As the EU finds itself embroiled in a damning alleged corruption scandal, Qatar will also see its reputation tarnished further as a result of the allegations, a former British diplomat has said. Last week, Brussels was plunged into crisis after Greek MEP and a vice-president of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili, was arrested after police seized more than €900,000 belonging to her and her husband.
Ms Kaili is one of at least 10 EU officials being investigated amid concerns that cash has been used by the Qatari state in an attempt to influence decision-making inside Brussels.
She has denied any involvement in alleged bribery, and Qatar has also denied any involvement in the case which is now being investigated by Belgian prosecutors.
While the investigations are ongoing, James Lynch tells Express.co.uk that this has already damaged Qatar’s reputation just days after the country successfully hosted the FIFA World Cup.
The former British diplomat who worked in Doha said: “Qatar has been engaged in a public relations battle for years on a range of issues, with the World Cup at the heart of that. That has involved human rights and also corruption. A lot of that battle is about narrative and the way we talk about the country.
“The country has done a lot in the last few years to convince important people and institutions that it is making progress on human rights and that the World Cup would be a success.
“But this scandal really is quite damaging for Qatar’s public image, and it raises questions about the arguments it has been making if some of these people have been alleged to have been taking money.”
The furore around alleged corruption is also going to do serious damage to the EU’s reputation, Mr Lynch said. He fears that scandals such as this one could see more people lose faith in politicians.
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He continued: “For the EU this is really damaging because it damages trust in the political class. It raises questions over whether people are making speeches or voting on their principles or on the basis of someone paying them money. That is about as damaging as it gets.
“When people stop trusting the political class, it is very dangerous and it can lead to people seeking out people who reject politics entirely. They can be drawn into extremist groups as a result of scandals like this.”
It is also apparent that the relationship between Brussels and Doha is now being tested at a time when Qatar is becoming an increasingly important partner.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU turned to Doha to replenish its gas supplies.
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But after the investigation into alleged corruption began, Qatar has now warned any gas deals could be negatively impacted.
A Qatari diplomat has said this week: “The decision to impose such a discriminatory restriction that limits dialogue and cooperation on Qatar before the legal process has ended will negatively affect regional and global security cooperation, as well as ongoing discussions around global energy poverty and security.
“We firmly reject the allegations associating our government with misconduct. Qatar is an important supplier of LNG (liquified natural gas) to Belgium.”