29th Mar 2023

EU parliament suspends Kaili's VP 'duties' over Qatar scandal

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European Parliament vice-president Eva Kaili has had her tasks and duties suspended but retains her seat until a formal vote is taken.

The move follows allegations of corruption likely over Qatar as well as a spate of arrests by the Belgian police, involving some €600,000 in cash, as first reported by Belgian media outlets Le Soir and Knack.

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Kaili has since been expelled from the Greek socialist Pasok party as well as from the European Parliament's Socialist and Democrats group.

That was followed by a statement on Saturday (10 December) by a European Parliament spokesperson announcing Kaili's suspension.

"In the light of the ongoing judicial investigations by Belgian authorities, President Metsola has decided to suspend with immediate effect all powers, duties and tasks that were delegated to Eva Kaili in her capacity as Vice-President of the European Parliament," said the spokesperson.

She is one of 14 vice-presidents in the European Parliament and was handed the role, at the start of the year, to replace Metsola for missions throughout the Middle-East.

She was also tasked to replace Metsola for contacts with European business associations, as well as non-security multilateral bodies including the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation.

And she oversaw "corporate social responsibility," as well as the "European strategy and policy analysis system," among other roles.

Vote needed to unseat Kaili

Given she is an elected official, she still retains her role as vice-president, according to the EU parliament's rule book.

An early termination requires a vote on a proposal by the conference of presidents, a body composed of parliament's political leadership, before going to a plenary vote.

A Qatar government official qualified as "serious misinformation" any allegation of misconduct on the part of the State of Qatar, reported the AFP on Saturday.

But the police raids, arrests as well as past praises by the socialists on Qatar has cast a long shadow over those involved.

Belgian newspaper L'Echo reported that "several bags full of banknotes" had been found at Kaili's home in Brussels.

Qatar trip and socialist vote

Kaili had told EUobserver in late November that she had gone to Qatar on behalf of Metsola, and that she had also planned to visit Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman.

The comment came after the majority in the socialist group voted against a proposal that would require an EU parliament plenary debate and vote on Qatari human rights.

This included Belgian socialist Marc Tarabella, whose home was also raided by the Belgian police over the weekend, reports Le Soir newspaper. Tarabella denies any wrongdoing.

Others caught up in the Belgian police dragnet include a former parliamentary assistant to ex-socialist MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, as well as Luca Visentini.

Visentini was secretary general of the European Trade Union Confederation before becoming president of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

As an MEP, Pier Antonio Panzeri had chaired the European Parliament's sub-committee on human rights.

His wife and daughter have since been arrested over the affair at their family home in Calusco, reports Italian newspaper, Corriere Della Sera.

The current chair of the subcommittee is Belgian socialist Marie Arena. Her office office was also sealed by the police over the weekend.

Arena, Tarabella and Kailli voted against a proposal by the Left that demanded a plenary debate and resolution on human rights in Qatar.

Another plenary vote is set for Qatari visa liberalisation, following an April proposal by the European Commission.

The proposal is being pushed by European Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas, who had met Qatari ministers on 20 November, a few days after meeting Kaili.

The socialists now want to put the proposal on hold. The lead MEP heading the file, German Green Erik Marquardt, also said he would vote against it.

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