MEPs want to block talks on EU-Qatar visas

Green and Social Democrat MEPs will oppose the start of talks on visa liberalization for Qataris in the EU on Monday, as the European Parliament is rocked by suspicions of corruption within Qatar. The MEPs gathered from Monday in Strasbourg and had to confirm the opening of negotiations between the European Parliament and the EU member states with a view to finalizing a text that facilitates the visa regime for travelers from Qatar and Kuwait.

Disturbed agenda

This text, which already received the green light from the Member States at the end of June, allows for citizens of Qatar and Kuwait traveling to the European bloc to be exempted from visas for a period of no more than 90 days, subject to a reciprocity agreement with these two countries. But an anti-corruption operation carried out on Friday by the Belgian police, which notably arrested Eva Kaili, one of the vice-presidents of the parliament, is now disrupting the agenda.

The rapporteur of the text, the Green German MEP Erik Marquardt, announced that he would ultimately oppose the opening of the negotiations. And his political group followed suit. “Zero tolerance for corruption. The Greens will oppose the mandate to open visa liberalization talks with Qatar on Monday,” Green MEP co-chair Terry Reintke said on Twitter.

Questions the position of the S&D parliamentarians

The Group of Social Democrats (S&D), for its part, calls for “suspension of work on all matters and votes concerning the Gulf States, especially on visa liberalization”. Among those arrested on Friday are, in addition to the Greek socialist Eva Kaili, her companion Francesco Giorgi – a parliamentary assistant – as well as the former socialist MEP Pier-Antonio Panzeri, who sat from 2004 to 2019.

Another consequence: MEPs wondered on Saturday about the attitude of S&D parliamentarians during the November 24 debate and vote on a resolution condemning human rights violations in Qatar.

Qatar, “leader in labor rights”, Kaili said

In the semi-circle, Eva Kaili had considered that the emirate was a “leader in labor rights” and judged that the Europeans had “no moral right to lecture it”, causing a stir. Pierre Karleskind (Renew, Liberale) then wondered why the Socialists had first voted against the very principle of a resolution before, in consultation with the right wing (EPP) and the far right, prevented the adoption of several amendments, including those that condemned FIFA’s stance against repression of LGBTIQ rights. “I am now afraid to understand …”, this French MEP responded on Saturday on Twitter.

“I already warned in November about the aggressive lobbying led by Qatar (…) We better understand why,” said Manon Aubry (radical left).

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