Blog AnalysisEU Institutions

[Editorial] Qatargate, really good news after all?

(B2) The revelation of the possible corruption of several deputies, or former MEPs, and their parliamentary assistants, by Qatar or Morocco, reveals a functioning democracy. In more ways than one.

The seat of the European Parliament in Brussels, rue Wiertz side (© NGV / B2)

Anti-interference processes worked

First, we can rejoice in the effectiveness of anti-corruption processes, including when it comes to foreign interference. Admittedly, there was a failure in the internal prevention processes at the political level. This will need to be fixed. But the a posteriori, police and judicial control system, particularly in Belgium and Italy, worked well (read: [News] Arrests in Brussels for corruption in the European Parliament. Qatar in sight). It is ultimately the very logic of corruption, which is above all a crime and must be treated as such.

A sphere of international influence

Secondly, it underlines the non-negligible role of the European Parliament, at the level of European foreign policy. If within the continent, these rather innocuous texts often go unnoticed, are misunderstood, ignored, even despised, including by the most knowledgeable. Outside the EU, this is not the case at all. These positions are judged to match their importance: notable. Many governments follow these texts closely and try to influence them in the direction that is favorable to them.

The barometer of the relationship with a third country

Behind the words, there is indeed a certain reputational risk, but also and above all a risk of weakening political, economic and social relations. These texts are thus so many barometers on the relationship between the EU and a third country. For one, it will be the free movement of visas, for the other a partnership agreement, or participation in economic projects. In any case, a good level of relations with the European Union is for a large majority of the countries of the world, if not a necessity, at least a useful “Plus”. All the usual means of influence to try to safeguard their interests are therefore employable: charm, diplomacy, political conviction, intellectual or geographical sympathy, etc. Europe must be aware of this and shield his diplomacy.

Two mistakes not to make in the clean hands operation

In this operation clean hands to the European, however, under the pretext of transparency and the safeguard of interests, one should not choose the wrong battle.

Considering that these positions are all rigged or useless would be harmful. This would no longer allow the European Parliament to play its full role in “soft” diplomacy, which is its favorite field, to take positions that are sometimes more determined than European politicians by condemning such violations of human rights.

Prohibiting all contact between parliamentarians and third countries would be another mistake. On the contrary, they must be allowed, even encouraged. It is not by prohibiting such a diplomat from coming into the corridors of Parliament that we will prevent corruption or games of influence from taking place. These contacts will take place elsewhere, in the bars surrounding the Place Lux' or the Schuman roundabout for example, in the very discreet places of the embassies or abroad.

On the other hand, stricter regulation of gifts or invitations of all kinds, clearer and more systematic advertising of all these contacts would be very useful. An attempt at pressure, contact, made public, is generally enough to annihilate the applicant and protect the recipient from any subsequent pressure. In this area, the European Parliament is rather behind the other European institutions (Read: QatarGate in the European Parliament: an earthquake that reveals shortcomings).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read our [Dossier n°96] The Qatargate and MarocGate affair breaks out. Storm over the European Parliament et [News] Qatargate and MarocGate: a real pact of influence!

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

2 thoughts on “[Editorial] Qatargate, really good news after all?"

  • Geoffrey Alan Harris

    I completely agree with your analysis and hope that something good comes out of this. At least it is a reminder of the importance of EP soft power, a neglected reality for many analysts too often looking only at formal, legal, and institutional functions. Hopefully journalists will also look into how the Belgian investigators were alerted to all this. It seems a bit too timely coming just as Qatar was hosting the FIFA event. Qatar has many human rights issues but is a key US ally and compared with Saudi Arabia and Iran has ,at least, some prospects for positive development. It is also a bit too convenient that , so far, only social democrats are facing the heat. Some observers see this as a convenient start to the EPP euro-eletion campaign….

  • “On the other hand, stricter regulation of gifts or invitations of all kinds, clearer and more systematic advertising of all these contacts would be very useful. An attempt at pressure, contact, made public, is generally sufficient to annihilate the applicant and protects the recipient from any subsequent pressure. I fully agree because third countries in fact escape the surveillance of the transparency register – to which companies, NGOs, professional associations, think tanks, consultants, regions, etc. are increasingly subject. create a special section that goes beyond the diplomatic delegations accredited to the EU. But let's not kid ourselves: we will then see an increased presence of third countries behind or in certain think tanks, NGOs, universities and other chambers of commerce... To be frank, I believe even more in denunciation within the small institutional world of the EU, which seems to me to have worked well in the case of Qatar.

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