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European Parliament Suspends Work With Qatar in Response to Criminal Probe

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola is pictured on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels, Dec. 15, 2022.
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola is pictured on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels, Dec. 15, 2022.

The European Parliament voted Thursday to suspend all work on legislation linked to Qatar after allegations of corruption involving a parliament vice president rocked the assembly.

Prosecutors suspect the vice president, Eva Kaili, and three other people took bribes from World Cup host Qatar in its alleged bid to influence European Union policymaking.

At a news conference following the vote, Parliament President Roberta Metsola told reporters the criminal proceedings from a probe by Belgian police were damaging for democracy, for Europe, “and for everything that we stand for ... trust that has taken years to build.”

She announced the planned implementation of a reform package, to be ready by the first of the year, that would include “the strengthening of the parliament's whistleblower protection systems, a ban on all unofficial friendship groups, a review of the policing of our code of conduct rules and a complete and in-depth look at how we interact with third countries." A ban on Qatari representatives' access to the parliament's premises is also to be considered.

The European Parliament, one of the European Union’s legislative bodies, said it would suspend all work on legislative files relating to Qatar, notably on visa liberalization, a European Union-Qatar aviation agreement and planned visits, until the allegations have been confirmed or dismissed.

EU lawmakers backed the resolution 541-2 and said they were "appalled" by the alleged corruption, one of the union’s biggest scandals to date.

Belgian investigators searched 19 homes and the offices of the European Parliament, looking into allegations that Qatar paid large bribes to influence the parliament's policy debates.

A source close to the investigation told the Reuters news agency that $1.6 million was seized in the raids, and that people were arrested on corruption charges, including parliament Vice President Eva Kaili of Greece.

Authorities in Athens on Monday froze Kaili’s assets, and her political party in Greece also suspended the former television news anchor. Both Kaili and Qatar officials have denied any wrongdoing.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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