The European Union is a “fundamentally corrupt” organization, and easy prey for people with “deep pockets” looking to exert their influence across the continent, a former MEP has warned. Ben Habib, who was one of 29 Brexit Party candidates elected to the assembly in 2019, was speaking after four people, including former European Parliament vice-president Eva Kaili, were charged after a series of raids by Belgian prosecutors.
Authorities have not officially identified the country suspected of offering cash or gifts to officials but several members of the assembly and some Belgian media have linked the investigation to World Cup hosts Qatar – although the Gulf state denies the allegations.
The European Union’s parliament yesterday voted to suspend work on all files involving Qatar, and called for security passes for representatives of the Gulf country’s interests to be withdrawn until light can be shed on the scandal rocking the assembly.
Mr Habib told Express.co.uk: “This doesn’t surprise me at all. The EP is swarming with lobbyists.
“It’s inherent in the structure. The Qatari thing is just the surface of it.
“I’m sure the same applies to the Commission. The EU itself is fundamentally corrupt.”
As such the bloc was a “natural target” for “anyone with deep pockets wanting a favor”, he stressed.
Mr Habib remains deeply concerned about the impact on the integrity of the United Kingdom posed by the Northern Ireland Protocol, the mechanism agreed by the UK and the EU as a way of preventing a post-Brexit hard border on the island of Ireland.
However, in consideration of the ongoing corruption claims, he conceded: “We are definitely one step further away from the amoral, anti-democratic, ever self-empowering mercantilist EU.”
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Mr Habib’s former party colleague Rupert Lowe, who like him sat alongside leader Nigel Farage in Brussels, made a similar point in a post on Twitter today in which he also took the opportunity to take a swipe at British civil servants.
The former Southampton FC chairman said: The European Parliament is oozing corruption, from top to bottom.
“Packed full of overpaid and incompetent civil servants. Not that unlike Whitehall!”
MEPs yesterday committed to a tougher system of financial declarations and to ban donations from foreign countries, in a resolution voted through in Strasbourg, France, by 541 in favor to two against, with three abstentions.
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Meanwhile in Brussels, Roberta Metsola, the Parliament’s President, said the work under review includes an agreement to allow Qataris with biometric passports to have short visa-free stays in the EU. The agreement, she said, was “sent back to the committee for a full investigation.”
Ms Metsola said questions have also surfaced about a separate EU-Qatar air agreement on which the assembly must be consulted. Talks have started with the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, to assess whether the agreement should be suspended.
The agreement, signed in October 2021, would permit all EU airlines to operate direct flights to Qatar from any airport in the 27-nation bloc and give Qatari airlines the same access to European capitals. EU member countries have yet to approve it.
Speaking after talks with the 27 national leaders at an EU summit, she added: “We will look into everything. We will look into any undue pressure and any undue influence that we see that takes place,” she said