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EU lawmakers remove Eva Kaili from office amid Qatar scandal

December 13, 2022

Greek politician Eva Kaili has been ousted from her position as the European Parliament's vice president. She faces accusations of accepting bribes from Qatari officials.

Eva Kaili sits in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France
Kaili has denied any wrongdoingImage: EP/REUTERS

An overwhelming majority of European Parliament members voted to strip Eva Kaili of her position as the body's vice president on Tuesday. The motion to end her term early was backed by 625 MEPs, while one voted against and two abstained. 

A two-thirds majority was required for her to cease being one of the body's 14 vice presidents.

Who is Eva Kaili?

The 44-year-old Greek Social Democrat was arrested in Belgium on Friday over allegations she was part of a group accepting bribes from Qatar in exchange for promoting policies friendly to the Gulf state.

Kaili has already been suspended from her duties and is in police custody. More information about specific criminal charges against her are due to be announced on Wednesday, Belgian officials have said.

The Greek politician and her three alleged co-conspirators are accused of accepting lavish gifts and large monetary sums from Qatari agents.

What is Kaili's stance?

Both Qatar and the lawmaker have denied any wrongdoing. Kaili's lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos said on Tuesday that her position was that she "had nothing to do with Qatari bribes."

Speaking on Greek television, Dimitrakopoulos said he would not confirm or deny that large sums of cash were found at her home. Belgian prosecutors have said that they found hundreds of thousands of euros at the homes of multiple suspects as well as in a hotel room.

Several European lawmakers have called for Kaili to quit. "Given the extent of the corruption scandal, it is the least we could expect of her," MEP Manon Aubry, who co-chairs the Left group, told the Reuters news agency.

Manfred Weber, of the conservative European's People Party, said: "Our colleagues at the European Parliament have been deeply shocked. These developments represent a heavy burden."

What's the impact on parliament?

The scandal has hit the reputation of the European Parliament hard. The body is the EU's only institution comprised of officials elected directly in the 27 member countries.

It has also rocked the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in the assembly, the second-biggest grouping in the 705-member body that brings together center-left parties from across the bloc. 

Several EU states, including Germany, said the 27-nation union's credibility was at stake.

Asked whether the European Parliament can repair the situation, Erik Marquardt, an MEP from the Green Party, told DW that "this damage cannot be repaired."

"It's very easy to lose trust and very hard to regain it. And now I think we cannot ask for the trust of the people, we have just to do our homework," he said, adding that it was time to check which rules should be strengthened and enforced better to prevent such scandals in future.

es/dj (dpa, AFP, Reuters, AP)