The groups of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) had a “clear alliance” in the EU House to protect Qatar, French MEP Manon Aubry told EURACTIV.
In late November, the EU Left managed to pass a last-minute resolution on human rights in the context of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, splitting the European Parliament.
Six different resolutions were put on the table, with some avoiding a reference to the “deaths” of workers in preparing for the biggest football tournament worldwide.
EURACTIV went through all six draft resolutions, from which only the one from EPP did not include the word “death”. Instead, the EPP focused on Qatar’s energy potential.
Aubry, who is a member of la France Insoumise (EU Left), said the way the EPP behaved in the negotiations showed that it was very close to the S&D in protecting the interests of Qatar.
“We are now seeing only the part of the iceberg that is on top of the water. But there’s probably a bigger part under the water”, she said.
The leftist MEP from La France Insoumise stressed that the EPP preferred a simple discussion rather than a resolution.
“If they didn’t want to have a resolution, it shows that they’re not feeling comfortable with that scandal, and they did not want a strong public reaction from the European Parliament,” she added.
An EU Parliament source told EURACTIV that one cannot presume that bribery was the reason for all votes in favour of Qatar.
“Some were doing their job to back the EU interests, and some others were making money out of it,” the source said.
Belgium’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office issued a statement on Monday saying that a total of 20 searches have been carried out since the beginning of the operations, including 19 in private homes and the one in the offices of the European Parliament.
Press reports suggest that the assistants under investigation mainly come from the S&D group and one from the EPP.
The ‘weird’ email
Several sources from the S&D confirmed to EURACTIV that Francesco Giorgi, who together with his partner EU Parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili have been imprisoned due to the scandal, was putting pressure to other EU lawmakers to avoid voting against Qatar.
“He was sending messages, giving phone calls to S&D MEPs asking them to take the floor in the discussions and back Qatar”, a source familiar with the matter told EURACTIV.
“He even offered to provide argumentation in favour of Qatar in case EU lawmakers were not super familiar with the case”, another source added.
Giorgi is an assistant of Italian S&D MEP Andrea Cozzolino, who reportedly has nothing to do with the scandal and is not under investigation.
Sources said, though, that Giorgi was the “boss” in the office when it comes to Qatar.
EURACTIV obtained an email sent by Cozzolino to the S&D group calling on his colleagues to reject an amendment alleging that the World Cup was awarded to Qatar by FIFA through bribery and corruption.
For his part, Cozzolino told the Italian press that he expressed his own views, that he has nothing to do with Qatar-gate and that Giorgi never put pressure on him when it comes to Qatar.
The EU Commission reaction
Press reports late last night reported that European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas is also under investigation for “Qatargate”, as recently he publicly backed Qatar.
His communication advisor Vangelis Demiris, reacted on Twitter saying that claims about an alleged investigation on Schinas are “false, non-existent and misleading”.
“Some are lost in translation,” he added.
However, previously at a press conference EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen refused to answer a question on whether Schinas was under investigation, prompting the strong reaction of some journalists.
“I can feel that the President of the European Commission is not feeling comfortable because she knows that at the end of the day, not only few members of the European Parliament are targeted,” Aubry commented.
“Are you aware of the say ‘those are just a few bad apples’? Well, I don’t believe it,” the French MEP concluded.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]