Accountability right down to the gift of chocolates: In the Brussels bribery scandal surrounding the deposed EU Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili, other EU actors have far denied any misconduct.
In the corruption scandal surrounding the ex-vice president of the European Parliament (EP), Eva Kaili, Brussels is buzzing with speculation and some political actors are trying not to be sucked into the maelstrom of suspicion.
The reaction of Deputy Commission President Margaritis Schinas, who was exposed to questions from reporters about the scandal after the Commission meeting on Tuesday, was the most decisive. He immediately gave a self-assessment of his entire career in public responsibility, in which there was never a dark side, “only light”.
The Greek luminary Schinas had praised labor law reforms in Qatar in the past. According to the Commissioner, who is also responsible for sports affairs, he was in full agreement with the Commission’s positions.
Schinas had attended the opening of the soccer World Cup in Qatar as a representative of the EU. According to his own statements, he received a football and a box of chocolates as gifts, both of which he gave to the driver who took him to the stadium.
Qatar has come under suspicion of having bought Kaili’s political endorsements with bribes. The Belgian investigative authorities saw this assumption as confirmed to such an extent that they initially had the Greek politician, who until recently belonged to the Social Democratic/Socialist Group of the EP, taken into police custody.
She and other suspects, including her partner, had to provide information about large sums of money that the investigators seized. The total amount should exceed one million euros. Kaili has denied bribery allegations, as has Qatar.
In Brussels, the Greek’s earlier activities are now subject to closer scrutiny. The rapporteur responsible for questions about the visa facilitation for Qatari citizens originally intended by the EU, Erik Marquardt from the Greens, puts retrospective question marks behind a conversation before the scandal. “Ms. Kaili contacted me to speak about Qatar. This was initially not conspicuous, as she is responsible for the Arabian Peninsula in the Parliamentary Presidency. In retrospect, however, it seems remarkable that she campaigned more for Qatar than for other countries in the region.”
In terms of content, Kaili also attracted attention with her involvement in an event to control private chats in the service of the fight against pornographic abuse of children, recalls the FDP MEP Moritz Körner. Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer, a member of the Greens, called for the Greek’s involvement in digital legislative proposals “which she had been instrumental in recently” to “be fully examined”. “Like hardly any other social democrat” she “put herself at the forefront of the advocates of an unsuspecting chat control”.
In an interview with FOCUS online, Marquardt reacted angrily to accusations from the AfD. Their head of delegation in the EP, Nicolaus Fest, had accused the Greens in a press release of not having created enough transparency about all of their talks with representatives of Qatar. The headline of the communication spoke of “involvement of the Greens in the EU corruption affair”. Fest called on Marquardt “to resign from his post as rapporteur on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) with immediate effect”.
Marquardt explained: “Unlike Mr. Fest, I followed the rules and published lobby meetings on the parliamentary website as required. Up to now, meetings with third countries do not have to appear in the transparency register. But I think they should, and we Greens demand it. That’s why I voluntarily implemented this demand after the scandal.”
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However, he “never kept such meetings secret, but documented them, for example, in the weekly reports on my website,” added Marquardt. “I made it public that there were several relevant discussions.” Fest’s allegations are a “smear campaign by the AfD”.
Meanwhile, there were further searches by the police. Uncertainty is spreading in Brussels. The “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” clothed this feeling in the anxious question: “What’s next?”. The leader of the group of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) in Parliament, Manfred Weber, suspected that not all the facts could be on the table. The FDP MP Körner warned against now calling into question the honesty of the entire EU. “In Germany, after the mask deals, the credibility of the Bundestag itself was not questioned,” he told FOCUS online.
However, statements by Kaili’s lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos in the Greek media indicate that a real mud fight could still ensue: his client had closely coordinated her actions with the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola. Metsola had branded the scandal an attack on the European Parliament, identifying “malicious actors” and “enemies of democracy” behind it. These enemies were evidently also within the ranks of Parliament itself.