Sunday

9th Aug 2020

Investigation

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

College of Europe rector Jorg Monar has confirmed payments from Saudi Arabia to set up private meetings with MEPs - and attacked the media for reporting it as lobbying.

In a letter addressed to the chair of the European Parliament's budgetary control committee and seen by this website, Monar says that "the Saudi government has been charged for the training provided in line with our usual tariffs."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or subscribe as a group

In his letter, dated 21 February, he also described media that reported the paid Saudi training seminar as a lobbying exercise as "sloppily researched and tendentious."

The training included non-public meetings between seven Saudi ambassadors to EU states and officials from the EU institutions between 18 and 22 February.

The MEP briefing, which was also held behind closed doors, took place at the European Parliament on 19 February.

The 19 February meeting was chaired by France's former defence minister, centre-right MEP Michele Alliot-Marie.

Monar says their fees for the Saudi training is in no way linked to the education branch of the EU-funded post-graduate institute

His letter is a response to budget control committee chair, German centre-right MEP Ingeborg Graessle.

Graessle had last week demanded clarity from Monar on the Saudi financial ties, following revelations by this website that the College of Europe was being paid by the Saudi government for their efforts.

"The article informs that most likely your institution has received financial support from the Saudi side for your activity. This is clearly a type of action, which characterises a lobbyist organisation,"she told Monar.

Monar appears to have now confirmed such financial support, but draws a distinction between the College of Europe's executive-training programme and its higher education division.

"Our executive-training branch operates entirely on a self-financing basis, in full respect of the College's non-profit organisation status," he says.

Saudi fees a 'surplus'

The rector makes similar assertions in a second letter addressed to the alumni of the College of Europe, noting that the Saudi fees "have generated a surplus which will barely cover the replacement costs of a beamer in a College seminar room."

Some 125 alumni working at the European Parliament had signed and sent him a letter demanding that Monar cut all ties with the Saudis.

Monar, in a response letter to the alumni sent earlier this week and also seen by EUobserver, says the meetings at the EU institutions had been initiated "well before the Khashoggi incident."

Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist who was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, before being dismembered and dissolved in acid.

The College of Europe last year organised information sessions for groups of officials from 65 different countries, many from autocratic regimes.

The EU's lobby transparency rules require academic institutions to register if they "deal with EU activities and policies and are in touch with the EU institutions".

The College of Europe is not listed in the EU joint-transparency register. The Bruges-based campus, where Monar presides, received over €5m in EU funds for 2019.

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

Saudis and their lobbyists risk losing access to EU parliament

The leadership of the Greens have asked European Parliament president Antonio Tajani to "revoke 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."

Investigation

France opposed guidelines on EU presidency sponsorships

Internal document shows diplomats questioned whether the secretariat of the Council of the EU was legally allowed to write guidelines on the financing of the six-month rotating EU presidency activities.

News in Brief

  1. Germany breached rights of Madeleine McCann suspect
  2. EU offers trade perks to Lebanon
  3. Germany charges ex-Audi chiefs on emissions cheating
  4. UK quarantines Belgium, as European infections climb
  5. Bulgaria's Borissov mulls resignation
  6. EU prolongs anti-dumping duties on Chinese steel
  7. Swedish economy contracted less during April to June
  8. EU offers help to Lebanon after port explosion

Opinion

Why so few women in EU missions?

Angela Merkel is only the seventh woman to chair the Council of the European Union's meetings. And in 2020 there is no woman leading any of the current 11 European civilian missions (let alone the six military operations).

Commission chief under fire for Croatia campaign video

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recorded a video in support of Croatia's ruling party, which the EU executive said was in her "personal capacity" - and admits it was a "mistake" that this was not made clear.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. EU wary of violence in Belarus election
  2. Iraqis paid €2,000 each agree to leave Greece
  3. EU's most sustainable islands are Danish 'Sunshine Islands'
  4. Worrying rows over future EU chemicals policy
  5. Rainbow flag protesters charged by Polish police
  6. An open letter to the EPP on end of Hungary's press freedom
  7. Renew Europe has a plan to combat gender-violence
  8. Why EU beats US on green pandemic recovery

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us