What does the corruption scandal mean for the EU?

Following Eva Kaili's arrest, the EU Parliament has removed the suspended Vice President from office. Kaili is suspected of having accepted large sums of money from Qatar in exchange for influencing EU decisions. Belgian prosecutors have charged Kaili and several other suspects with corruption and forming a criminal organisation. Europe's press debates the consequences.

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Pravda (SK) /

Control mechanisms too lax

For Pravda the EU is lagging behind its own claims when it comes to fighting corruption:

“When she took office, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised to create an independent body with the powers and capacity to investigate and punish breaches of ethical rules in EU institutions. After three years, this body is still 'in the pipeline'. However, according to Věra Jourová, the responsible Vice-President of the Commission, it will only be an 'advisory committee' without the power to conduct investigations or impose sanctions. That doesn't sound like sufficient protection for ethical rules.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

This is what the rule of law looks like

The scandal shows that the judiciary functions better at the EU level than in Poland, writes Gazeta Wyborcza:

“Is it proof that the EU has a problem with the rule of law? That's what the politicians of the [governing party] PiS are claiming. ... But the very fact that a high-ranking politician from the EU Parliament's co-governing party is under investigation and has been arrested and detained just goes to show that the rule of law works. In Poland, on the other hand, no investigations are launched against PiS politicians and their allies. The arrest of a person from the government elite is highly unlikely.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

Ensure integrity

It's high time the EU created an ethics council, the Irish Independent observes:

“The case to have an iron-clad independent ethics watchdog becomes ever more urgent given the growing powers of the bloc and its plans for new membership. Any notion that corruption could be a routine part of the cut and thrust of political life would be anathema to that. ... Integrity must be central to the conduct of affairs in the EU or the character of MEPs and the reputation of the entire bloc will suffer. Any notion that influence can be traded has to be dispelled. As Benjamin Franklin put it: 'Glass, china and reputation, are easily crack'd, and never well mended.'”

La Stampa (IT) /

Perhaps the EU will finally put itself on a diet

Brussels has created a monster, rails La Stampa:

“Brussels is now the only place on the continent that has money (and lots of it) and can decide how and when to spend it. ... Something exorbitant has been born in its shadow. A government that is too bureaucratic and too big to be truly controlled. The fact that the parliament is headed by a president with 14 vice-presidents is the image of superfluous power. ... It is therefore not hard to see how numerous the intersections and holes are through which any initiative and all kinds of corruption can slip. The Qatar scandal could usher in the first European reform that the EU must commit to itself, rather than imposing on others.”

Phileleftheros (CY) /

Exemplary investigation

Phileleftheros praises the crackdown by the Belgian authorities:

“They did not make allowances for the status of those involved. ... They didn't let any secondary considerations stop them. They didn't weigh up interests. Not even the fact that in addition to the Brussels officials a rich state (Qatar) was also involved deterred them. ... Everyone in the Republic of Cyprus who has the duty to prosecute corruption cases, from the Attorney General to the head of the anti-corruption authorities right down to the last police officer, should take an example from the notorious Qatargate case. They should turn the Belgian methods into a manual and follow it to the letter in every case. ... This is the only way to fight the monster of corruption.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

Another blow to its image

Because of the way it works, the EU Parliament has limited means to counteract the damage to its image caused by such scandals, notes De Telegraaf:

“The institution already has a bad reputation because of its expensive travelling circus mode, generous salaries and other forms of waste. This is a pity for those among the 705 MEPs who work hard to steer the enormous European tanker, but whose work often remains invisible to the wider public. This is a result of the political culture in the European Parliament: the real work takes place mainly behind the scenes. ... Because of this political culture the elected representatives clearly feel little pressure from the media, opinion polls and the political home front.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

EU Parliament's moral auhtority has suffered

The reputation of the European conscience is at stake, warns La Vanguardia:

“The European Parliament, until now the EU institution most valued by the citizens, could be hugely discredited by this scandal and drag the other European institutions down with it. The moral authority which has allowed it to criticise corruption in certain member states will also be reduced, as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán commented mockingly in a tweet yesterday. We should also not forget that Qatar has become a strategic partner of the EU in recent months, selling European countries the LNG they need to make up for the cutting off of Russian gas supplies.”

Turun Sanomat (FI) /

At the most inopportune moment

The EU's credibility has been severely undermined, Turun Sanomat laments:

“The scandal in the parliament comes at the worst possible time. Right now, the West needs to be especially united to ensure that the front against Russia's invasion of Ukraine holds as long as necessary. Unfortunately, we have already seen a crack in the front when Hungary protested against the freezing of EU funds by blocking the aid package for Ukraine, even though the West's help is indispensable for Ukraine's military success. The corruption allegations now coming to light undermine the credibility of EU decision-making at a time when such a convulsion is the last thing the bloc needs.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Reform ethics and lobbying rules

The EU should see the corruption scandal as an opportunity to make necessary improvements, demands Alberto Alemanno, professor of European law, in Le Monde:

“The European Parliament must turn this integrity scandal into a real reform effort. Instead of once again confining themselves to castigating the party directly implicated in the current scandal, EU leaders should immediately announce a major overhaul of the bloc's ethics and lobbying system. ... The scandal that is unfolding is pathetic. This is precisely what should motivate EU leaders to put things right. Finally.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Resolute action instead of new committees

The Wiener Zeitung is annoyed by the EU's reaction to the scandal so far:

“Officially, around 12,000 lobbyists are registered in the Transparency Register in Brussels. In view of these conditions, the contribution of EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to solving the problem, namely the call for an ethics council to monitor all EU institutions, comes across as just a typical compulsory exercise by a top politician. This knee-jerk call for the creation of a new committee without knowing much about the background is hardly original. ... A new EU ethics council will change very little. Decisive action by the authorities can achieve much more.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

EU must hold up a mirror to itself

The pro-government Magyar Nemzet accuses the EU of hypocrisy:

“The ways of human greed and avarice are apparently as inscrutable as the lobbyists from Qatar are pushy. ... The paths of hypocrisy, however, are dead straight. ... Corruption exists in every country. ... One of the key questions is: to what extent and in what form? The other key question - especially in the case of EU institutions - is who is wielding a general accusation of corruption against a country, for example Hungary, as a political stick, and for what reason.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Get off their high horse

The EU Parliament needs to clear up this affair as quickly as possible, writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“For no one in Europe is as harshly critical of the corrupt and semi-authoritarians, the Orbans and Kaczynskis of this world, as the EU's only elected representatives. For years they have been fighting to ensure that the separation of powers functions and that European funds don't disappear into dubious channels. ... It's obvious that Hungary's head of government will now exploit 'Qatargate'. ... The MEPs would be well advised to put their house in order as quickly as possible - and above all to get off their high horse. The simple truth is that money buys influence everywhere.”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

No big surprise

Naftemporiki is not surprised by the scandal:

“The focus is on money. The purchase of people and consciences. ... The Belgian investigating judge Michel Claise will go down in history for uncovering a system of corruption and money laundering from Qatar. ... The aim of the operation - according to the Brussels judges - was to influence the financial and political decisions of the European Parliament through bribery. ... We should not, of course, be flabbergasted. Qatar has paved the way for corruption since 2010, when it bid to host the World Cup. 'If someone is against it, you buy their vote' was the motto.”

To Kouti tis Pandoras (GR) /

At least Europe observes the proprieties

Greek corruption has spread to the EU level, says the web portal To Kouti tis Pandoras:

“The situation in Greece has gotten completely out of hand. The result: politicians like Kaili believe they can do what they do in Greece at the European level, too - in other words, be avaricious and carry around sacks of dirty cash in one hand while describing Qatar as the Disneyland of workers. ... The government has broken all records in violating the institutions and rules of parliament, the judiciary and the constitution. ... Fortunately, however, Europe observes the proprieties, which is an important pillar of civil democracy. It does not inform the suspects, it does not give them time to destroy the evidence. ... And most importantly, it puts them in custody.”

Der Spiegel (DE) /

All about damage control now

The EU must act quickly, demands Der Spiegel:

“Parliament must cooperate unconditionally with the Belgian judiciary. MEPs must quickly ensure that the same rules apply to dealings with lobbyists from third countries as to all other lobbyists. The promised easing of visa requirements for Qatar must also not come at this stage. It would be disastrous for the EU if the impression were created that a country has bought its access to Europe. In the end, there are only losers in this affair. The only thing left to do is to limit the long-term damage. That will be difficult enough.”

La Repubblica (IT) /


This is not only a disgrace for the socialists, judges La Repubblica:

“It is also about Kaili's impudence to publicly praise a country where more than 15,000 foreign workers have died in recent years to give the Emirates the most controversial World Cup in history. ... Moreover, the scandal of the Panzeri mini-clan [the former MEP, wife and daughter were also arrested] is a snub to the European Parliament. The power of lobbies, which can and must be regulated, is one thing. It is another thing when an MEP who earns over ten thousand euros a month feels the need to fetch bags of money from Qatar. The idea that in a parliament where Europe's values are defended on a daily basis, there are MEPs who are themselves corruptible by authoritarian regimes is obscene.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Dubious image cultivation with Gulf dollars

Doha is simply pulling out all the stops to make its mark, concludes Der Standard:

“The small, filthy rich Emirate of Qatar basically invented what other Gulf states are doing today: investing a lot of money and diplomacy in polishing up its image and international networking. And even if in principle this strategy doesn't have to cross criminal boundaries, it quickly comes up against what should be considered an ethical no-go in Europe. ... Qatar's methods are well-known: investing worldwide in everything it can get its hands on (sport, culture, real estate, industry), bringing institutions and companies to Qatar, presenting itself as the 'Arab Geneva'. The negotiations between the US and the Taliban took place in Doha; Qatar is a permanent mediator between Israel and Hamas.”

Göteborgs-Posten (SE) /

EU could collapse under its own weight

There is a lack of democratic legitimacy and regulation in powerful Brussels, notes Göteborgs-Posten:

“The EU needs a comprehensible, clear constitution on the American model that clarifies the distribution of power between the EU, national parliaments and the local political level. ... Without such a constitution, the EU project runs the risk of collapsing under its own weight. For the officials in Brussels and Strasbourg, who are not elected by the people, will hardly voluntarily cede parts of what they have received from Europe's representatives: all too far-reaching political power. Power that is not accompanied by the corresponding duty to account for one's actions.”