The European Union has spent the past few days Reeling from one of the worst scandals To beat Brussels in decades.
Belgian police said late last week that they had carried out raids and arrested four people in connection with an ongoing corruption investigation into alleged payments and gifts from Qatar to members of the European Parliament and their staff.
The investigation targets alleged acts of “corruption” and “money laundering” by an organized group that aims to “influence economic and political decisions of the European Parliament” with money and gifts, reports Belgian public broadcaster Broadcasting Channel and CNN’s RTBF, citing the public prosecutor’s office.
Among the most prominent of those arrested was the Greek member of parliament, Eva Kaili, who at the time of her arrest was one of the 14 deputy speakers of parliament, and has since been stripped of her role. Both Qatar and Kylie have denied any wrongdoing.
Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday that Kylie did not appear at a hearing scheduled for Wednesday, and has been remanded in custody until her court appearance on Dec. 22.
Federal prosecutors confirmed a “wide-ranging investigation” into alleged criminal activity, corruption, and money laundering activities within the European Parliament on Wednesday. Kylie and three other people were arrested on Friday over an ongoing corruption investigation into alleged payments and gifts from Qatar to members of parliament and staff conducted by the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office.
Kylie, who has spoken in defense of Qatar in the European Parliament, traveled to Qatar shortly before the start of the FIFA World Cup.
In response to criticism of Qatar over allegations of human rights abuses and its treatment of migrant workers, Kylie said the MEPs On November 21: “Today’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar is de facto proof of how sports diplomacy can lead to a historic transformation in a country whose reforms have inspired the Arab world…Qatar is a pioneer in the field of workers’ rights.”
On Wednesday, the Belgian Federal Police published on its official Twitter account a picture of what it said was some cash that was confiscated as part of the investigation.
“As part of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office’s case on suspected corruption by active persons in the European Parliament, the Federal Judicial Police seized approximately 1.5 million euros during searches carried out in the Brussels region,” the Belgian Federal Police said in a tweet.
And while the scandal rocked Brussels, the allegations came as little surprise to those familiar with European institutions, especially Parliament.
“Parliament has tolerated a culture of impunity for years,” says Nicholas Ayosa, deputy director of Transparency International in the European Union, an anti-corruption organisation. “There is no oversight or repercussions for the way MEPs spend their allowances and we have seen This money is misused many times. ”
Iosa believes that institutional corruption is only a small part of what makes the European Parliament an attractive target for those seeking to influence European politics.
Parliament collectively holds a great deal of power over the direction of policy providing access to a massive market of more than 400 million citizens. However, MEPs themselves are often very inconspicuous outside the Brussels bubble, which likely helps avoid scrutiny.”
It is not only in politics that MEPs can use their positions to take advantage of their power. Bill Newton-Dunn, former UK MP, explains, “When the European Parliament publishes a resolution on a key issue, the international media often choose it as the Voice of Europe. Collectively, the votes of MEPs carry weight.”
In fact, Kylie’s intervention on November 21 came in support of Qatar during the debate over a resolution on human rights in Qatar ahead of the World Cup. The resolution was eventually passed three days later.
Katalin Cheh, the Hungarian parliamentarian who negotiated the drafting of the resolution, told CNN that its publication was particularly difficult because MEPs from the two main groups in parliament were resistant to it being too harsh on Qatar.
“In retrospect, and knowing what we know now, it is deeply troubling that my colleagues were pressing so hard on this decision. It is troubling that the influence of authoritarian third parties permeated our negotiations.”
It will probably be some time before we know exactly what happened and if the pressure rules were violated. Should repairs ever need to be made, the process will undoubtedly be painful and arduous.
Still, activists who have been pressing for anti-corruption reforms for years can take some comfort in the fact that this scandal broke at just the right moment for it to get maximum coverage, something that often avoids the outlying bubble of Brussels politics.