The World Today for January 10, 2023


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Belgian authorities have arrested a vice president of the European Parliament and jailed her, detained almost a dozen others and raided parliamentarians’ apartments and offices, seizing $1.6 million in cash.

All this is part of a major scandal known as “Qatargate” that has erupted in the European Union over allegations of influence peddling with a “Gulf state,” criminal conspiracy and corruption, that has the bloc’s supporters worried over the EU’s geopolitical soft power – its diplomatic standing – and the example it sets for other less developed regions, which has long rested on its reputation of good governance.

Meanwhile, its detractors are having fun with Qatargate: “And they said the (bloc) is seriously concerned about corruption in Hungary,” wrote Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has been in a long fight with the EU over corruption and authoritarianism in his country.

The scandal arose last month after investigators started looking into Qatar and Morocco unduly influencing decision-making in the EU, wrote Bloomberg in an analysis.

As the Guardian explained, the biggest fish caught in the alleged conspiracy is Eva Kaili, a Greek parliamentarian, former television anchor and, until she was dismissed from her duties, one of the body’s vice presidents. Already stripped of her parliamentary immunity, she has said she is innocent of the charges of criminal organization, money laundering and corruption, adding she didn’t know anything about the nearly 150,000 euros ($161,000) that cops found in her home.

But, as the Greek newspaper Ekathimerini reported, Kaili allegedly told investigators that she asked her father to hide money she received in the bribery scheme. He was arrested on Dec. 9 while carrying nearly 750,000 euros in a suitcase.

Another important figure in the scandal is Marc Tarabella, a Belgian lawmaker. The vice chair of parliament’s delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula, he played an “important role in the leadup to Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup,” noted Politico.

Kaili and Tarabella both belong to the parliament’s Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats faction. Parliamentary leaders in Brussels are now seeking to lift the immunity of the accused members of the European Parliament as they presumably prepare charges in a Belgian court, reported Agence France-Presse.

Meanwhile, Qatari officials have refuted the allegations. They said that EU officials now risk harming relations between the bloc and the gas-rich state, hardly welcome news for Europeans already facing sky-high energy prices because of the sanctions and other moves toward Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, the Financial Times noted. EU officials nonetheless have suspended all work related to Qatar and Morocco. European officials had already ruffled feathers in Qatar during the World Cup soccer championships last year due to their criticism of the sheikdom’s treatment of the LGBTQ community.

Then, Kaili was one of Qatar’s defenders. “Today, the FIFA World Cup in Qatar is a proof actually of how sports diplomacy can lead to a historic transformation of a country whose reforms have inspired the Arab world,” she said in November, according to CNN. “Qatar is a leader in labor rights.”

Qatar has made some strides in reforming its much-criticized labor system, which consists largely of foreign workers from developing countries who have complained of mistreatment and the withholding of pay, as Human Rights Watch described.

Still, most scoffed at those remarks at the time.

Now, a jury might decide whether Kaili was being honest.

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