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Expected European reform measures to deal with the consequences of a corruption scandal related to Qatar and Morocco


Written by: euronews with ap

Belgian prosecutors are investigating accusations of graft in parliament related to Qatar and Morocco, after raids during which nearly 1.5 million euros in cash were confiscated.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola officially announces on Monday a series of reform measures aimed at addressing the consequences of a resounding corruption scandal, which MPs and experts have warned will remain below what is required to restore confidence in the continental parliamentary institution.

The parliament, which includes deputies from various European Union countries, has been under scrutiny since the chapters of the scandal unfolded about a month ago, with the arrest of one of Metsola’s deputies following raids carried out by the Belgian police on the homes of current and former deputies, parliamentary aides and heads of non-governmental organizations that worked with the deputies.

Belgian prosecutors are investigating accusations of graft in parliament related to Qatar and Morocco, after raids during which nearly 1.5 million euros in cash were confiscated.

While Doha denied any involvement in the case, Rabat confirmed that it was the victim of unjustified “media attacks” on the background of allegations of corruption.

In the context of the case, the Greek police arrested Eva Kaili, one of the fourteen deputies to the President of the European Parliament. Kylie was dismissed from her position in the wake of the scandal, knowing that she denied through her lawyer knowledge of the existence of the money in her home.

Kylie remains in detention with three Italian suspects, her boyfriend Francesco Georgi, who was a parliamentary aide, former European MP Pier Antonio Panzieri, and Nicolo Vega-Talamanca, an official of the “No Peace Without Justice” NGO accused of paying European MPs.

According to Belgian press reports, Georgie pleaded guilty to the charges related to the case.

The Belgian judiciary charged the four with “forming a criminal gang, corruption and money laundering,” while Italy and Greece opened a special investigation into the file.

Mitsola pledged to work quickly to “strengthen integrity, independence and accountability” in parliament, saying the scandal showed that European democracy was “under attack”.

The Speaker of the Parliament will open its first plenary session for the year 2023 at its headquarters in Strasbourg in eastern France, by officially announcing measures that include restricting former deputies’ access to Parliament, restrictions on registering individuals outside the institution who meet, speak or exercise pressure in Parliament, and the necessity for European representatives to officially register gifts that they receive. they receive, the paid travel they take, and punitive measures for infractions.

structural reaction

However, legal experts and a number of prominent MPs considered that these measures are not sufficient.

“These few rules will not be enough to establish a new political culture in the European Parliament,” said Alberto Alemanno, a professor of European law at the French Business School HEC.

“The scandal is much more dangerous than others in terms of the credibility of the European Union (…) We were expecting a more serious and structural reaction than before,” he told AFP.

On the level of deputies, the head of the centrist “Renew” bloc in Parliament, Stéphane Sejournier, said that the scandal showed the need to establish a body within the European Union whose mission is to ensure “transparency in public life at the European level.”

The European Commission had previously put forward such an idea, but it did not see the light.

For his part, MP Daniel Freund of the German Green Party demanded that MPs disclose their assets at the start and end of their term, and that the protection granted to all whistleblowers be strengthened.

Left-wing lawmaker Manon Aubry stressed that it was “unacceptable” to overlook broader reforms demanded by lawmakers immediately after the scandal was exposed.

And in early January, at the request of the Belgian prosecutors, the European Parliament began procedures for lifting the immunity of two other deputies, the Belgian Marc Tarabella, whose house was raided in December, and the Italian Andrea Cozzolino.

And on Sunday, Taparella’s lawyer admitted that his client made a paid visit to Qatar in February 2020 without declaring it, stressing that this had happened inadvertently.

The scandal is expected to overshadow the plenary session of Parliament this week.

After Mitsola introduces the reforms, Parliament will vote Wednesday on who will fill the vacant vice-presidential seat since Kylie’s dismissal.

Observers warn that the scandal, which was dubbed by a number of deputies and the media as “Qatar Gate”, may cast a shadow over the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled within 18 months.

Alemanno said the public reaction to the scandal is “stronger, much more than what European leaders want to acknowledge.”

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