Josep Borrell, the chief of European diplomacy, visited Rabat on Thursday and Friday due to the uproar sparked by the corruption scandal between Morocco and Qatar. Brussels justifies the trip because the Alaouite monarch is “a very important partner”, and the EU wants to improve relations.
Morocco, which is under suspicion of involvement in the European Parliament’s QatarGate corruption investigation, has denounced “repeated media attacks” and “legal harassment”.
“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.”
Belgian authorities have detained Greek MEP Eva Kaili, her spouse Francesco Giorgi, former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, and NGO head Niccol Figà-Talamanca for corruption charges, money laundering, and organised crime. House and office searches netted about €1.5 million in cash.
This week, Belgian authorities requested that socialist MEPs Marc Tarabella (Belgium) and Andrea Cozzolino (Italy) lose their immunity. However, their counsel has emphasised in the media that they would not hinder the process and want to be heard.
According to his office, Borrell will meet with key authorities, excluding King Mohamed VI, during his visit. He will see the prime minister and foreign minister on Thursday. In addition, he said he would talk to “other institutional interlocutors of Moroccan society and economic actors”. In reaction to Zapatero’s November actions, the socialist will speak in Fez tomorrow.
The High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy said 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 insisted 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. Nevertheless, 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.
Qatargate has up to four detainees: Francesco Giorgi, Pier Antonio Panzeri, and Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, the NGO president suspected of bribing MEPs.
Kaili has denied responsibility and blamed Borrell in December. He claims Commissioner Johannson and the Spaniard inspired Qatar cooperation. Since 2019, the EU has discussed improving trade with Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman. Eva Kaili stated that European Parliament President Roberta Metsola knew and authorised it.
The Greek political lawyer insists Kaili led the European Parliament presidency’s Qatar committee. A European Parliament member always accompanied her to this Gulf nation.
Borrell called the event “very distressing news” and denied any connection to the Commission’s external action section. Metsola suspended Kaili’s vice-presidency, promising no impunity, and the plenary voted 625 to one to remove her.
Given the evidence, the European Parliament has promised to strengthen whistleblower protection, ban “unofficial friendship groups” with other governments, and improve MEP financial supervision.