June 23. 2024. 12:08

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EPP cancels meeting in Warsaw following Belgian police raid

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) has cancelled a meeting of its group scheduled for next week in Warsaw following the turmoil created after the Belgian police raided the party’s headquarters on Tuesday (4 April).

Two different EPP sources confirmed to EURACTIV that the Polish delegation of the EPP expressed severe concerns about the developments and the political damage to the centre-right family after the raid.

EURACTIV broke the news on Tuesday that in a sudden move, the Belgian police raided the EPP offices, checking computers and requesting documents related to an ongoing inquiry into alleged corruption during the 2019 EU election campaign.

In the spotlight is Christian-Democrat (CDU) lawmaker Mario Voigt, the digital campaign manager for EPP leader Manfred Weber during the 2019 EU election campaign.

According to German media reports, the inquiries centre on awarding the contract for the digital campaign to a company in Thuringia, Germany.

Last September, the Thuringia state parliament’s judiciary committee waived Voight’s legal immunity pending investigation by the German public prosecutor although it is unclear whether this case is related.

BREAKING: Belgian police raids EPP headquarters in Brussels

The Belgian police raided the headquarters of the European People’s Party (EPP) in Brussels on Tuesday (4 April), a source close to the matter told EURACTIV.com.

Tusk’s fear

The Polish centre-right Civic Platform (PO) party allegedly asked the EPP leadership to cancel the meeting following heavy criticism of pro-government media in Poland, which tried to link PO with the scandal ahead of the general elections.

PO’s leader Donald Tusk already cancelled his participation in the meeting on Wednesday as “since the raid, media close to PiS have been trying to bring Donald Tusk into the scandal”, leading to him even wanting to cancel it to “avoid the political damage its leader Manfred Weber is currently suffering,” an EPP source said.

A second source told EURACTIV that Weber initially wanted to continue the meeting but has since changed his tune.

Troubled waters for the EPP

The conservative EPP is the oldest and biggest European political group.

In a short statement, the EPP confirmed earlier this week that “representatives from the Belgian and German police authorities visited the party headquarters in Brussels” on 4 April, adding that “the visit is connected to an ongoing inquiry in Thuringia, Germany.”

The perceived attempt to downplay the issue by calling it a visit, attracted significant criticism on social media.

“The party is cooperating in full transparency with the authorities involved, providing all relevant information and documentation.”

In terms of what this now means for Weber, an EPP source told EURACTIV that this will be a thorn in his side.

“Weber brought him to the elections campaign, it was his personal choice”, an EPP source from the group in the EU Parliament said, adding that “nothing could go through without Voigt’s greenlight during the pre-election campaign”.

The same source added that Voigt also has personal ties with Udo Zolleis, the current EPP’s head of strategy unit and Weber’s right hand.

“Weber will have a political cost because of this story”, the source added.

Rumours in the EPP suggest that this weeks raid may damage Weber’s potential plans to run for the Presidency of the European Commission, giving Ursula von der Leyen a clear advantage.

Raid of EPP HQ causes frustration in centre-right family

The Belgian police’s raid in the European People’s Party (EPP) headquarters on Tuesday in Brussels over an alleged scandal involving a former consultant of EPP chief Manfred Weber has caused frustration within the EU centre-right family, EURACTIV has learnt.