EU parliament targets Gulf state amid corruption scandal
Members of the European Parliament have voted to suspend access to its premises to Qatari representatives amid allegations that the Gulf nation’s lobbyists paid significant sums of money to influence European lawmakers.
In a resolution on Thursday, 541 MEPs said they were “appalled” by the interference in the EU’s democratic process, with just two lawmakers voting against it.
MEPs denounced Qatar’s “alleged attempts to influence Members, former Members and staff of the European Parliament through acts of corruption, which constitute serious foreign interference in the EU’s democratic processes.”
“It is key to ensure that democratic processes are not captured by private and external interests,” the text reads.
Until further facts can be determined, the lawmakers voted to suspend the access badges of any representatives of “Qatari interests,” which may extend to more than just Qatari nationals.
The body also voted to put all legislative work “relating to Qatar” on hold, including an EU-Qatar aviation agreement, as well as visa liberalization legislation for Qatari and Kuwaiti citizens.
MEPs’ planned visits to the Gulf nation, which is currently hosting the FIFA 2022 World Cup, were canceled.
The resolution also called for an internal investigation and a special committee on transparency and integrity, along with a vice-president to be put in charge of combating corruption and foreign influence.
The Qatari Mission to the European Union said in a statement earlier this week that Doha “categorically rejects any attempts to associate it with accusations of misconduct,” insisting that the country “operates in full compliance with international laws and regulations.”
A Belgian police investigation into the alleged graft has already seen EU parliament vice president Eva Kaili arrested and fired. Her partner and two NGO heads were also detained last week on suspicion of taking bribes from the Gulf nation. Police have seized over €1.5 million (nearly $1.6 million) in cash found in a suitcase, a briefcase and even a paper bag, according to newspaper Le Soir.
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola pledged on Thursday to do all it takes to make sure the legislature is “not for sale” to foreign actors.
“There are... too many informal groupings that are potentially more amenable to influence. Too many organizations whose transparency of funding is not clear. We will clamp down on everything,” she warned.