Qatargate & the Decline of the European Left

A scandal rocking Europe further undermines trust in politicians nominally on the left, writes Attilio Moro.

Member states flags outside European Parliament, Strasbourg. (© European Union 2017 – European Parliament)

By Attilio Moro 
in Pula, Italy  
Special to Consortium News

On Dec. 9 Belgian police arrested a man carrying a piece of luggage full of cash. The man is the father of Eva Kaili, a Greek MEP and a vice president of the European Parliament. He was taken into custody as police broke into Kaili’s Brussels’ apartment, where they found cash everywhere: in clothes pockets hanging in the closet, in old shoes, and in plastic bags.

Between father and daughter about €750,000 were found. Kaili’s secretary and companion, Francesco Giorgi, was also arrested. Some hours later, former MEP Antonio Panzieri, founder of the NGO Fight Impunity, was apprehended under the same accusation as the Kailis: participation in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption. 

The last to be arrested that day was Luca Visentini, who stepped aside five days later from his post as general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. Together, police in Belgium, Italy and Greece seized €1.5 million in cash.

Eva Kaili (Euranet plus/Wikimedia Commons)

According to the accusation, Panzieri and Visentini used their influence on their former colleagues to get special treatment from the Qatari government, which stood accused in a parliamentary resolution on Nov. 22 of serious violations of human rights. Qatar, which had the world’s focus on it while hosting the World Cup as news broke of the arrests, has denied the allegations.

Unexpectedly, during the resolution’s discussion, Kaili intervened to stress the “tremendous progress” made by the Qatar on human rights issues.

According to police, Qatar was not the only country to buy influence in the EU Parliament: Investigators found convincing proof that Morocco had also paid a substantial amount of money to at least one MEP, Andrea Cozzolino of the Italian Democratic Party.

The effects on European public opinion of the ongoing (and growing) scandal has been enormous, especially as the EU Parliament and the European Left (to which all the people so far involved belong to) have been seen as traditional champions of human rights.

The initial reaction from inside Parliament, however, was far from reassuring: its president, Roberta Metsola of Malta, found nothing better to say than that EU institutions were “under attack.” But from whom? Qatar or Morocco? From the police?

The corrupting influence of lobbyists on MEPs has been an open secret for decades. Many times regulations intended to limit corruption (for example, compulsory registration for foreign embassy lobbyists or accountability for “travel expenses”) were voted down by Parliament. MEPs have also been opposed to keeping records of their meetings with lobbyists. “

The European Parliament is “the only institution that basically has virtually no rules imposed on their representatives and very weak enforcement of those ethical rules,” Alberto Alemanno, EU Law professor at HEC Paris, told Euronews.

But the ongoing scandal, dubbed Qatargate, has again raised calls for reining in corruption by forcing lobbyists from non-EU countries to register. Legal representatives or consultants from those countries are supposed to register but only five have done so in Brussels.

Lack of transparency is also an issue: any attempt made by journalists to clarify some murky business (such as the procurement of services to external firms) are met, most of the times, with a screen of mirrors and smoke.

This scandal has also brought to light the decline of the Italian left (almost all of the MEPs so far indicted belong to the PD (Partito Democratico). It has shown once again that the PD has little or nothing to do any longer with the traditional organizations of the Italian working class, which has always been in the front line against political corruption. The party’s permeability to corruption might be because the DP has lost its political vision.

But this is not the case only for the Italian left. The British Labor Party has for 30 years stopped representing the interests of working Britons. The French Socialists have disappeared. The German SPD is ruling the country but without even a taste of left-wing traditional policies of peace and social justice. Instead corruption can fester in today’s European left. 

This latest scandal only further tarnishes in the eyes of voters the image of those who purport to fight for their interests.

Attilio Moro is a veteran Italian journalist who was a correspondent for the daily Il Giorno from New York and worked earlier in both radio (Italia Radio) and TV. He has travelled extensively, covering the first Iraq war, the first elections in Cambodia and South Africa, and has reported from Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan and several Latin American countries, including Cuba, Ecuador and Argentina. He spent two decades covering the EU in Brussels. 

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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13 comments for “Qatargate & the Decline of the European Left

  1. lester
    December 22, 2022 at 14:40

    Is there a Left anywhere in the world any more? I’m not sure what Leftism is at the moment!

  2. December 21, 2022 at 08:40

    This isn’t about politics, it is about capitalism. Capitalism is about money and bribery, corruption and crushing the socialist left. The socialist left is the only thing that stands meekly in the way of unfettered, unregulated, corrupt capitalism. When individuals have billions of dollars, they know there is no better money spent than bribing politicians. If you want to end this, demand very high taxes on the wealthy. Add in a wealth tax that takes the money straight out of their hidden bank accounts spread across the globe. If you de-money them, you defang them.

  3. Tom_Q_Collins
    December 20, 2022 at 18:08

    The road to fascism is paved with the bones of a weak and easily corrupted Left.

  4. Anonymot
    December 20, 2022 at 17:25

    There is a vital difference between “a little corruption” and the cancer that has grown in the entire class of governmental decision makers from top to bottom – not only in the EU, but everywhere including in our good old USA.

    However, the EU is a special case, like the World Bank and many of the other world-level money distributing organizations where money sloshes over the sides like a small boat in a big storm. It didn’t even have to be unlawful since the EU was set up for it in the mid-Eighties when it became a political as well as a well-intentioned financial organization.

    I remember living in London in the late Eighties when a newspaper carried a news article about an English politician who had just risen to an EU ministerial position and it mentioned, shyly, the salary that the post carried with it, very substantial in a city where everything cost little and the salaries were not taxed. My curiosity piqued, I dug in to every paid political position he held, from his community level in the UK, his various titles in England all the way up to ministerial. I was shocked that the total tipped over £500,000. And this was a gentleman with an internationally known name. They didn’t need lobbyist initially. It was all legal, because that’s why the politicians set the EU up and why they enlarged it and enlarged it into uselessness.

    And why they just gave it away to America.

  5. nwwoods
    December 20, 2022 at 17:22

    It’s starting to look a lot like Congress…

    (Sung to the tune of “It’s Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas”)

    As an aside, how about the latest Twitter reports in which it is revealed that FBI apparently paid Twitter $3.5 million (a de facto Dem party bribe) to block the Hunter Biden laptop story for furthering public distrust in institutions?

    • Wade Hathaway
      December 21, 2022 at 12:55

      I think there is validity to viewing the Hunter Biden issue through a non-partisan lens. If the allegation is true about the FBI using whatever resources to stop the story, those actions are about protecting the elite, Democratic or Republican. The article above concludes noting the fall of the european left, when again an opposing view could be the rise of corruption in all our institutions with no regard for ideology. It all just becomes about money and power and maintaining the elite structure.

  6. Leon Brown Sky
    December 20, 2022 at 16:08

    If the “European left” is anything like the “American left”, then the root cause of the problem is that there is nothing ‘left’ about them. After all, it is the principles of a real ‘left’ to put the good of the people first. Since none of the American left nor apparently the European left has such a principle, they are of course open to bribery and deals with very ‘non-left’ actors such as the Sheiks of Qatar.

    If a ‘left’ actually puts the overall good of the people first, like any actual ‘left’ will automatically do, then they would be incapable of such a scandal. But, when ‘the left’ is just a con-job designed to grab power and wealth for the tricksters, such things are very possible. When the left does not believe in the traditional values of the left, then this is the predictable result.

    Remember, a ‘millionaire socialist’ is always such a contradiction in terms as to be completely unbelievable. And history has shown that the millionaire part always takes precedence, mainly because a real socialist would never become a millionaire in the first place. The rich who claim to be on the side of the people should always be treated with skepticism. The champion that will fight for the people comes from the people and lives in the same neighborhood as the people. The rich will not save the people.

    A pro-war left is not to be trusted. Because any real left knows that it is the people always pay the price for war to the benefit of the rich.

  7. rgl
    December 20, 2022 at 13:15

    Is there a single government on the planet that does not have some level of corruption? I’m gonna say ‘nyet’. Politics are very lucrative endeavours.

    • Vera Gottlieb
      December 21, 2022 at 10:30

      And ‘democracy’ went the way of the Dodo bird long time ago.

  8. mgr
    December 20, 2022 at 13:04

    At the same time, Ms. van der Leyen and the European Commission in concert with the German Greens, have done everything in their power to make the EU a wholly owned vassal state of the US with no industry, no money, no influence, no prospects, and no heat, not to mention, no respect. You have to wonder if that is simply sheer myopic stupidity or payoffs.

    • Vera Gottlieb
      December 21, 2022 at 10:31

      I call her van der Lying…Europeans, seems, are going deaf, dumb and blind.

      • Valerie
        December 21, 2022 at 14:53

        And how did this come about:
        “News magazines from Time to Austria’s Profil have put Volodymyr Zelenskiy on their covers as Person of the Year 2022. The business weekly Forbes’s choice was a little more surprising: naming Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, “the world’s most powerful woman”.” ( From the Guardian 20th dec)
        This, “the world’s most powerful woman” who sat at a table and laughed/participated with other heads of state whilst boris johnson suggested they take off their shirts/clothes in mocking president Putin. They have no dignity or integrity.

  9. Mark Thomason
    December 20, 2022 at 11:20

    We could add notice of Libyan money given to Sarkozy of France. There is more. None of this is new, and not just the EU.

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