'Qatargate': corruption scandal in the European Parliament

Officials in Greece claim they froze the assets of MEP Eva Kaili after she was arrested by Belgian police on corruption charges.

One of the Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament, Socialist Eva Kaili, is in the spotlight of Qatargate. Last Friday Belgian police arrested the MEP. According to DW, the Belgian authorities were investigating whether several high-level employees of World Cup host country Qatar paid hefty bribes to a number of European politicians. Among these was Greek Social Democrat Kaili, who faces charges of membership in a criminal organization, corruption and money laundering.

Two days later, on Sunday, the MEP was arrested after two "bags of cash" were found in her home. This, according to the Belgian police, confirmed their suspicions and allowed them to formally charge her with corruption in Brussels. Europa Press reported that three other people were charged. One of them is Francesco Giorgi, Eva Kaili's colleague and a parliamentary advisor in the European Parliament on human rights issues. The former Italian MP and president of the NGO Fight Impunty, Antonio Panzeri, and an intermediary in Brussels, identified as F are also being charged.

Over the weekend, the European Parliament announced that it was suspending the MEP from her duties, specifically from her position as representative of the President of the European Parliament in the Middle East. She has also been expelled by her own party, the Greek socialist PASOK. A day later, the Qatargate fallout for Kaili continued and officials in Greece announced a freeze on its assets.

The European Union responds

The allegations facing Kaili are serious and the corruption case is affecting almost the entire European Parliament. The institution is now under a thorough investigation, with the aim of eliminating all traces of Qatargate and foreign influence.

One of the first to speak out openly about the issue was Josep Borrell, the European Union's foreign policy chief, who called the matter "very worrisome.” The Spanish politician also assured that no employees of the bloc's diplomatic service or missions abroad were involved in the affair.

Ursula von der Layen was much more critical in her statements. As the President of the European Commission acknowledged during a press conference, the case could have far more serious consequences than the arrest of Kaili:

The accusations against the Vice-President of the European Parliament are extremely worrying; of the utmost concern. It is a question of confidence of people into our institutions and this confidence and trust into institutions needs the highest standards of independence and integrity.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also expressed her concern about what happened. According to her, "the full severity of the law" should be used in the case: "This is about the credibility of Europe, so this has to trigger consequences in various areas."