MEPs scramble to declare paid trips post-Qatargate

MEPs scramble to declare paid trips post-Qatargate
Опубликовано: Wednesday, 15 February 2023 14:15
Khalifa Stadium in Doha, capital of Qatar, under renovations in 2016. Amnesty International says some 3,000 migrants worked on it daily. The EU-Qatar Friendship Group has now been banned (Photo: jbdodane, Flickr)

MEPs are scrambling to declare trips paid by states, such as Qatar, in the wake of a corruption scandal that has landed the parliament’s former vice-president in pre-trial detention for allegedly accepting bags full of cash.

Among them is Romanian centre-right Cristian Bușoi, who chaired the now banned EU friendship group with Qatar between 2019 and 2021.

His office, in an email sent on 12 December of last year, told EUobserver that the group was inactive due to restrictions imposed by the pandemic and given his busy work as chair of the powerful committee on industry, research and energy.

"Please also note that he did not receive cash, gifts, support or other forms of any kind of interests to declare before, during and after his mandate as chair of the Friendship Group or before and during his membership period," said his office.

Seven days later, he declared that Qatar had in fact paid for a business class flight as well as four nights at the Doha Ritz Carlton hotel in February 2020. His office has yet to reply when asked to explain the discrepancy.

But the declaration, as well as others, points to a European Parliament that has broadly failed to enforce its own rules when it comes to the code of conduct of MEPs.

The rules require MEPs to declare every organised event by a third party where their travel and accommodation is paid by someone else. The declaration must be done no later than the last day of the next month following the final day of attendance at the event.

It means Bușoi’s declaration is 1,035 days late.

An analysis published by Transparency International EU, a Brussels-based NGO, found that 103 declarations were submitted during the two-month period since the start of Qatargate.

Of those, 67 percent were filed late. Other late filers on Qatar include Spanish liberal MEP, Jose Ramon Bauza Diaz.

Diaz had taken up the chairmanship of the EU friendship group with Qatar after Bușoi.

"I have never received a single euro from anyone for defending anything. It has not been offered to me either," he told EUobserver, in an email, on 12 December of last year, when asked if he had received any gifts.

Qatar paid a business class flight and a night at the Marriot Marquis City Center Doha for Bauza Diaz in March of last year, according to a declaration he submitted on 12 January 2023.

It means his declaration was 291 days late. He is also the MEP who filed the most declarations [eight] post-Qatargate.

Transparency International says their findings show that at least 53 MEPs were in breach of the parliament’s own code of conduct.

"We say ‘at least’, because there may well be MEPs who have yet to submit declarations for past events," they said, in a blog.

In comparison to the 103 filed in the past two months, 321 were filed before Qatargate and during the current EU parliament mandate.