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“Cathargate” shockwave shakes the European Parliament

Correspondent in Brussels

I think it will not be an exaggeration to say that those days were among the longest in my career. » For Roberta Mezzola, it is a baptism of fire. The President of the European Parliament is now on the front line in the face of Cattargate, by far the most serious legal case that has tarnished the Strasbourg assembly.

Four people charged with “membership of a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption” were jailed by Belgian justice on Sunday, including Greece’s Eva Kaili, one of the vice-presidents of the European Parliament, and former MEP Pierre-Antonio Panzeri. . Several hundred thousand euros were confiscated. The arrest warrants issued against the four accused on Sunday will be confirmed or not on Wednesday. Roberta Mezzola herself returned from Malta as a result of the disaster to take part in the search of the house of another Social Democrat MEP, the Belgian Marc Tarabella. There is no news about him at this time. The leader of the elected social democrats, Spanish Iratje Garcia, announced that his group will file a civil lawsuit in the case of the storm. And at the request of the same group, four deputies resigned from their duties. According to the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office, 10 offices in the European Parliament building in Brussels were searched again on Monday, bringing the number of searches since Friday to about thirty. Qatari authorities suspected by Belgian justice “to influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament by paying significant sums or offering significant gifts”.deny their participation in corruption attempts.

It is urgent to limit the damage caused by this scandal, which affects a key institution that prides itself on being the most democratic in the Union and the most progressive in the fight against corruption, respect for the rule of law and protection of human rights. A position that often causes gnashing of teeth among Member States.

On Monday, when she opened the plenary session in Strasbourg, Roberta Mezzola took a firm stand on the matter, believing that:“European democracy is under attack”.. ” There will be no impunity. No dust will be left under the carpet “He promised, condemning.”the enemies of democracy for whom the existence of this parliament is a threat “. He also attackedmalicious actors linked to autocratic third countries” who would “use NGOs, trade unions, individuals, aides and members of the European Parliament as weapons to subvert our processes. “. There is no doubt that the services of the European Parliament have been cooperating with the Belgian authorities in this matter for some time.

There will be no impunity. No dust will be left under the carpet

Roberta Mezzola, President of the European Parliament

The President of the European Parliament also revealed the first clues about what can be put in place to prevent this from happening again. It is specifically about havingmore transparency in dealings with foreign actors “. It is interesting that the members of the European Parliament do not have to announce the meetings they have with the representatives of the countries, whether they are EU members or third countries. There were attempts to go in this direction, but they never succeeded. “In recent years, I have met the Qatari ambassador to the EU and NATO in the corridors of parliament far more often than I have seen EU ambassadors. He is very present indeed “says a member of the institution. Roberta Mezzola also put on the table the strengthening of alarm systems within the institution.

The agenda of today’s plenary session was also turned upside down. The Conference of Presidents, which brings together the President of the European Parliament and the leaders of the various political groups, usually takes place on Thursdays. It was brought forward on Tuesday morning and will be decided by the European Parliament on Eve Kylie’s expulsion, which will then be approved by a vote in the plenary. On Tuesday, the European Parliament is also scheduled to discuss the shocking scandal. “I imagine many MEPs will want to make a speech to show that they have nothing to do with these affairs “, – sneers the executive of the European Parliament.

As requested by members of Renew, Eva Kylie’s activities will also be “scanned”. As for the start of negotiations on visa liberalization for a certain number of countries, including Qatar, it was postponed specifically at the request of the rapporteur of the text.

“Very disturbing information”

The case goes beyond the scope of the European Parliament only. All other EU structures will have to justify themselves. This is particularly true of the commission, where the highly criticized trip of Greek sports chief Margaritis Schinas to Doha for the start of the World Cup came to light in recent hours. Although the EU flatters itself that it is now “geopolitical” and more mature in its relations with third countries, that is, much less naïve, this case is going down very badly. “It is about the credibility of Europe German Foreign Minister Analena Baerbock summarized.

Meeting in Brussels on Monday, the Union’s foreign ministers did not hide their concerns. “This information is very disturbing – judged Josep Borel, the EU’s highest representative of foreign relations. Irishman Simon Coveney called “uncover the truth“in order to”so that it doesn’t happen again “. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calls for the creation ofindependent authorityresponsible for the management of ethical issues in the EU institutions. “It is a question of trust in the people behind our institutions. This trust implies high standards of independence and integrity.“, VDL emphasized.

Only the leaders of the illiberal regimes, who regularly stand out in the resolutions adopted in Strasbourg, find a reason to be happy about the regression of the European Parliament. While Hungary is still waiting to get its hands on €13 billion in European funds frozen by Brussels, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán did not hesitate on Monday to address “progressive” MEPs. “Hello European Parliament“He tweeted, accompanying his message with a photo of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush laughing out loud and captioned:And then they said… The European Parliament is seriously concerned about corruption in Hungary.»

The scandal currently involves only a handful of elected officials, former elected officials and associates. But investigations are ongoing, and no one knows if members of other political groups may be caught in turn. “There is a lot of caution because we don’t know how far it can go“says the source of the European Parliament. On Monday, Roberta Mezzola warned those who would be tempted to disengage, a dangerous game from which they will not necessarily emerge victorious. “Let’s resist the temptation to exploit this moments:politics! »

Source: Le Figaro

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