How corrupt is the EU Parliament?

Legal - January 17, 2023

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Additional social democratic parliamentarians are suspected of involvement in the corruption scandal that brought down the deputy speaker of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili (S&D), before Christmas.

In the EU Parliament, more and more time is taken up by dealing with corruption among its members. Urgent proceedings have been launched to lift the immunity from prosecution of two more MEPs, so they can be prosecuted by Belgian authorities for corruption.

This applies to Belgian member Marc Tarabella (S&D) and Italian member Andrea Cozzolino (S&D), reports Politico.

The two new suspects are involved in the corruption scandal that is shaking the EU – which has so far led to the criminal suspect, Deputy Speaker Eva Kaili (S&D), being stripped of all her assignments.

It was on December 9 that Belgian police raided several houses against people suspected of accepting bribes. One of them is Eva Kaili, a Greek social democratic EU Member of Parliament and also one of the Speakers of the Parliament.

“There are suspicions that people with political or strategic positions in the European Parliament have received large sums of money or been offered significant gifts to influence the Parliament’s decisions,” said the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office in a statement after the police raids. They had then investigated the suspicions for some time.

Then four people were arrested, one of whom was Eva Kaili.

“They are accused of membership in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption,” the statement further states.

In connection with the raids, according to media reports, the police confiscated a total of about 600,000 euros in cash.

Qatargate

According to Politico the suspects are said to have received the money from Qataris to influence decisions in the EU Parliament in favor of the country. Eva Kaili is described by Politico as one of “the most outspoken defenders of Qatar” and recently called Qatar a “frontrunner for workers’ rights”.

When Belgian police arrested Eva Kaili they seized bags of cash to an amount of 150,000 euros in her Brussels apartment.

Now in the new year Belgian investigators has requested that the European Parliament to waive the immunity of two more MEPs. They are suspected of being involved in the criminal behavior regarding the taking of bribes.

Thus, the corruption scandal grows as the investigation move forward about the charges about taking bribes from Qatar and also from Morocco.

The two lawmakers in question, who both also are socialists in the S&D-group, are Andrea Cozzolini, a MEP for Italy, and Marc Tarabella, a MEP from Belgium. They are now being targeted, according to sources within the S&D group and an EU official with knowledge of the matter. Both spoke to Politico on condition of anonymity.

The Belgian prosecutor declined to provide comment in order not to jeopardize the legal procedure.

Also former parliamentarians and EU employees, who – ironically – were active in the anti-corruption campaign “Fight Impunity”, are suspected of involvement. For Pier Antonio Panzeri (former MEP for S&D from Italy), Francesco Giorgi (husband of Eva Kaili) and Niccolò Figà-Talamanca (Secretary General of the anti-corruption campaign), charges of corruption, money laundering and participation in a criminal organization are now pending.

The social democratic party group S&D said in a statement to Politico that its members would “follow, within the framework of the European Parliament, the foreseen procedures in a responsible and constructive manner.” So something they haven’t done so far.

How deep does this corruption go?

It is ironic that politicians and civil servants who claim to fight corruption are caught in the police’s net and during raids their homes are found to have large sums of banknotes in bags.

Is this what the EU Parliament is about? Grabbing as much as possible for yourself?

The skepticism that exists in Northern Europe towards the whole EU project is partly rooted in the suspicion that the cooperation is not about beautiful goals of peace and development, but about swindling the citizens and taxpayers of the countries that are net payers to the Union.

The now-discovered tangle of corruption reinforces public opinion that demands that the EU be limited to its original purpose – free trade.

All the political and administrative build-up that subsequently took place provides extraordinary fertile ground for misappropriating and deceiving the cooperation.

It is important that the national and anti-EU skeptical forces push for tighter control and that the budget for the Union be cut. The more the EU is limited in its ambitions, the greater the chances that the cooperation will continue. Otherwise, the risk is that sequels to Brexit arise in countries where the populations have had enough of waste and embezzlement.

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