Further EU cooperation with Qatar at risk?

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Doha – Qatar (Photo: Greeker/Pixabay) A statement issued by a Qatari diplomat on Sunday criticized the Belgian authorities and stressed that unverified information had been used in the corruption investigation. World Cup host Qatar is suspected of offering money and gifts to European politicians to influence the decision-making process on hosting the World Cup. Eva Kaili, a Greek Member of the European Parliament, is one of four people accused of participating in an organized crime group, corruption and money laundering. During the arrests, the services seized at least 1.5 million euros in cash in the apartments of prominent politicians. The scandal broke out when many European countries turned to Qatar for supplies of liquefied natural gas. Belgian prosecutors have revealed they had been investigating corruption in the European Parliament for more than a year before the raids and arrests. “It is deeply disappointing that the Belgian government has made no effort to work with our government to clarify the facts,” said a Qatari diplomat, highlighting the “close” relationship with Belgium. “Our nations have worked together during the Covid-19 pandemic and Qatar is Belgium’s main LNG supplier.” Qatar believes it has been unfairly accused and public opinion is attacking it for hosting the World Cup. “The decision to impose such a discriminatory restriction [zawieszenie dostępu katarskich przedstawicieli do PE – red.] (…) it will have a negative impact on regional and global security cooperation, as well as on ongoing debates on poverty and global energy security,” said the Qatari diplomat, suggesting a threat to future gas supplies to Europe. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, a spokesman for the European Parliament declined to comment on the case, as did the Belgian Ministry of Justice and the Federal Prosecutor’s Office. The scandal in the European Parliament is accompanied by lively criticism, e.g. of European politicians regarding FIFA’s organization of the World Cup in Qatar. Qataris, on the other hand, are angered by what they see as unfair allegations on issues such as labor and LGBT rights. As reported by the Financial Times, a wave of negative comments in the media and statements by some politicians may affect existing relations with Qatar. The country is the world’s largest LNG exporter and strives to build a reputation as a stable and reliable supplier. Its officials point out that Qatar has never abused its key role in gas markets for diplomatic gain. For example, when a quartet of neighbors (including Abu Dhabi) imposed a damaging economic embargo on it, Doha did not disrupt gas supplies – not even to the United Arab Emirates. Qatar’s importance in global gas markets has grown after the energy crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and European governments are courting Doha for alternatives to Russian energy. Last month, Qatar agreed to a long-term contract to supply LNG to Germany and is in talks with other countries, including Belgium and the UK, about similar deals. Even though a Qatari diplomat assured the Financial Times on Sunday that his country does not mix business and politics, EU politicians shuddered. Qatar is a big global investor – also in Europe – and if it felt unfairly treated by its partners, it could channel its surplus income elsewhere. Countries like Qatar are in a position where they can choose who they want to work with and what is happening around Qatar right now could change its relationship with many countries.

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