Sunday

4th Dec 2022

Investigation

Saudis and their lobbyists risk losing access to EU parliament

  • The Saudi ambassadors following a closed-door meeting inside the European Parliament with MEPs on 19 February (Photo: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)

Earlier this year, the former defence minister of France, Michele Alliot-Marie, chaired a backroom meeting with a half dozen Saudi ambassadors at the European Parliament.

That meeting was part of a so-called training programme organised by the College of Europe, an academic institution part-funded by the European Union and based out of Bruges in Belgium.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The college received Saudi money for the effort and then attacked the media for reporting the behind closed door meeting between the ambassadors and MEPs as lobbying.

France is also the world's third-largest weapons exporter with Riyadh as one of its biggest clients. The regime late last year murdered critical journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Now pressure is mounting to ban all Saudi diplomats, as well as any organisation that represents them, from entering the European Parliament again.

In a letter sent to European Parliament president Antonio Tajani on Thursday (27 June) and the seen by this website, the leadership of the Greens political group demand action.

They ask, among other things, that Tajani "revoke all European parliament access badges to Saudi officials and to public relations companies or other entities working for or on the behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

They also want Tajani to suspend the participation of Saudi officials to any official meetings within the parliamentary premises, including those that take place on the committee and delegation level.

The letter is signed by the co-presidents of the group, German MEP Ska Keller and Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts.

It comes in the wake of revelations that a Saudi cybersecurity team was ordered to hack the email accounts of Guardian journalists looking into the Khashoggi killing.

It also follows a scathing report by UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard earlier this week, that establishes the existence of credible evidence of direct responsibility for Khashoggi's murder to the Saudi authorities, including the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

However, the demand comes at a tricky time, as coalition-building among the different political groups in the European Parliament is underway.

Macron's Loiseau is back

Among those groups is Renew Europe, the liberal group previously known as ALDE, whose ranks are now filled with deputies loyal to French president Emmanuel Macron.

Macron has refused to stem the weapon sales to Saudi Arabia despite numerous violations committed by the regime in its brutal war in Yemen.

Last month, France confirmed it had sent a new shipment of weapons to Riyadh.

The sale took place despite the release of a classified report showing how French tanks and laser-guided missile system are being used by the Saudis in Yemen.

Now Macron appears to be now attempting to reshuffle his influence at the EU level.

Last week, his top pick to become the leader of Renew Europe, Nathalie Loiseau, was forced to withdraw her nomination following a flurry of insults against other MEPs inside the group.

But on 10 July, she is set to secure a key spot on the European parliament's subcommittee on security and defence, where the global weapons trade is likely to be a core subject.

Meanwhile, it is unclear whether the Keller and Lamberts letter will have any affect given the internal jockeying of power for the top EU jobs.

Tajani is himself stepping down as European Parliament president as MEPs elect a replacement next week in Strasbourg.

Should the Saudi ban be imposed, it would not be unprecedented.

In 2015, the then European Parliament president, Martin Schulz, revoked and restricted access to top ranking Russian officials.

Investigation

Saudis paying College of Europe to lobby MEPs

The Bruges-based College of Europe is setting up private meetings with the EU institutions for seven ambassadors plus seven high-level officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Investigation

EU college defends Saudi-style visits, attacks 'sloppy' media

College of Europe rector Jorg Monar says the surplus money made from setting up closed-door meetings between the Saudi government and EU officials, including MEPs, "would barely cover the replacement costs of a beamer in a College seminar room."

In Saudi Arabia, contacting the EU is a crime

Women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is facing trial. One of the allegations is contacting the EU delegation. Despite pressure from Brussels, Saudi Arabia remains unimpressed.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  2. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  3. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  4. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  5. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  6. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  7. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  8. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us