Qatar had previously dismissed the “baseless and gravely misinformed” allegations of misconduct.
The head of the European Parliament will lay out a 14-point plan to tighten rules for lawmakers on financial declarations and contacts with lobbyists in an effort to restore trust in the midst of the ongoing European Union corruption scandal.
Parliament President Roberta Metsola will seek support from political group leaders on Thursday, according to a parliamentary source, Reuters reported.
The plan comes just a month after Belgian authorities charged four people, including Greek lawmaker Eva Kaili and Italian former parliament member Pier Antonio Panzeri, over allegations they received cash and gifts from Qatar to influence decision-making.
The transparency plan would require declarations of all meetings with interest groups, including a transition period during which former lawmakers would be barred from lobbying and receiving gifts.
Qatar has denied wrongdoing, as has Kaili through her lawyer. Panzeri’s lawyer has declined to comment.
The ongoing investigation alleges that the officials took money, trips, and gifts, aas part of efforts to lobby for Qatar at the European Parliament, alluding to Doha’s alleged role in influencing the parliament’s policy-making, France’s Le Monde reported.
The French paper cited text in which the European Parliament expressed its concern over possible alterations to a number of resolutions “by corruption and undue influence”.
The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office sent a media statement at the beginning of the scandal, saying the police “suspected a Gulf country of influencing economic and political decisions of the European Parliament.”
Citing media leaks, reports were quick to claim Qatar, Morocco, and Bahrain’s alleged involvement in the scandal.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament announced last week that it had started the process of waiving the immunity of two of its members in response to a request from the Belgian judiciary investigating the corruption scandal.
The two MEPs have been identified as Belgian Marc Tarabella and Italian Andrea Cozzolino, according to Reuters.
Only committee chairs and those in charge of specific legislation or resolutions are required to publish meetings with lobbyists or campaign groups under current rules. Metsola’s proposal would extend this obligation to all lawmakers and their staff.
Lawmakers’ financial declarations would need to be more detailed. They couldn’t, for example, simply write “consultancy” as a source of outside income.
Rule breaches would be more clearly subject to sanctions. Details of sanctions, along with declarations, would be presented more clearly on the assembly’s website to allow voters to hold lawmakers more accountable, the parliamentary source said.
Metsola, who has promised to lead reform, has stated that new rules will not prevent people from being lured by large sums of money.
However, critics claim that limited reporting on contacts and few sanctions have created an environment in which rule-breaking can go unpunished or undetected.
The establishment of an independent ethics body covering all EU institutions will take longer. The European Commission intends to make a proposal on such a body, but it is unclear when this will happen.
While the investigation is still ongoing, members of the European Parliament already voted to suspend Qatari representatives’ access to its premises.
A diplomat at Qatar’s EU mission told Doha News at the time that the decision “will negatively effect regional and global security cooperation, as well as ongoing discussions around global energy poverty and security.”
Last month, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani stressed Doha’s “rejection” of misleading media leaks in a meeting with the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.
In a statement, Qatar’s foreign ministry said that the senior Qatari diplomat underlined “the need to respect the judicial procedures and not to anticipate the results of the investigations.”
Sheikh Mohammed also stressed “Qatar’s rejection of the misleading media leaks that drag its name in this matter” during his meeting with Borrell.