Qatar lobbying scandal rocks EU Parliament; why India needs to watch out

While the issue has become a major embarrassment for the EU parliament exposing how easy it is to infiltrate decision making in one of the most important legislative bodies of the European Union, India should also watch out the developments closely and remember how coordinated social media attacks on a BJP spokesperson led to Qatar’s diplomatic intervention during Nupur Sharma episode.

| Updated: 11 December, 2022 1:12 pm IST

A  Member of the European Union Parliament has been accused by the Belgian police of conducting illicit lobbying activities on behalf of a Gulf country suspected to be Qatar in return for huge sums of money. The event rocked the European Union Parliament with the suspension of the accused member, who belonged to the Center-left Socialists and Democrats group.

The suspension of Greek socialist MEP Eva Kaili, 44 comes after she was arrested for questioning in what is being called the “Qatar lobbying scandal” along with the arrests of four other people as officers searched 16 properties earlier on Friday.

This is said to include Kaili’s partner as well as Luca Visentini, 53, who is the current General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC. Kaili is accused of “influence peddling” at the EU assembly by a Gulf state believed to be Qatar in exchange for money.

Kaili recently called Qatar a ‘frontrunner in labour rights’ after meeting with the nation’s labour minister, as per international media reports. In November, shortly before the World Cup started, she met Qatar’s Labour Minister Ali bin Samikh Al Marri.

In a video statement posted on Twitter by the Qatar News Agency she said: ‘I believe the World Cup for Arabs has been a great tool for… political transformation and reforms…’. She praised Qatar for introducing labour reforms and went to the extent of saying that the EU parliament recognised their progress.

Despite international concerns about poor living conditions of thousands of migrant workers who died building the FIFA tournament stadium, Kaili accused some MEPs of ‘bullying’ Qatar and accusing them of corruption.

The Belgian Police conducted raids on the suspicion that a Gulf country was influencing the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament. The investigation has blown the lid off the Qatar scandal in which it is alleged that large sums of money or expensive gifts were offered to third parties with a significant political an or strategic position within EU Parliament to

While the issue has become a major embarrassment for the EU parliament exposing how easy it is to infiltrate decision making in one of the most important legislative bodies of the European Union, India should also watch out the developments closely.

It was only a few months back that Alt-news, a so-called fact-checking website founder Mohammad Zubair’s tweets, resulted in death threats to former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, who had during a TV debate allegedly made derogatory remarks against Mohammad. Following Zubair’s tweet many Twitter influencers tagged Gulf countries to intervene given that India imports oil from them. While a massive twitter campaign was on, On June 5, Qatar summoned India’s ambassador.

It handed over to them protest notes on what the Gulf countries called categorical “rejection and condemnation” of the controversial remarks of a BJP leader against Prophet Mohammed. To defuse the possibility of  diplomatic row, Indian Embassy in Qatar that Sharma’s opinions didn’t reflect the views of the Government of India. “These are the views of fringe elements,” he said.

On the same day the BJP high command suspended national spokesperson Nupur Sharma.  The party has also expelled Delhi BJP’s media in-charge Naveen Kumar Jindal from primary membership of the party.

In the suspension letter, the party’s central disciplinary committee wrote, “You have expressed views contrary to the party’s position on various matters… Pending further inquiry, you are suspended from the party and from your responsibilities with immediate effect.”

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