Can European Parliament Recover from ‘Qatargate’ Scandal?
**Qatar Controversy Continues to Grip European Parliament**
The ‘Qatargate’ scandal continues to rock the European Parliament one month after it erupted and Belgian MEP Marie Arena has stepped down from her post as chair of the Human Rights subcommittee following the admission of a unreported paid trip to Qatar. Arena cited a clerical error as the reason for the lapse and stressed her detachment from the Belgian authorities’ investigations.
Qatar stands accused of bribing European lawmakers to influence political decisions within the European Union. On December 9, several suspects connected to the legislature and NGOs were arrested in Brussels in a significant police operation. 1.5 million euros were seized as a result and charges subsequently brought against four people, including former deputy speaker of the Greek parliament Eva Kaili, of corruption, money laundering and criminal organization memberships.
On Monday at the Strasbourg plenary session of the European Parliament, president Roberta Metsola intends to present a plan including the introduction of a ban on informal MEP-third-country friendship groups since official delegations in several non-EU nations already exist.
German MeP for the Greens Daniel Freund , whilst grieved by the revelations, admits that this is not the first scandal to have rocked the European Parliament since its establishment as the sole directly elected EU body 40 years ago. Freund points to the 2011 “Cash for Amendments” scandal, in which undercover journalists filmed certain MEPs soliciting bribes. He adds that in the past decade 24 other cases have arisen in breach of parliamentary codes yet all of these have gone unpunished.
Though president Metsola’s plan has been largely celebrated by members, some right-wingers fear it will put prospective candidates off running. In addition, Transparency International believe that MEPs should have to declare the usage of their €5,000 monthly allowance and salary money, as this would discourage MP’s from using it illicitly.
There is promise that MEPs might bt set on restoring their reputations as soon as possible, though whether a majority will sustain this sentiment when reforms are voted for in the coming months remains to be seen.