“Qatargate”: the European Commission splashed

While the waves of “Qatargate” and “Marocgate” are still splashing the European Parliament, it is now a senior Commission official, Henrik Hololei, head of the Directorate-General MOVE (mobility and transport), who is shown from finger. The Estonian general manager accepted nine free trips, in business class, on Qatar Airways, between 2015 and 2021, while his collaborators were negotiating an “open skies” agreement with Doha to allow the Qatari company free access to the market. European Union and its 450 million citizens. This text, negotiated since June 2016 and endorsed by the Commission in October 2021, must still be validated by MEPs.Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Foreign interference: the European Parliament in the “age of suspicion”

The revelations of the site Politico led, on Friday March 3, a dozen deputies from the Greens group to demand detailed explanations from the Commissioner for Transport, Adina Valean, the former Romanian Vice-President of Parliament. Green MEPs are calling for an in-depth investigation into what, according to German Green MP Daniel Freund, could be a “attempt to bribe”.

In their letter, the elected officials are surprised, moreover, that Mr. Hololei did not mention the list of his meetings during his stays in Qatar – ten days in total –, whereas there would have been in particular discussions with the Arab Air Carriers Organisation, an alliance of airlines founded in 1965 by the Arab League.

Self evaluation

Emily O’Reilly, the European ombudsman in charge of monitoring the European administration, also demanded an explanation on Monday. advocating “true transparency” And “solid ethical rules”the Irish official believes that the case raises “legitimate questions about possible undue influence” on the Commission’s decision-making process.

She is obviously under pressure, but she rejects any idea of ​​fault. “Based on the information available, at this stage we have no concrete indication that the rules applicable at the time of travel have not been properly followed.underlined, Tuesday, Dana Spinant, deputy director of the service of the spokespersons. That said, our services are now checking whether there has been, more or less, a conflict of interest. »Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers “Qatargate” in the European Parliament: Belgian justice is investigating the payment of “several million euros”

According to the Commission, it was Mr. Hololei himself who was in fact responsible for assessing the possible risks associated with his travels. Currently, it is, in fact, the Directors-General, holders of the highest rank within the European civil service, who are supposed to check whether they can accept the offer of a trip without this creating a potential conflict of interests. While any Commission official must refer to a manager before accepting an invitation, the “DGs” do not have to submit to this rule. They have, at most, to “consult a political authority” If in doubt.

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