April 19. 2024. 9:25

The Daily

Read the World Today

The Brief — After Qatargate, EPP-gate

When it became clear that the first handful of indictments against EU politicians related to Qatargate would target socialists, the European People’s Party (EPP) leadership chose, unwisely, to gloat and make political capital out of it.

EPP Secretary General Thanasis Bakolas described Qatargate as “a socialist problem”, a message that was amplified on the party’s social media pages.

As political strategy goes, this was a serious mistake.

All parties have bad apples in their ranks. Political corruption scandals invariably lead voters to conclude that all politicians are crooks and Qatargate has been no different. It has tarred the European Parliament as an institution and the individuals who were arrested – rather than specific political parties.

Besides, nobody outside the Brussels bubble knows anything about the political groups in the Parliament or the pan-EU parties. In the process, the EPP set itself up as a gigantic hostage to fortune.

The decision came back to haunt the centre-right party on Tuesday when the EPP’s headquarters in Brussels was raided by police.

The investigation by the Belgian and German police is not, we understand, related to Qatargate but it is about potential graft.

Information available so far suggests that the police inquiry centres on the award of a digital campaign contract to a company in Thuringia by Mario Voigt, the digital campaign manager for EPP leader Manfred Weber during the last EU election campaign in 2019.

Voigt, who was handpicked by Weber, is now leader of the CDU in Thuringia, where his legal immunity was lifted last autumn by German federal prosecutors – although it is not clear whether this is in any way related to the EPP raid.

It is also not clear what the political fallout will be, though the EPP’s rivals in the European Parliament could barely suppress their glee.

The raid – described as “a visit” by the EPP – is very bad news for Weber’s dwindling hopes of being the EPP’s lead candidate at the European elections and securing one of the top EU jobs next year.

Regardless of whether criminal charges are eventually pressed, the optics of police officers demanding computers and documents are not good.

In the meantime, this saga also recalls the oft-forgotten but salutary lesson: People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

The Roundup

Naftogaz, the Ukrainian state-owned oil and gas firm, is making 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas storage available to Europe “right now”, the company’s CEO told EURACTIV.

The Federation of German Industry (BDI) effectively called for a renegotiation of the frozen EU-China investment deal in a somewhat surprising statement on Wednesday.

Following a series of fatal drug-related shootings in Marseille, French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti on Tuesday underscored the government’s opposition to legalising certain drugs.

Amazon and Microsoft could be set to face increased scrutiny in the UK after the communications regulator proposed referring its ongoing investigation into the cloud services market to the country’s competition authority.

Germany will change its funding policy to expand digital infrastructure and ensure fibre-optic connections reach the most underserved communities, according to the ‘Gigabit Funding 2.0’ plan presented by the Digital and Transport Ministry.

Tobacco stakeholders and the European Commission disagree over the practical value of the EU-led track and trace system on tobacco products, whose initial aim was to curb rises in illicit trade.

Don’t forget to read this week’s Health Brief: What the F(-gases)!

And, if you’re interested in migration issues, also check out this video interview about increasing brutality against migrants at external EU borders.

Look out for…

  • Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in China; meets top Chinese officials.
  • Commissioner Thierry Breton delivers opening speech at Forum International de la Cybersécurité in Lille.