The European Parliament voted Tuesday to strip its vice president, Eva Kayley, of her post after accusing her and others of receiving money from Qatar in exchange for giving the Gulf state influence over political decisions. give in Brussels.
Kylie, through her lawyer, denied any wrongdoing in the first comment from the Greek representative on the corruption case related to a Gulf state.
The European Union faces allegations that Qatar, which currently hosts the soccer World Cup, bribed current and former officials in the continental bloc’s parliament.
Kylie, one of the 14 vice-presidents of the European Parliament, was among four people arrested by Belgian authorities at the weekend accused of showering Qatar with money and gifts in exchange for influencing decision-making.
The scandal has sparked anger in Brussels and fears among European Parliament representatives and political leaders that it will further tarnish the European Union’s image at home and abroad, prompting Parliament to quickly distance itself from Kylie.
The European Parliament sees itself as a moral compass in Brussels, issuing resolutions criticizing human rights violations around the world and holding EU governments accountable.
After at least 20 searches across Brussels since Friday morning, including inside the offices of the European Parliament, Belgian authorities seized more than $1 million in cash, froze access to the online accounts of 10 parliamentary officials to preserve investigative data, and detained six people for questioning. According to the “Washington Post”.
On Sunday, a Belgian judge indicted four members of the European Parliament, saying they were suspected of money laundering, corruption and participating in a criminal organization on behalf of a “Gulf state”.
The European authorities have not yet confirmed the country in question, but Belgian media have identified the country as Qatar and stated that the accused are the Vice-President of the European Parliament and her parliamentary assistant, Francesco Giorgi, as well as the former member of the European Parliament, Pier Antonio Panziri.
Others were reportedly arrested in the investigation, including the head of a Brussels-based union and an unnamed Italian national, according to The Washington Post. On the other hand, Qatar has denied any wrongdoing.
The Washington Post said any connection to the World Cup investigation remains unclear.
A judicial source confirmed to Agence France-Presse that Cayley, aged 44, and three other people were jailed by a judge’s decision in Brussels, two days after their arrest, as part of an investigation into major amounts that Qatar may have paid to influence decisions within this most important European institution to organize the 2022 World Cup.
Who is Eva Kylie?
On Saturday, the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, suspended Kylie from her “powers, duties and functions” as vice president.
Before she was charged in this case and stripped of her official positions, the Greek, Eva Kaili (44), was a member of the European Parliament.
The Greeks got to know Eva Kayali on television when she started presenting the news bulletin on the local Mega station between 2004 and 2007.
That year, at the age of twenty-nine, she was elected to the Hellenic Parliament. She was the youngest member of the PASOK party at the time.
In 2014, she was elected to the European Parliament in the Socialists and Democrats group, and retained it as a result of the European elections in 2019. In January 2022, she was elected Vice-President of the European Parliament since the first session.
The judicial source told AFP that Kylie could not benefit from her parliamentary immunity because she was arrested “in flagrante delicto”.
This source confirmed that “bags full of banknotes” were found in the apartment of the European Socialist MP. According to the Belgian newspaper “Le Echo”, some of this money was seized during the raid on Kylie’s house on Friday.
What is the alleged role of Katari?
Belgian prosecutors suspect that “third parties in political and strategic positions within the European Parliament paid large sums of money or made large gifts to influence the decision of the Parliament”.
Belgian media have widely reported that the “Gulf state” believed to be behind the scheme is Qatar, although it has not been named by EU authorities.
Politico reported that Kylie recently traveled to Qatar, where she met with the Minister of Labor, Ali bin Samih Al-Marri, despite postponing a previous trip that was for a delegation from the European Parliament by Qatari officials without prior notice has been arranged.
According to Politico, Kylie witnessed a vote by the European Parliament’s Justice and Home Affairs Committee – of which she is not a member – to support a proposal to allow Qataris and Kuwaitis visa-free travel within the EU’s Schengen area too late.
She also described the country as “at the forefront of workers’ rights” with a debate on November 21 about alleged human rights abuses during the construction of World Cup infrastructure.
At the end of that debate, the European Parliament condemned the killing of thousands of migrant workers during the construction of eight stadiums, the expansion of an airport, the construction of a new metro and many new hotels and roads. The European Commission criticized Qatar and FIFA.
On the other hand, the Qatari government has denied any involvement in the alleged corruption scheme, days before the end of the FIFA World Cup in Doha.
“The State of Qatar categorically rejects any attempts to link it to accusations of misconduct,” the Qatari mission to the European Union said in a tweet on Sunday.
“Any association of the Qatari government with the reported allegations is baseless and seriously misleading,” it added.
What does this mean for European politics?
The charges raise new questions about corruption and influence peddling in EU institutions, bringing current and former officials under scrutiny and potentially leading to calls for reform of institutional oversight.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, commented on Monday on the scandal of the formation of a pressure group within the European Parliament, in which officials from Qatar were allegedly involved.
“We are reviewing on our website our transparency record, where all meetings of member states and members of their governments are published, with representatives of the participating entities,” von der Leyen told reporters.
In Brussels, there was shock after the news, but not surprisingly, as EU observers and experts pointed to long-standing concerns about the bloc’s institutions, particularly the European Parliament.
“Money can buy influence in the European Union,” a European Union law professor wrote in an opinion piece for Politico Europe.
Whatever the final outcome, the Qatari “corruption” scandal has revealed an uncomfortable truth for most Europeans, Alemanno said.
“While this may be the most egregious case of alleged corruption the European Parliament has seen in many years, it is not an isolated incident,” Michel van Holten, EU director of Transparency International, said in a statement.
Van Hulten said the European Parliament had “allowed a culture of impunity to develop” thanks to lax fiscal rules and a lack of independent moral oversight, adding that MEPs had blocked efforts to change this.