Qatar: EU investigations may affect relations and natural gas supplies

Qatar condemned, on Sunday, a corruption investigation launched by Belgium and a decision to suspend Doha’s dealings with the European Union Parliament, saying that this would “negatively” affect relations and natural gas supplies.

A statement by a Qatari diplomat criticized Belgium by name, stressing that “inaccurate” information was used.

The diplomat said that the decision to impose “such discriminatory restrictions that limit dialogue and cooperation on Qatar before the end of the investigation will negatively affect regional and global security cooperation, as well as the ongoing talks on global energy shortages and security,” according to Agence France-Presse.

“We strongly reject accusations linking our government to misconduct,” the statement added.

He continued, “Qatar is not the only party mentioned in the investigation, yet our country was single-handedly subjected to criticism and attacks.”

“This week, we have followed the selective condemnation of our country with great caution,” he stressed.

Belgian prosecutors said they began investigating suspected corruption in the European Union more than a year ago, before carrying out the raids and arrests in the past 10 days.

“It is deeply disappointing that the Belgian government did not make an effort to communicate with our government to find out the facts when it learned of the accusations,” the diplomat said.

The statement stressed the “close” relationship with Belgium, adding: “Our countries cooperated during the Covid-19 pandemic, and Qatar is an important supplier of liquefied natural gas to Belgium.”

‘Dangerous foreign intervention’

On Thursday, the European Parliament suspended all work on Qatar-related legislation, and its president told EU leaders she would lead a reform process to prevent a repeat of the corruption scandal that rocked Parliament.

European Union deputies supported by 541 votes to two a resolution saying they were “appalled” by accusations of corruption and money laundering against one of them, a former deputy and a parliament employee.

Parliament said it “deplores” the Gulf state’s alleged attempts to gain influence “through acts of corruption that constitute serious foreign interference in the democratic processes of the European Union”.

Prosecutors accuse Greek MP Eva Kaili and three others of accepting bribes from Qatar in an attempt by the Gulf state to influence political decision-making in the European Union, in one of the biggest scandals to hit the 27-nation bloc.

Both Qatar and Kylie, through a lawyer, denied any wrongdoing.

Parliament said it would suspend all legislative work related to Qatar, particularly with regard to the cancellation of visas and an aviation agreement between the European Union and Qatar, as well as planned visits, until the accusations are confirmed or dropped.

Qatari deputies will also be denied entry to the parliament.

MPs expressed concern about conflicts of interest from secondary jobs and pressed for MEPs to disclose the assets they own and for a ban on external funding for MPs or staff, including from donations from countries outside the EU.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola told EU leaders at a summit in Brussels that there are real suspicions that “people associated with authoritarian governments” seek to undermine EU democracy, according to Reuters.

Mitsola pledged to lead a “strong reform process”, although she said she knew there would always be some people who said “a purse is always worth the risk”.

According to a transcript of her remarks to the leaders, Mitsola said, “This is how we respond to rebuild trust. Building trust as we know it takes years and it takes moments to destroy it.”

Belgian Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo described the revelations as “shocking” while his Italian counterpart, Giorgia Meloni, said the bloc needed to respond firmly.

Mitsola said in a press conference that Parliament will consider who can enter its premises and the issue of non-governmental organizations included in its transparency record.

It added that it had already removed the group (No Peace Without Justice), for which Nicolo Vega Talamanca, one of the three others also accused of corruption and money laundering in the case, is its general secretary.

No Peace Without Justice said its secretary-general had suspended his role to protect the organization, which it trusts the investigation will reveal that he acted properly.

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