The accusations against some members of the group of European Socialists are very heavy. From what emerges from the investigations, 16 searches were carried out by the Belgian police on orders from the federal prosecutor’s office. The charges are corruption and money laundering to promote and underline the progress made by Qatar in terms of human rights and workers.
From what has emerged so far, the main figure is former MEP Antonio Panzieri, an Italian politician and trade unionist who has sat in the European Parliament since 2004. The network of contacts extends to other world-class trade unionists, parliamentary assistants and also a vice-president of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili. The latter is the heaviest name among those that have emerged so far. She is a Greek MEP elected with the Panhellenic Socialist Movement and is Vice-President of the European Parliament. She was stopped by Brussels agents and interrogated, then the party she belonged to expelled her. Francesco Giorgi, parliamentary assistant of the former Panzieri Democratic Party, Luca Visentini, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (Ituc) and Niccolò Figà-Talamanca, general secretary of the NGO No Peace Without Justice, are also apparently involved. The latter was founded in the 90s by Emma Bonino.
What were they doing?
The suspects would have received money and gifts from the Qatari monarchy to promote the World Cup and give a clean image of the nation in terms of human rights and workers’ rights. In other words, to completely ignore the 6500 workers who died during the construction of stadiums and all those who were underpaid and had to work in pitiless conditions and without any guarantee of safety. The statements made by Panzieri on Qatar in the years preceding the world championship suggest that there is something true in this story. Even more votes cast by members of the Socialists in Parliament. Furthermore, 500 thousand euros in cash were found by the police in Panzieri’s Brussels home. The premises of the Fight Impunity association of which Panzieri is president and which promotes “the fight against impunity for serious human rights violations” and international justice were also searched. The honorary board includes: Emma Bonino, Dimitris Avramopoulos, former European Commissioner for Migration and Federica Mogherini, former High Representative for EU Foreign Policy.
Among the suspects, as mentioned, there is also Francesco Giorgi, who is not only Panzieri’s former parliamentary assistant but also a companion of Eva Kaili, with whom he shares a daughter. Both were questioned and their homes were searched. The vice president of the European Parliament is not considered extraneous to the events. On the contrary, it was she in November, in view of a resolution condemning human rights in Qatar, subsequently approved by the European Parliament, who sided with Fifa. On that occasion he said: “Today the World Cup in Qatar testifies how sports diplomacy can bring about the historic transformation of a country, with reforms that have inspired the Arab world. They committed themselves and opened up to the world”. It has even gone so far as to define Qatar as a “pioneer in workers’ rights”. Kaili’s closeness to the al-Thani family’s petro-monarchy is also testified by the praise of the reforms in terms of human and workers’ rights made by the vice president during her representation trip to Doha. She even said she was in favor of the abolition of restrictions on Schengen visas for visits by Qatari citizens to the European Union.
However, the positions of Panzieri and Kaili also find space in a large part of the Left Group in the European Parliament. On 21 November a resolution was presented asking for a clear position to be taken about human rights in Qatar in view of the World Cup. The proposal was approved with 181 deputies in favour, 165 against and 32 abstentions.
Most socialists were against it. Some members of the Democratic Party, such as Andrea Cozzolino, in the previous days, sent emails to their colleagues asking to vote against. One of Cozzolino’s pa