A Greek MEP has been stripped of her position as one of the European Parliament’s vice-presidents by the European Parliament over claims that she was bribed by Qatar to influence decision-making.
Eva Kaili (44), one of 14 vice-presidents of the parliament, was among four people who were arrested by Belgian investigators over the corruption and bribery scandal.
This comes just days after Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, stated Monday that allegations that they received gifts and money from Qatar were “of the utmost concern”.
Belgian police raided 19 homes and parliamentary offices from Friday through Monday. They seized computers, phones, cash and other items as part of an investigation. Some of the luggage was located in a hotel bedroom.
Prosecutors claimed that they suspected for months of a Gulf state trying to influence Brussels decision-making.
Although they did not identify the suspects, Ms Kaili’s identity was made public to the media.
Ms. Kaili, who denied the charges, was removed from her duties as a result of the investigation that took place at the weekend. Meanwhile, the Greek socialist PASOK party announced its intention to expel her.
According to Reuters news agency, a source familiar with the matter said that Qatar was the state.
Qatar denies any wrongdoing.
625 MEPs voted for Ms Kaili to be stripped of her title. Only one voted against and two abstained.
Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, tweeted: “The integrity @Europarl_EN is first and foremost.”
Michalis Dimitrakopoulos is Ms Kaili’s lawyer. He claims that his client is innocent. His client’s visit to Qatar was done in her capacity of Vice-President of European Parliament.
He stated that Eva Kaili had provided undisputed evidence and said, “There is no doubt that Eva Kaili made every contact, statement and move regarding Qatar in order to execute and apply the official policy. This was planned at the highest level, always after consultation with the leadership of European Parliament.
Scandal could damage EU’s image
Eva Kaili’s vote to dismiss her was a rare sign of unity in the European Parlament.
This is the latest stage of a dramatic fall from grace.
Kaili, a former TV news anchor who was elevated to vice-president of parliament, was seen as a dynamic figure and an interest in digital technology a week ago.
She is now in detention and is being investigated for corruption. Her career is in jeopardy. All the smoke signals point towards a direct connection between Kaili, Qatar.
Recently, she told parliament that Qatar is a “front-runner” in labour rights, despite the deaths migrant workers who built football stadia. She also criticized colleagues for bullying the country or showing discrimination.
Instead, Qatari criticism is about to escalate.
The European Parliament will debate today the suspicions that Qatari corruption is being perpetrated (not “in Qatar”, but “from Qatar”), as well as the need to increase transparency within European institutions.
The parliament will need to examine itself because it has been long accused of being too opaque with its regulations. Many MEPs have second jobs and lobbying companies are floating about like dust in the atmosphere.
It is a question that has been asked for a while about where lobbying ends, and corruption begins. But now may be the right time for the parliament to start to look at it more seriously.
He added that Eva Kaili was accompanied by Roberto Bendini, an official from Europe, on every visit to Qatar.
Ms Kaili stated that Qatar is the leader in labor rights in a speech she gave in the European Parliament, 21 November, as the World Cup began.
They committed to a vision of the future and opened their hearts to the rest of the world. Some here still want to discriminate them. They bully them, and they accuse anyone who talks to or engages with them of corruption.