Tags : Qatargate, European Parliament, Moroccogate, Corruption, Antonio Panzeri, Eva Kaili, Francesco Giorgi,
The Qatargate scandal has engulfed all the European institutions, as long as the European Parliament is constantly releasing new information about famous politicians who have benefited from various favors from the authorities in Qatar and Morocco, and while the European Commission is checking all trips made to the two states of to officials from all departments.
Thus, according to an article published by Euractiv.com, the European deputy, Marie Arena (member of the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament), former president of the DROI subcommittee, benefited – from the Rabat authorities – in 2015 of a stay in a luxury hotel in Morocco together with the former Italian MEP Antonio Panzeri, the one who set up the corruption network revealed by the Qatargate scandal.
However, Panzeri told prosecutors that Marie Arena did not know that the entire trip was paid for by the Moroccan authorities.
« In 2015 there was a trip with Marie Arena. She accompanied me for two or three days to the La Mamounia hotel, where I had meetings with the local Saharawi community, » Antonio Panzeri said during a hearing, quoted by the daily newspapers Le Soir and La Repubblica.
The Saharawi Community, also known as the Arab Democratic Republic, is a partially recognized state that claims sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
« Marie Arena probably thinks that I was the one who invited her, but in fact the Moroccan ambassador Abderrahim Atmoun took care of everything, » said Panzeri, who refused to say whether Atmoun covered the expenses of the two MEPs from own funds or those of the Moroccan state.
Contacted by Le Soir about this 2015 trip, Marie Arena declined to comment.
According to a declassified note of the Belgian State Security, which was handed over to the judicial investigation carried out in Brussels, Atmoun received orders in this operation from a certain « Mohamed B. », an alleged secret agent of the DGED (Moroccan secret service) as he claims Soiree.
Regarding the Moroccan secret service and the visit from Morocco, Panzeri said: « I found out because my hotel key was in a pocket with the name of the reservation on it. It was someone from DGED. That’s when I understood. »
However, the quoted sources claim that there is circumstantial evidence that proves that Marie Arena was not unaware of certain activities in connection with Morocco and Qatar. During a wiretapped phone call shortly after a European Parliament DROI subcommittee meeting with Qatari Labor Minister Ali bin Saikh Al Marri on November 14, Panzeri thanked Marie Arena for her interventions and stated that the minister he was « satisfied » with the whole procedure.
• « Free » flights for a director of the European Commission
Meanwhile, the European Commission is conducting an internal investigation into whether its top transport official broke EU rules when he flew free flights to Qatar.
A Commission spokesman announced at a press briefing on Monday that it is looking into whether Henrik Hololei, the director general of the transport department, broke EU rules on conflict of interest.
Hololei would have accepted free flights from the Qatari government while his team was negotiating a major aviation deal vital to the Gulf state’s airline, Politico.eu claims.
The Estonian official flew for free in business class on Qatar Airways nine times between 2015 and 2021, according to the details obtained by the quoted source. Six of the free flights took place during the company’s European market access deal, and four of those were paid for by the Qatari government or a group with ties to Qatari officials, prompting Hololei to be accused of conflict of interest. of interests.
The commission did not indicate what measures it could take if Hololei is found guilty, but the spokesperson specified that the sanctions will depend on the findings of the investigation and will be in accordance with the staff status of the European institutions. Under these procedures, if there is evidence of a violation of the regulations, the sanctions range from a written warning to the removal of the official from his position and a reduction in pension.
Following the disclosure of this case, the European Commission established that, from now on, general directors can only authorize and carry out trips paid for by the authorities of EU countries or by international organizations such as the United Nations or G7, or public and private universities when the trip is in academic purposes. Moreover, the general directors will have to consult the European commissioner to whom they are subordinated or his cabinet chiefs, in order to approve the expenses for the missions that are carried out outside the European Union.
• Financing from third countries, at sight
In addition to all of the above, Politico journalists also show that the European institutions are working on a draft directive that would oblige non-governmental organizations, consultancies and academic institutions to disclose any funding from outside the EU. The planned legislation would be similar to existing normative acts only in Australia and the United States. In the US, the Foreign Agents Registration Act required lobbyists working on behalf of foreign governments to register with the federal government.
The EU version is unlikely to target individuals, but it would oblige commercial and non-profit organizations in member states to disclose non-EU funding on various transactions, such as paying for academic studies, an official told the source. of the European Commission.
Such a project would be necessary, according to Commission officials, because the EU has recently faced a series of foreign influence operations – from Russian hack-and-leak campaigns aimed at changing election results to Chinese grants to universities that aim to shape the rhetoric on human rights and, most recently, corruption in Qatargate.
However, the critics of such a project believe that the moment chosen is not conducive to such an initiative. In fact, the European Commission is working on such a legislative project, just as Georgia was rocked by protests over a similar bill that would have forced non-governmental organizations to register as « agents of foreign influence » if more than 20% of their funding would have come from abroad. Following the protests, the respective project was withdrawn by the Georgian authorities.
« It’s obviously a sensitive issue. We’re still in the early stages of gathering information from a wide range of stakeholders to make sure we’re taking the right approach, » a Commission official told the source, who specified that the organizations non-governmental organizations received a preliminary questionnaire, based on which an impact assessment will be carried out at the end of April.
According to a copy of the survey seen by the cited source, respondents are already being asked to detail their non-EU funding sources, a question that surprised many NGO representatives, according to Nick Aiossa, Transparency International’s head of policy and advocacy.
Moreover, some non-governmental organizations have expressed concern that if Europe goes ahead with its own version of the « foreign influencer registration law », it could be a reason for autocratic leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to move on to repressing the democratic forces in their country.
To calm the spirits, Vera Jourova, the vice-president of the European Commission, said that she will organize a series of meetings with representatives of civil society in the European Union in the coming days.
It is certain that Brussels was shaken by the Qatargate scandal, the European institutions are trying to take protective measures, but some of them are at the lower limit of democracy.
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