The references to a corruption scandal in the European Parliament caused dismay among politicians across party lines and calls for decisive reactions: Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) took note of the reports "with the expected horror" that "something like this is apparently possible "said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit on Monday in Berlin. "There shouldn't be any prejudices," but if the reports are confirmed, it would be "a very serious process." This would then have to be discussed at the level of the EU Parliament and "not by individual nation states".
In the course of investigations into possible influence by the Gulf Emirate of Qatar on European politicians, the Greek EU Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili and several parliamentary staff were arrested on Friday. Kaili is suspected of taking money to influence political decisions for the World Cup host country. For example, consideration is currently being given at EU level to easing the visa rules for Qatari citizens.
"This is really an incredible incident. It must now be cleared up without any ifs or buts and with the full force of the law," demanded Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on the sidelines of a meeting with colleagues from the other EU member states in Brussels. In this case, it is also about the credibility of Europe. "And accordingly, consequences must follow in different areas." The Green politician did not give any details. "Now it's all about complete clarification," she added. "We haven't experienced anything like that for a long time."
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the allegations against Kaili "very serious". The EU needs "the highest standards" for independence and integrity. "In my opinion, it would be right for us to set up an ethics committee," as the EU Commission already has. Von der Leyen referred to talks that she had already initiated in March with a letter to all other EU institutions. It's about "clear rules, clear standards" and "the same control mechanisms" for everyone. This affects not only the Council of Member States and the European Parliament, but also the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt am Main and the European Court of Auditors.
The events are sad, unbelievable and reason enough for Kaili to "vacate her post immediately," said FDP politician Alexander Graf Lambsdorff of the "Bild" newspaper. So far, the 44-year-old has only been released from her duties. Green politician Reinhard Bütikofer explained: "Corrupt people have no place as members or employees in the European Parliament." He feels anger and bitterness "because the shameless actions of individuals threaten to damage the entire institution".
The EU parliamentarian Dennis Radtke (CDU) said "Bild": "The sheikhs from Qatar not only buy a football World Cup and its greedy officials and protagonists for 200 billion dollars, now they don't stop at politicians either. wants to buy the world. And unfortunately that has now succeeded in Europe, in the European Parliament, in which the elected representatives of 27 nations sit."
Radtke stressed that he feared "the biggest corruption scandal in European politics if bags with banknotes of several 100,000 euros were found at the home of those arrested". One must assume "that much more will be uncovered". He called for the EU-wide review and expansion of transparency and lobbying rules for third countries and lobby companies founded by them, as well as a committee of inquiry to clarify the allegations against Kaili.
The co-leader of the Greens group in the European Parliament, Terry Reintke, also thinks it is necessary. "The damage has been done to the entire European Parliament, so the democratic, pro-European part of Parliament must react with great clarity," she demanded from the German Press Agency in Brussels. The details still have to be agreed with the other groups, but in their opinion a committee of inquiry would be important. Everything about the corruption scandal that has shaken parliament since Friday must come to light. In addition, steps could be taken against third-country lobbying or for more transparency by MPs.
In addition to the accusation of bribery and corruptibility, the scandal also raises the suspicion of money laundering. Kaili was relieved of all her duties by Parliament Speaker Roberta Metsola over the weekend. So far she was one of a total of 14 deputies. The decision still has to be formally confirmed by Parliament. The Social Democratic faction – which also includes the SPD MPs – has already suspended its membership. Her party excluded her.
In addition to Kaili, a former social democratic MEP from Italy, Antonio Panzeri, and the 44-year-old's Italian partner were also arrested. As the newspaper "Le Soir" and the magazine "Knack" reported on Sunday, both like Kaili were imprisoned in custody. "They are accused of involvement in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption," prosecutors said. The examining magistrate released two other arrested persons. The house of another MEP was searched on Saturday evening. According to media reports, it is the Belgian social democrat Marc Tarabella. His party announced on Sunday evening that it had quoted Tarabella before an internal party committee.
During the searches in Brussels on Friday, a total of 600,000 euros in cash and mobile phones were confiscated. According to media reports, investigators later found pockets full of cash in Kaili's apartment.
The World Cup host Qatar has been criticized for years because of the human rights situation and the conditions for foreign workers. Numerous members of the then Fifa Executive Committee, which awarded the World Cup to Qatar in 2010, have now been convicted of corruption. However, Qatar itself has always denied allegations of bribery.