Qatar warns Brussels bribery allegations could harm energy talks with Europe | Popgen Tech
Qatar warned on Sunday that an investigation by authorities in Brussels into its role in an alleged influence and bribery scheme could adversely affect energy talks with Europe and condemned a decision by the European Parliament to suspend deals with the Persian Gulf kingdom.
The European Parliament’s move “will have a negative effect on regional and global security cooperation, as well as ongoing discussions on global energy poverty and security,” a statement by a Qatari diplomat to the European Union said on Sunday, noting that Qatar is an important supplier of liquefied natural gas to Belgium.
The legislative body last week voted in favor of a resolution calling for representatives of Qatari interests to have their security passes suspended. A parliament official said Sunday that no decision had been taken to ban Qatari representatives and the legislative body was reviewing its rules on representatives of foreign governments and non-governmental organizations.
Since war broke out in Ukraine, Qatar has emerged as one of Europe’s best hopes for weaning itself off Russian natural gas. Germany, France, Belgium and Italy were in talks with Qatar to buy LNG on a long-term basis.
But the Qatari statement, which did not identify the diplomat, marked a sharp escalation in the brewing influence-peddling scandal, one that threatened to develop into a clash with broader diplomatic and economic ramifications.
Belgian police have detained two EU lawmakers and several other people connected to the European Parliament on suspicion of accepting hundreds of thousands of euros from Qatari officials to influence the legislature’s decisions. Police have carried out raids in Belgium and Italy, in what threatens to become the biggest scandal in Brussels in years.
The Gulf kingdom reiterated on Sunday that it was not involved in the alleged influence peddling and blamed what it called preconceived biases for parliament’s vote on Thursday to freeze legislation involving Qatar and to request that Qatari officials from be banned from his premises.
A spokesman for the European Parliament declined to comment on the Qatari statement on Sunday.
“Qatar was not the only party mentioned in the investigation, yet our country was exclusively criticized and attacked,” the statement said. “It is deeply disappointing that the Belgian government made no attempt to engage with our government to establish the facts once they became aware of the allegations.”
Qatar sells natural gas that has been supercooled into liquid form – a process used to ship the fuel – to China, South Korea, Japan and other Asian consumers on long-term contracts, helping the country of less than three million people to one of the largest exporters of gas.
Last month, Qatar agreed to send Germany two million tonnes of liquefied natural gas a year for at least 15 years, starting in 2026, in a deal with US energy major ConocoPhillips. The volume will cover around 3% of Germany’s 2021 annual gas consumption.
The European Union successfully filled its gas storage tanks ahead of winter, and many analysts say the continent can avoid an energy disaster this winter. But sourcing gas for coming winters is expected to become more difficult for European countries now that they are mostly cut off from Russian supplies and global competition for finite cargoes of liquefied natural gas is growing.
“Qatar has strong and long-standing ties with many countries in the European Union, and we express our gratitude to those who have shown their commitment to these relations during this current wave of attacks against our country,” the statement by the Qatari diplomat said.
One of the members of the European Parliament detained is Eva Kaili, a Greek lawmaker and the vice president of the center-left political group, the Socialists & Democrats group, people familiar with the matter said.
Mrs. Kaili’s lawyer said in a statement last week that she is innocent and that money found in the home she shares with her partner “exclusively affects her partner.”
Ms Kaili’s position as vice president was terminated last week and she was expelled from Pasok, the Greek political party she belonged to, and from the Socialists & Democrats group.
“For several months, investigators of the Federal Judicial Police suspected a Gulf country of influencing the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament,” a statement from the prosecutor’s office said earlier this month. The alleged influence campaign is said to have been conducted through the payment of large sums of money and large gifts to people in political or strategic positions.
The prosecutor’s office said last week that police found a total of 600,000 euros at the home of a suspect, several hundred thousand euros in a suitcase in a hotel room in Brussels, and about 150,000 euros in an apartment that belongs to an EU legislator.
European Parliament lawmakers generally have immunity from prosecution unless the body votes to waive it. However, the immunity does not apply if they are caught in a criminal act.
In a recent speech in parliament Ms. Kaili blasted Qatar’s World Cup hosting record, saying it had its alleged human rights problems behind it.
“The World Cup is actually proof of how sports diplomacy can bring about a historic transformation of a country with reforms that have inspired the Arab world,” she said. “I alone said that Qatar is a leader in labor rights.”
—Kim Mackrael contributed to this article.
Write to David S. Cloud at email@example.com
Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8