Morocco Enraged by Moroccogate and Legal Prosecutions of its Brussels Lobbyists

Credit: EFE

The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, has started a visit Rabat today Thursday and Friday with the turmoil stirred up by the corruption scandal that the European Parliament is investigating and that involves Morocco and Qatar. A controversial trip that they defend from Brussels because it is “a very important partner” and the intention of the European Union is to advance in the association with the Alaouite monarchy.

Morocco has denounced what it calls “repeated media attacks” and “legal harassment” as the kingdom battles growing allegations that suggest an involvement in the corruption scandal engulfing the European Parliament, dubbed as QatarGate.

“The partnership between Morocco and the European Union is a partnership that faces attacks,” Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s foreign affairs minister, said on Thursday. “Morocco’s position has always been that it is a partnership that must be protected on both sides.”

So far, four people have been arrested as a result of the Belgian probe: Greek MEP Eva Kaili, her partner Francesco Giorgi, former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, and NGO director Niccolò Figà-Talamanca.

They are accused of participation in a criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering. More than €1.5 million in cash have been seized across dozens of home and office searches.

The plot further thickened this week after Belgian authorities requested the lifting of the immunity of two additional MEPs from the socialist group, Marc Tarabella (Belgium) Andrea Cozzolino(Italy), and whose lawyers have told media they will not impede the process and wish to be heard.


Meeting of Borrell With Main Authorities

During his stay in Morocco, Borrell will meet with the main authorities of the country, with the exception of the monarch Mohamed VI. This Thursday a meeting with the Prime Minister, Aziz Akhannouch, and the head of Foreign Affairs, Naser Burita, details his office in a statement. He will also speak with “other institutional interlocutors of Moroccan society and economic actors”, he adds without further details. The socialist will give a conference tomorrow in Fez, following in the wake of what JosĂ© Luis RodrĂ­guez Zapatero did last November.

From the team of the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy they allege that “for the moment there is no evidence” of the irregularities that in December forced the dismissal of the vice president of the European Parliament Eva Kaili, currently in preventive detention, after uncovering the plot of corruption orchestrated by the former Italian MEP Antonio Panzeri with the alleged involvement of Qatar and Morocco in exchange for influencing political decisions.

“No one has officially said from the judicial point of view that Morocco is guilty or that Morocco should be avoided in international contacts,” their team insist at a time marked precisely by the investigations in Belgium to clarify the connections of the accused. Police records have found up to 1.5 million euros in cash, which could correspond to bribes with the ultimate intention of influencing Parliament’s resolutions. European diplomacy confined the matter to Belgian justice. “It is in her hands and we fully trust her work,” they add. Greece and Italy have also opened separate investigations.

Payment to MEPs

Up to four people are currently detained by Qatargate. In addition to Kaili, there is her partner and her parliamentary adviser, the Italian Francesco Giorgi; Pier Antonio Panzeri; and Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, the Italian head of an NGO suspected of making payments to MEPs. They are accused of “criminal organization, corruption and money laundering.”

Kaili, who has pleaded not guilty, has been trying since December to implicate Borrell. He assures that the Spaniard and Commissioner Johannson were really the first to be interested in promoting cooperation with Qatar. Since 2019 there had been talk in the EU about how to develop trade relations with Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. According to Eva Kaili, everything was known and had the approval of the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola.

The Greek political lawyer insists that the presidency of the European Parliament came to create a committee to promote relations with Qatar and appointed Kaili to head it. In her contacts with this Gulf country, she was always accompanied by someone from the European Parliament.

A bet that does not explain the money found in her possession. Borrell declared, after learning of the scandal, that it was “very worrying news” and ruled out that the Commission’s external action service was related. Metsola, who promises that there will be no impunity, suspended Kaili from her duties as her vice-president and the plenary dismissed her by 625 votes in favor, two abstentions and one against.

Given the seriousness of the indications, the European Parliament has promised reforms such as strengthening the protection of whistleblowers, banning all “unofficial friendship groups” with foreign governments and increasing control over the finances of MEPs.

The supposed relevance and urgency of the meetings that, at such a juncture, now recommend traveling to Rabat is “the opportunity to discuss in depth about the application of the EU-Morocco association, also in the perspective of the new Mediterranean Agenda”, they transfer from your team. Borrell “will take stock of ongoing issues and explore specific areas where dialogue and cooperation can be further strengthened.” “The meetings will also provide an opportunity to exchange views on regional and international issues of common interest and of particular importance in the current difficult global context, as well as on the global impact of the Russian war in Ukraine,” she adds.

This article is originally published on plus Agencies

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.