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“Qatargate”: the European Parliament lifts the immunity of two deputies but still doubts its reform


The Plenary Assembly of the European Parliament voted on Thursday, February 2, to lift the immunity of two Socialist MPs, alleged actors in the “Morocco-Qatargate” file, the corruption and money laundering cases linked to these two countries, revealed in December 2022. Andrea Cozzolino, successor to Pier Antonio Panzeri – the key man in the scandal – in the “EU-Maghreb” and “EU-Morocco” bodies of Parliament and his Belgian colleague Marc Tarabella will now be able to be heard, even indicted and arrested by Belgian justice. The federal prosecution believes that they could be involved in the acts of corruption which aimed to influence the votes of the assembly.

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The two chosen ones proclaim their innocence. On Thursday, Mr Tarabella voted to waive his own immunity, indicating his wish to ” to fight “. “I am innocent, I will finally be able to be heard by the investigating judge”, he explained. Mr. Panzeri told investigators that he had given him more than 120,000 euros in cash to influence his position on Qatar. The Belgian MP had belatedly admitted to having traveled to Doha at the expense of the emirate and had surprised his colleagues by changing his speech on the regime. However, he denies any act of corruption. His party, the Belgian French-speaking PS, expelled him in the name of “absolute rigor” wanted by the president, Paul Magnette.

On Thursday, the European Social Democratic (S&D) group, from which the two MEPs come, appointed the replacement for the elected Belgian Socialist Marie Arena – who resigned in January after forgetting to declare an all-expenses-paid invitation by Qatar – to Chairmanship of Parliament’s Human Rights Sub-Committee. This is the German MEP Udo Bullmann, elected since 1999 and respected both within his group and in Parliament.

“Mandatory Transparency Register”

The group is also fine-tuning the actions to be implemented to “preventing and combating corruption” and become a formation “exemplary”. Thursday, Pedro Marques, the vice-president of the S&D, explained to the Belgian daily The evening that he was going “act, internally, without waiting for Parliament to decide. By applying a series of rules to ourselves”. Among them, he explains, “We will no longer accept any trip paid for by a third State or a private organization. If there was in the past, it’s over. The transparency register will be mandatory, from now on, for all meetings of our deputies, our staff. »

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