures which lasted years.

While the investigation goes on, the Greek MEP Eva Kaili (S&D group) one of the fourteen vice presidents of the EU Parliament, is held by the Belgian police along with her partner Francesco Giorgi (parliamentary counsel for International relations), the former MEP and well know trade unionist Pier-Antonio Panzeri, Niccolo’ Figa-Talamanca Secretary General of the ONG No Peace Without Justice, Luca Visentini, secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (now released from Police custody). Belgian police is also investigating the Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella (who is not currently detained).

Today’s confirmation of the arrest of Kaili (held in custody by Belgian police), previously suspended by the EP president Metsola, has shaken the 27 EU Members and beyond, as it isn’t just a blow to the Union’s credibility, but also because of the nature of the bribery and criminal association allegations which consists in having taken money from Qatar: their task was influencing MEPs to pave the way for the FIFA World Cup 2022 to be held in Doha.

All the four above deal with the promotion of Human Rights: this makes the matter more paradoxical and serious: the fifth one, MEP Marc Tarabella (S&D) vice Chair of the EU Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula, had his home searched by police today (reports Le Soir, the Belgian newspaper which broke the story of the scandal). In his speech last 21st November in Strasbourg Tarabella stressed “the unilaterally negative discourse seems to me detrimental to the evolution of rights in the future in Qatar. Because what is important is that, when the World Cup lights go out, the positive evolution continues not only in Qatar”. Similar positive remarks were made by Kaili.

Photo – Former EP vice President Eva Kaili © European Parliament 2022

An unexpected blow to MEPs general reputation appears on all front pages, except the British ones where the news is sidelined and referrals to Qatar are minimised; maybe because of UK’s historic ties with the Gulf state? See UK increased from 2021 a defense partnership with Qatar.

Photo news agency qna.org.qa. Qatar officials rejected today any accusation of bribery. The Middle East country has been previously accused by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2020 of having paid $6million to FIFA to secure the World Cup 2022 (Reuters report)

As four involved so far in the scandal are Italian, polemic in the country is raging: while government in Rome discusses, amid harsh debate, cash-cap law, top MEPs are found in Brussels with bags of cash in their apartments, part of it spent in luxury holidays: nearly 600K were found in Panzeri’s house and he allegedly spent 100.000 euros for a holiday. The debate over the immunity of parlamentarians is also raging as Italian law prevents lawmakers from being arrested therefore allowing them far more protection than any MEPs who in fact can be arrested, as this case shows, if caught red-handed.

Let’s admit that the context of the economic crisis and the cost of living makes the scandal even bitter to swallow to people who are struggling to survive the cold winter and the skyrocketing prices: the sack of cash found in a former MEP’s luxury apartment in Brussels is a slap in the face of widespread poverty while Italy in particular is cutting help for the poorest and planning to abolish any form of welfare; all this makes the Qatar-scandal unbearable.

While ‘working’ to improve the reputation of Qatar, some well known MEPs and colleagues destroyed the EU’s one and, as the police inquiry goes further, they might not be the only associates in the business. It might be the case Qatar smashing ball deserved more relevance across British media beyond the football matches results over the coming days.