Qatargate is also about other Gulf Countries 

BrusselsMorning

Brussels, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) – The Qatargate storm is still hitting and battering the European Union and it’s key structure. The integrity of the EU institutions are in great doubt. The Qatar affair is just small chunk of the lobbying activity where Russia has paid more than 300 million euros since 2014 to impact decision makers in Europe. If all the doors are open, and if all the secrets are told, I’m certain it will be the end of the European Union. Gulf countries such as Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia are very active lobbying in Brussels equipped with lobbyists, PR experts/firms and funded NGOs. No one is innocent.

China, Russia, Drugs, Tobacco companies and many giant corporations take the lion share of the money being poured into lobbyists to influence decision makers in Europe particularly the European Parliament.  Not only this, we should not be selective when it comes to Qatar and we must also open our eyes to its neighbours who are very active in influencing the European Union institutions including the European Parliament.

Companies and Lobbyists 

For example Gazprom-lobby of the Russian oils giant was till recently very hot topic and subject to parliamentary work. 

The European Parliament adopted a text titled  Foreign interference in all democratic processes in the European Union –  European Parliament resolution of 9 March 2022 on foreign interference in all democratic processes in the European Union, including disinformation (2020/2268(INI))

Manon Aubry MEP accused  lobbyists supported by companies of sabotaging the efforts to bring more accountability into the European parliament. She wrote, “lobbyists worked behind the scenes to sabotage our proposal. DigitalEurope (counting Apple, Amazon, Bayer, Samsung among its members), EuropeanIssuers (Total, BNP, Unilever), AFEP (representing large French companies), MEDEF and of course BusinessEurope (the European employers’ federation with more than 4 million euros of annual lobby budget) did everything to nip the proposal in the bud.

Saudi Arabia, the client no Lobbyists want 

While Saudi Arabia is known as “the client” no wants  to defend or work with due to their “irreparable image” especially after killing of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

 Italian Newspaper La Repubblica published an article warning of the Saudi influence, “We have to ask ourselves whether not only the Qataris and Moroccans but also the Saudis have developed the conviction that they can operate at will on the international scene.” 

Previously Euroobserver criticised the Saudi lobbying efforts in Brussels where the College of Europe, was paid by Saudi government to set up private meetings between Saudi ambassadors, EU officials, and MEPs.

According to the website, “Bruges-based institute counts politicians, former prime ministers, and top-ranking EU officials as alumni and boasts of its wide network as an appeal to future students. A leaked email to an MEP from the institute, seen by EUobserver, says they “are organising a visit to the European institutions for seven Saudi ambassadors and seven high-level officials from the Saudi government”.

It also added that the College of Europe says some of the MEPs that they reached out to have accepted their offer, thus allowing the Saudi ambassadors to Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania to enter the European Parliament on 19 February.

Corporate Europe Observatory exclusively revealed that, according to an industry insider, MSL Brussels – part of French media conglomerate Publicis Groupe – has had a contract to represent the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the EU from at least October 2015. However, despite MSL Brussels having an entry in the EU’s lobbying Transparency Register, they have not included Saudi Arabia in their list of clients. Given the kingdom’s brutal reputation there are plenty of reasons for MSL Brussels to wish to keep this contract quiet.

MSL Brussels has represented the Saudi Foreign Office and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, via the Saudi Mission to the EU, helping to convey the country’s key lobbying positions to MEPs, the press, and EU institutions.

In addition, MSL Brussels appears to have dramatically under-reported the value of the contract in question. In the EU Transparency Register it reports the Qorvis contract as worth €50,000-€99,000 annually. Yet insider sources indicate that Saudi Arabia was MSL Brussels’ main client, and that the contract was actually worth in the region of €110,000 a month. This is approximately €1,320,000 annually, almost double MSL Brussels’ entire annual lobbying budget for 2017 as reported in the Transparency Register, and almost three times that of 2016.

Saudi Arabia Embassy in Brussels has been very active recently where they react to the media and also meet with MEPs regularly. Some of the meetings were declared by MEPs while others are not. 

It’s worth noting that Hannah Neumann MEP has visited Saudi Arabia this week and conducted official meetings with GCC secretariat in Riyadh. Although the timing of the visit is critical to the EP, Neumann did not publish further details of the meeting and the content of discussions. Neumann should have delayed her visit pending the the Qatargate investigations results and also after ensuring that all Gulf countries don’t influence any EP MEPs. Indeed this is a “shortsighted” action by the MEP. 

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