EU Parliament suspends work on Qatar amid corruption allegations

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All action on any work involving Qatar was suspended in the European Parliament on Thursday, as the chamber reels from the removal of Eva Kaili as vice president following her arrest over corruption allegations, reportedly due to links to Doha.

The motion was backed by 541 EU lawmakers; Only two parliamentarians voted against the resolution.

The vote comes after Kaili and three others were arrested on accusations of participation in a criminal organization, money laundering, and corruption, according to the Belgian prosecutor’s office.

The four suspects are accused of having influenced decisions in the European Parliament in favour of World Cup host Qatar in return for money and gifts.

The European Parliament suspended all work on legislative files relating to Qatar, including visa liberalisation and the EU-Qatar aviation agreement, as well as planned visits, until the allegations have been confirmed or refuted, the adopted text read.

The motion also called for the creation of an independent ethics body.

Additionally, more staff and money should be made available to better monitor and vet representatives applying to or being part of the EU’s lobbying register, which should also be extended to representatives of countries outside the EU, the resolution said.

The EU’s Public Prosecutor Office requested on Thursday the lifting of parliamentary immunity of Kaili and another Greek EU legislator, conservative Maria Spyraki.

“[T]here is a suspicion of fraud detrimental to the EU budget, in relation to the management of the parliamentary allowance” for their parliamentary assistents, a press release read.

The request is based on an investigative report received from the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

Belgian daily Le Soir reported on Thursday that Kaili’s partner, who is also under arrest, admitted to being part of an organization used by both Qatar and Morocco to interfere in EU decision-making.

His arrest warrant was upheld by a Brussels court on Wednesday, together with that of two other suspects. Kaili’s court appearance was moved to December 22.

Kaili’s partner reportedly accused arrested former EU lawmaker Antonio Panzeri of having been the mastermind of the operation and implicated two further sitting members of the EU Parliament.

Le Soir and the Italian daily La Repubblica also reported that the investigation was targeting Morocco as well as Qatar.

In a European arrest warrant issued last week for Panzeri’s wife and daughter, Morocco was also suspected of having intervened politically with members of the European Parliament in exchange for payments, the newspapers report.

Greece’s financial prosecutor’s office now also intends to start investigations against Kaili, broadcaster ERT reported on Thursday.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said on Thursday in Brussels that she will spearhead reforms of the EU legislature herself.

“I am putting together a wide-ranging reform package to be ready in the new year,” Metsola said in Brussels. “I will lead this work personally,” she added.

She also announced a “complete and in-depth” look at how the parliament interacts with countries outside of the EU. Enforcement of the EU Parliament code of conduct policies is to be reviewed.

“There will be no impunity, there will be no sweeping under the carpet, and there will be no business as usual,” she said.

Among the proposed reforms is a new mandatory transparency register for EU legislators and their assistants. Meetings with representatives from non-EU members will have to be declared.

Compliance is to be enforced with sanctions, an EU parliament official said.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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