Two Arab nations star in a new international spy-game
A new scandal that erupted in the heart of Europe earlier this month continues to shake the European political scene. As Belgian authorities explore the role of European politicians and officials in the new scandal, attention turns to two Arab nations, Qatar and Morocco.
According to the most recent evidence, the Belgian authorities believe that Qatar and Morocco are behind a scheme to influence European officials and politicians to obtain favorable outcomes on several topics.
Greek columnists, focusing on the pre-trial detention of the Greek Vice-President of the European Parliament, warn that the problem of corruption is developing into a severe disease for the common European vision.
The Qatari link
Recent revelations in Europe about a high-profile corruption scandal include accusations against several European Parliament members (MEP). Eva Kaili, the vice president of the European Parliament, and others have been detained by Belgium's authorities. They are accused of participating in a criminal organization and accepting bribes on behalf of Qatar.
The European Parliament Member's (MEP) economic and political actions have been under suspicion by Federal Judicial Police investigators for several months. According to the latest information, deepening the investigation, the authorities seized several hundred thousand euros, mobile devices, and other evidence.
Until recently, Kaili was one of the 14 vice presidents of the European Parliament. The Greek politician is accused of "membership in a criminal organization, money laundering, and corruption." She is alleged to have lobbied on behalf of Qatar. Recent developments have also cast a shadow on Kaili's political group, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) party.
Kaili, a former journalist who also holds degrees in architecture, civil engineering, and European affairs, was elected to the Greek parliament (Hellenic Parliament) in 2007 as a member of the social-democratic party of PASOK. Prior to that, at 24 years old she was the youngest councilor elected at the municipal elections for Thessaloniki in 2002. In 2009, when Prime Minister George Papandreou of PASOK was coming under increasing pressure for his poor handling of the nation's sovereign debt crisis, Kaili refused to back down. She ran for election to the European Parliament in 2014 and won, becoming a member of the S&D group, the second-largest organization in the European Parliament. Since 2014, she has served on several committees over the years, including the Delegation for Relations with the Arab Peninsula (DARP).
Besides serving as an MEP assistant, Kaili's Italian spouse is also a sailing teacher. He reportedly traveled to Qatar in 2018 for business. According to the latest information, he is one of the protagonists of the EU's new political scandal.Recently, Kaili visited Qatar and praised the nation as a "frontrunner in labor rights" amid accusations of inhumane working conditions and several migrant workers losing their lives while constructing the FIFA stadiums.
Morocco is also in the picture
According to the Italian media, Morocco, another Arab country, is at the center of the latest European controversy known as "Qatargate." The issue is described by "La Republica" as "a real spy game." The Italian newspaper highlights the part that the kingdom's secret services, the "Dged", have played in the "spy game."
"La Republica" stresses that five months ago, the Belgian secret services, backed by other European services, reached the conclusion that there is a "network operating on behalf of Morocco and Qatar". This network engages in "interference actions" at the EU's main offices and influential positions within its institutions, most notably the European Parliament.
The occupation in Western Sahara and Morocco's migrant flows shines out in the background of the recent scandal. Morocco wants to have as few issues as possible regarding migration flows and does not want the EU to obstruct the occupation of Western Sahara. Through "friendly names" and other relationships, the kingdom tries to influence EU decisions in its favor.
Meetings, discussions, and dinners with the top-secret service officials in Rabat are a regular occurrence in the above system. According to "La Republica," a Dged officer stationed in Rabat, the capital of the Maghreb nation, was the one who initially hooked the so-called "clique". In addition, "a Rabat diplomat who travels along the Warsaw–Brussels axis has a key role with everyone obeying his commands."
The same tactic is enlisted in Qatar, with the primary goal of making Doha's worker-related policies acceptable. The Qatari authorities are even blunter than the Moroccan ones, especially regarding those working on the World Cup's construction and organizing the now-completed football championship. They don't directly employ spies but prefer to use government employees.
"La Republica" emphasizes that Qatar did not share Morocco's goals. Doha is primarily concerned with protecting the nation's reputation regarding civil rights, whilst Rabat focuses on limiting migration flows and the acknowledgment of the West Sahara occupation. Despite differing purposes, the two nations employ comparable strategies, primarily bribes and corrupt practices, to achieve their objectives.
Europe's new headache, Qatar's reaction
For Charlie Cooper and Antonia Zimmermann, the alleged corruption scandal involving Qatar and Morocco could not have come at a worse moment for gas-scarce EU nations. This is because Qatar as a major LNG supplier is essential to Europe's plans for dealing with the energy issue. The controversy shows how difficult it can be for EU nations to make any decision particularly now that Europe, especially Germany, is keen to find alternatives to Russia as a supplier.
Cooper and Zimmermann remind us that "approximately 5% of the EU's total gas imports this year have come from Qatar. However, a mega-expansion of Qatar's LNG production capacity, with two large projects scheduled for completion in 2026 and 2027, is expected to increase the country's significance to Europe's energy security."
The writers also predict that Qatar's involvement in the new scandal may increase pressure on Germany's ruling coalition, where the Greens are forced to support agreements for sizable new fossil fuel supplies and the LNG infrastructure needed to import them.
Qatar, for its part, strongly refutes the accusations made by the Belgian authorities in response to the recent happenings. The Gulf state criticizes Belgium for keeping it in the dark regarding the probe.
A new Qatari statement emphasizes, "It is regrettable that some acted on predetermined prejudices against Qatar and made their conclusions based on the erroneous information in the leaks instead of waiting for the investigation to be completed.
Europe suffers from the disease of corruption
Greek analysts focusing on the role of Kaili in the recent scandal underline the evolution of corruption into a chronic disease of the modern Greek and European structure.
Thanasis Karteros reminds us of "the downward slide of PASOK." According to the columnist, PASOK's "voyage" from an honest leftist discourse towards corruption was smooth and quick. The "party of change" ultimately became a party of negotiation with whatever and whoever it was before engaging in political conflict.
Based on this observation, Karteros urges the SYRIZA, the largest party of the Greek Left, to resist "the goodies of power." The columnist conveys the following message to Alexis Tsipras' party: "Do you not worry about the (undemocratic) competition phenomenon and the fixation on self-promotion? You'll respond that everything said here results from SYRIZA's unexpected rise to power. Okay, we'll bounce back. (But in any case, we should keep in mind that) Clean hands and a clear conscience are necessary."
Communist Party of Greece's mouthpiece "902.gr" places the phenomenon of corruption within a broader European framework. According to the Balkan's historical party, "bribery, scandals, and takeovers 'grow' on fertile European ground, against the backdrop of fierce business and geopolitical conflicts, because of the interdependence between European business groups, bourgeois parties, and their executives, which is not only obvious but institutionalized, especially in the European Parliament, where interest groups deal directly with MEPs."
The KKE believes that "Qatargate" proves the incurable rot of capitalism, its parties, and its imperialist linkages. Intensifying the fight for its overthrow is necessary for the people to breathe and free themselves from its rot as soon as possible.
*Dr Nikolaos Stelgias was born in Istanbul. He is an independent researcher, writer, historian and journalist. His doctorate is in the field of the modern Turkish political system (Panteion University, 2011). His latest book “The Ailing Turkish Democracy” was published by the Cambridge Scholars Publication in 2020. Dr. Stelgias was a correspondent of the newspaper "Kathimerini (Cyprus edition)" for Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community from 2009 to 2021. Currently, Dr. Stelgias works at the Cyprus News Agency. Dr. Stelgias publishes in Turkish news articles and analyses on Cyprus and Greece.