They have money, they have gas – and they have power. Why would Qatar bribe EU top official Eva Kaili, as the country has been accused of? There are reasons, but a bizarre misjudgment is likely to play the decisive role.
It is part of the job description of politicians to take themselves seriously. Possibly also to consider his influence to be more important than he is. This applies in particular to the EU parliamentarians in far-off Strasbourg. If you were to ask 100 people on the street what, for example, Vice President Eva Kaili does all day long and what she has to decide – you would probably mostly get a shrug of the shoulders.
Partly wrongly, because the EU Parliament decides on things that significantly affect our everyday lives. But when it comes to foreign policy of all things, one has to ask oneself: Why would Qatar bribe an MP – even if it is a leading figure in the institution?
Inevitably, many are thinking these days: Qatar knows about bribery. After all, after all the investigations, it is considered very likely that the sheikhs got the FIFA World Cup, which is currently taking place in their country, with payments in the millions. In sport, Qatar may not be as big as it wants to be. But from an economic point of view, Qatar is a giant – why else would the German Federal Minister of Economics travel there and bow to ask for liquid gas?
At least Roberts Habeck’s campaign was successful: Qatar will be supplying LNG to Germany for years to come. In addition, Qatar was and is an enormously important mediator, not least to the Islamic State (IS). Like other countries, Germany needed Qatar, for example, to organize the hectic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
So: Why should Qatar have bribed Eva Kaili? Although this has not been proven, there are many indications that it is. The authorities seized 600,000 euros in the Greek woman’s apartments and offices, most likely a bribe.
Qatar denied the allegation in a statement: “Any association by the Qatari government with the reported claims is baseless and based on false information. The State of Qatar works through inter-institutional contacts and operates in full compliance with international law and regulations.”
The investigators did not name the emirate, but suspect “a Gulf state of trying to influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament”. And this by “paying significant amounts of money or offering significant gifts to third parties who hold a strategically important position in the European Parliament”.
One thing is certain: Eva Kaili visited the emirate around six weeks ago and on November 21, in front of the cameras in the European Parliament, certified that the country is a “pioneer when it comes to workers’ rights”. The audience’s jaws dropped.
The Greek social democrat does not consider the fact that migrant workers lost their lives during the construction of the World Cup stadiums to be part of her truth: “They have committed themselves to a vision of their own free choice and they have opened up to the world,” she said of the emirate and threw at the MPs: “Nevertheless, some here call for discrimination against them. They intimidate them, and they accuse anyone who speaks to them or has contacts of corruption.”
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On November 24, the European Parliament passed a resolution on Qatar despite this appearance. It recognized certain reforms in the emirate, but also made clear deficits – especially in labor law and in dealing with guest workers. The award of the World Cup to Qatar in 2010 was “accompanied by credible allegations of bribery and corruption”.
According to consistent media reports, Eva Kaili is said to have asked individual MPs to vote against the resolution. Qatar had also tried to influence the resolution – the ambassador in Brussels wrote to MPs directly.
All this was unsuccessful: the deputies approved the text with a large majority. In the end it was even exacerbated by amendments from the left in Parliament. It has also become public that Kaili has asked other MPs to make public positive statements about Qatar.
To observers, this seems rather helpless and like a whistle in the woods, but by no means worth 600,000 euros plus the risk of being caught and suffering further image damage after the World Cup.
A possible explanation may be that Qatar overestimated its standing in the European Parliament, believing that the situation was close enough for Eva Kaili’s initiative to turn things around. After all, there is a so-called Qatar Friendship Group in the EU Parliament. It consists of a good ten MPs from almost all parliamentary groups, who are happy to be invited on trips to the emirate – financed by the taxpayer, by the way.
In addition, the EU opened its own representation in Qatar in September and intensified the talks. Given the gas shortages on the continent, there are also logical reasons for this. An essential part of the discussion was the visa-free entry of Qataris into the EU in order to stay there for up to 90 days. This is a major concern for the sheikhs in Doha and things were looking good until the bribery scandal.
Eva Kaili campaigned conspicuously intensively for what was no longer necessary: after the EU states, the responsible committee of the EU Parliament also voted with a clear majority for visa-free travel on December 1st. It remains to be seen whether the project can still succeed. Many parties in the EU Parliament are slowing down until the issue of Eva Kaili has been clarified.
In addition, Qatar would have scored another own goal – even if the allegations of bribery could not be proven: Lobbying in Brussels should now be monitored even more closely in a certain respect, namely with regard to the fact that lobbyists from states must also be listed. Currently, a lobby group must disclose when it works for corporations – but not when it works for governments.
So Qatar may have had certain goals in bribing Eva Kaili. The opposite was achieved and in hindsight it was never worth the risk. As great as the damage to the EU may be that such a high-ranking politician allowed herself to be bribed, her wooing had no visible influence on the voting behavior and sense of values of the overwhelming majority. And in the EU Parliament, some are probably happy that Qatar considers you more important than you actually are.
The post “600,000 euros for Kaili – but what would Qatar gain from it?” comes from WirtschaftsKurier.