Doha is alleged to have tried to influence the European Parliament "economically and politically" through large sums of money. Eva Kaili, one of those involved in the case, has already been dismissed as Vice-President of the European Parliament

Qatar-related corruption scandal rocks the European Union

Twitter/Ministry of Labour - State of Qatar via REUTERS - Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, Qatar's minister of labour, speaks with Greek Eva Kaili, vice president of the European Parliament, during a meeting in Qatar, October 31, 2022

Brussels, one of the main seats of the European Union, has been rocked by a corruption case involving the now former Vice-President of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili, and the State of Qatar. The scandal began to unravel last Friday after "several months" of suspicions on the part of the federal judicial police. "The investigators suspect that a Gulf state is influencing the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament and is doing so through sums of money or by offering important gifts to people in a significant position in the European Parliament," said a statement from the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office. 

Over the weekend, Belgian police carried out at least 20 searches in the capital in which they seized more than $1 million in cash, as well as computers and mobile phones. Authorities have continued the raids this week, even searching parliamentary offices.


As a result, four people have been charged with "participation in a criminal organisation, money laundering and corruption", linking them to a "Gulf state". Belgian media have pointed to Qatar as the country involved in the case, which has also implicated one of Parliament's vice-presidents, Eva Kaili, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former advisor to Panzeri and Kaili's current partner, Francesco Giorgi, and Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, secretary general of the human rights group NGO No Peace Without Justice. 


The Belgian prosecutor's office has revealed that 600,000 euros were seized from the home of Panzeri who, paradoxically, heads Fight Impunity, an organisation whose aim is to fight corruption and impunity. The authorities also found some 150,000 euros "in a flat belonging to an MEP" which, according to the Belgian daily L'Echo, corresponds to Kaili's house. Searches were also carried out in a hotel room in Brussels where "several hundred thousand euros in a suitcase" were confiscated. According to L'Echo, this money is said to belong to Kaili's father, who was arrested when he tried to flee.

Qatar exploits energy situation to influence Europe

Kaili - a Greek social democrat and former member of the socialist PASOK party who has been an MEP since 2014 - has been one of Qatar's main supporters in the European Parliament. During her speech in Parliament on 21 November, Kaili claimed that the Gulf monarchy "is a leader in labour rights". At the time, just weeks before the start of the 2022 World Cup, Qatar was under fire from a number of NGOs accusing Doha of failing to respect human and labour rights. According to an investigation by The Guardian, more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka died building the stadiums. 

Despite the accusations and criticism, Kaili continued to strongly defend Qatar against the "discrimination and intimidation" he said the country suffered. "They helped us and they are peace negotiators, they are good neighbours and partners," she added. 

Kaili has met several times with senior members of the Qatari government, including Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, Minister of Labour, Lulwa bint Rashid Al Khater, Deputy Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Foreign Minister and Qatari Ambassador to the EU Abdulaziz bin Ahmed Al-Malki, with whom she discussed the "Schengen visa waiver for Qatari citizens".

For months, Qatar has been trying to influence EU institutions by taking advantage of the energy crisis ravaging the continent. As several European diplomats relayed to Reuters, 'pressure to maintain good ties with Qatar is increasing as Europe enters a winter of energy shortages due to the war in Ukraine'. For its part, Doha has already spoken out, stressing that the accusations are "unfounded" and that it works "in full compliance with international laws and regulations". 

Europe's credibility at stake

Both the PASOK party and the European parliamentary group of Socialists and Democrats have expelled Kaili from their ranks. The Greek political party has sought to disassociate itself completely from the suspect, accusing her of being "a Trojan horse of the conservatives", reports EFE. The party's president, Nikos Andrulakis, said that they had already told the MEP that they would not include her on the lists for the next European elections in 2024.

MEP Roberta Metsola has also suspended her from her post as vice-president. "There will be no impunity," warned Metsola, who said that European democracy "is under attack".

The EP President has promised "not to sweep anything under the carpet", saying that an internal investigation will be launched "to examine all related facts". She acknowledged that she is facing the "hardest" days of her career and that she feels "anger and sadness" about what happened. However, he also stressed that "if we work together we can come out stronger".

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, expressed her "utmost concern", stressing that European institutions "need the highest values of integrity". German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock referred to "the credibility of Europe" and called for "the full force of the law" to be applied. 


Analysts hope that this scandal will serve to develop reforms to fight corruption in European institutions. As Alberto Alemanno, professor of EU law at HEC Paris, points out in POLITICO, the European Parliament is "the weakest link in the European integrity system".

Alemanno stresses that "no one is sanctioned for not reporting a meeting, donation or gift". The EP "has allowed a culture of impunity to develop," he writes. "Whatever its final outcome, this scandal has revealed a truth that is already obvious to most Europeans: money buys influence in the EU," he adds. 

On the other hand, Michiel van Hulten, director of Transparency International, reminds AP that this case "is not an isolated incident".

Obviously, the scandal will also have negative consequences for Qatar. Philip Nichols, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania - quoted by Time - claims that this scenario "undermines its credibility and efforts to travel to Europe without a visa".

Many Eurosceptics have taken advantage of this case to try to discredit and criticise the EU, such as Hungarian President Viktor Orbán. Through sarcasm, the Hungarian leader mocked on his Twitter account the scandal affecting the European Parliament.