22nd Feb 2024

Avramopoulos met EU officials while on Fight Impunity payroll

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Former EU commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos held meetings with EU commission vice-presidents at a time when he was being paid by Fight Impunity, an NGO linked to the Qatari corruption allegations.

In a statement on Tuesday (20 December), the European Commission said his recent meetings held between Vera Jourova and Johannes Hahn were of a "private nature".

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  • He met with nine EU commissioners while on the Fight Impunity payroll (Photo: Avramopoulos)

But Avramopoulos also held meetings with commission vice-presidents in November 2021, before the end of his two-year 'cooling-off' period on 1 December 2021.

The period bans him from lobbying European Commissioners on behalf of the NGO on matters for which he was responsible during his mandate.

And meetings relating to EU policy can only take place if lobbyists are in the EU transparency register, an online database of special interest groups.

Fight Impunity was not in that register.

But a commission spokesperson said there is also no general ban on Avramopoulos meeting commissioners or their staff.

The question was posed because the president of Fight Impunity, Italian ex-socialist MEP Antonio Panzeri, is currently in jail along with his former parliamentary assistant, Francesco Giorgi.

Their alleged corruption scandal also reportedly spans Morocco influence peddling.

Avramopoulos served as EU home affairs commissioner from 2014 to 2019 and dealt with issues like migration and security.

He sat on the board of Fight Impunity along with former EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, former French prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve, Italian senator Emma Bonino and former MEP Cecilia Wikström. He said his role was completely without executive or management responsibilities.

"For my participation and the compensation that would accompany it, I requested the approval of the European Commission, which was given to me in writing by president [Ursula] von der Leyen", he said.

Italian newspaper La Stampa revealed Fight Impunity paid him €60,000 for his work between February 2021 and February 2022.

During that time he held meetings with nine EU commissioners.

"Visit to Brussels and meetings with good friends and colleagues from @EU_Commission," he said, in Tweet on November 2021.

The tweet shows images of himself along with European Commissioners, either standing in an office or by EU flags.

This includes executive vice-president Frans Timmermans and Margrethe Vestager, as well as vice-presidents Maroš Šefčovič, Věra Jourová, Margaritis Schinas, and commissioners Stella Kyriakides, Mariya Gabriel, Ylva Johansson and Johannes Hahn.

Stella Kyriakides said they discussed the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is unclear what other subjects were discussed.

In July, he tweeted another image of himself on holiday in Greece with EU budget commissioner, Johannes Hahn.

And in October, he tweeted he had dinner with EU transparency commissioner, Věra Jourová.

The revelations also come at a time when Avramopoulos is vying to become the next EU special representative for relations with the Gulf countries.

Avramopoulos has since accused people in Italy of trying to distort his image over Fight Impunity in order to weaken his chances of landing the job. Other contenders include former Slovak foreign minister Jan Kubiš, former Italian foreign minister Luigi Di Maio, and former Cypriot commissioner Markos Kyprianou.

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