Qatargate: MEPs kickstart reform process, Left remains vigilant

The Left secured some firm commitments and measures in today’s vote on corruption, transparency and accountability in the European Parliament. The resolution followed recent revelations in the ongoing Qatargate scandal. 

Highlights include:

  • the suspension of all legislative work linked to Qatar, including the EU-Qatar aviation agreement, until clarity is established;
  • the creation of a parliamentary committee of inquiry to investigate the flaws of the European Parliament’s own rules and anti-corruption mechanisms;
  • the call for an independent ethical authority, to oversee all European institutions; 
  • a demand to make the EU Transparency Register mandatory, strengthen it, and expand its scope, including to former MEPs;
  • appointment of a Vice-President of the Parliament in charge of integrity and the fight against corruption;
  • tightened rules around potential conflicts of interest.

Left Co-President Manon Aubry: “Since 2019, I have been fighting tirelessly to denounce the “dangerous liaisons” between elected representatives and lobbyists, which weaken the trust of citizens. It is high time to finally move forward on issues of transparency and ethics in order to banish corruption. I repeat: Our democracy is not for sale, you cannot buy MEPs like you buy football clubs!”

Left Co-President Martin Schirdewan: “Today’s vote is an important moment in the European Parliament’s reckoning with corruption, but there is no room for complacency. The Belgian authorities have just started their investigation. This scandal is uncovering deep, structural problems and exposing the undue influence of powerful actors. Whether from repressive regimes or profit-hungry corporations, we absolutely must build robust systems to prevent interference in democratic decision-making.”

A number of concerns remain about how the Parliament decides to move forward. European Parliament President Roberta Metsola denounced “the enemies of democracy” and “malign actors” who were able to allegedly infiltrate and influence European parliamentary processes. For the Left, this is not about a few bad apples lured by malign actors with bags of cash. A culture of impunity exists in Brussels and left to fester, this breeds corruption. 

According to media reports, Morocco has also attempted to influence Members, former Members, and staff of the European Parliament through acts of corruption. In our amendments, the Left called for the same measures to be applied as in the case of Qatar. This was rejected. This is shortsighted and points to a tendency on the part of the European Parliament to isolate Qatargate as the exception, when this should be a moment to investigate and address all undue influence and interference in EU policy-making. 

The influence machine in Brussels is huge and is second only to Washington DC. At least 48,000 people work in Brussels and seek to influence the EU institutions and their decisions, 7,500 of them possess an accredited lobby badge to the European Parliament. Nearly 12,000 organisations on the current EU lobby register declare a combined annual lobby budget of €1.8 billion. 

For many years, The Left has been calling for an independent ethics authority for the European institutions with investigative and enforcement powers. In the Resolution, the Parliament voted in favour of an independent ethical authority, but against the Left amendment to ensure this body is properly financed and resourced with sufficient staff. 

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