European Institutions

“Qatargate” corruption scandal rocks European Parliament

A bribery scandal involving several high-profile current and former MEPs has sent shockwaves through Brussels. After a long-running investigation by the Belgian Secret Service into foreign interference by the Qatari state, the Belgian Federal Police carried out a series of raids in European Parliament offices and properties in Brussels on 9 December. Eva Kaili, a Greek MEP who was seen as one of the Parliament’s rising stars and was serving as one of the 14 Vice-Presidents, was arrested – along with her partner and parliamentary assistant, Francesco Giorgi. During subsequent raids, police discovered €150,000 in neatly stacked piles of banknotes in Kaili’s flat, €600,000 in the home of Pier Antonio Panzeri – an influential former Italian MEP who is alleged to have been the head of the corruption ring – and €750,000 at Kaili’s father’s Brussels hotel room.

Kaili is alleged to have directly lobbied in favour of Qatari interests during Parliamentary interventions, including on a resolution for Qatari visa deals. She had previously praised Qatar for being a “frontrunner of labour rights.” Several MEPs denounced Qatar’s “aggressive lobbying” and asked for more transparency regarding lobbying practices from third countries, as well as more accountability from EU officials. The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola declared that European democracy itself is facing an “attack” while calling for an internal investigation. As of 30 December, Kaili, Georgi and Panzeri all remain in custody in Belgium. (link and link)

Sweden publishes programme and priorities for upcoming Council Presidency

On 14 December, Sweden presented its priorities for the upcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU, which is kicking off on 1 January 2023 for a period of six months. In the Justice and Home Affairs section, the programme is rather ambitious as it aims to make progress on several new and existing files, such as the revision of the Environmental Crime Directive, the Prüm II Regulation and the Directive on information exchange. The Swedish Presidency also announced that it will work on a new Directive to combat violence against women. Regarding migration, the programme mentions the Pact on Migration and Asylum and its ambition to ensure coordinated cooperation with third countries, as well as the need to deal with the migration consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which the OECD estimated to almost 5 million refugees across the EU and other member countries. (link)

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Other News

EU and NATO condemn attacks on police in Kosovo as tensions rise

On 11 December, unknown attackers exchanged gunfire with the police and threw a stun grenade at the EU law enforcement deployed in the region following the arrest of a former police officer. The attacks occurred after hundreds of Serbs from Kosovo gathered at the roadblocks erected on two border crossings from Kosovo towards Serbia. Although no officers were injured, the EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, condemned the attacks and asked for calm to be “restored” in order to avoid escalation. A NATO spokesperson also declared that the transatlantic alliance calls “all parties to avoid provocative actions”. (link)

EU to abandon police cooperation deal with Israel

After years of negotiations, the European Union decided that it won’t be moving forward with an intelligence cooperation agreement between the Israeli law enforcement authorities and Europol. This decision was reportedly delivered to the Israeli ambassador to the EU on 2 December. This cooperation agreement was finalised in September and aimed to facilitate the transfer of information between Israeli and EU police in the fight against crime and terrorism. Israeli officials suspect this decision was motivated by a new right-wing government taking shape in the country, as Members of the European Parliament like Grace O’Sullivan (Greens) warned that “the EU should not be doing deals with illiberal democracies, especially in the area of security”. (link)

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