Belgian judge Michel Claise is leading the investigation into the snowballing corruption scandal rocking the European Parliament in Brussels, and which has already led to the downfall and imprisonment of a now former vice president of the chamber. In this interview with Mediapart, the veteran investigating magistrate, specialised in financial crime, details the extent to which corruption and organised crime are out of control in Europe, and slams the lack of resources to fight it. “When you touch on dirty money, and when that involves the political world, people become transformed into wild animals,” he says.
Revelations in the so-called “Qatargate” corruption scandal engulfing the European Parliament this month, involving past and present members of the chamber, including its former vice-president, are snowballing. While the Belgian authorities continue investigations into those implicated in an alleged Qatari slush-fund used to buy favours from EU lawmakers, MEPs have suspended all legislative work in connection with Qatar, and withdrawn access to the institution by the Gulf State’s representatives. But they shied from including Morocco in the sanctions, despite growing evidence of its involvement in the influence peddling. Mediapart's European affairs correspondent Ludovic Lamant reports.
Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Rassemblement National party (the former front National), has claimed media revelations of a French police report into her party's alleged 6.8-million-euro fraud of the EU in a ficticious jobs scam was a plot against her by President Emmanuel Macron's camp ahead of next year's presidential elections.
Among the Members of the European Parliament are a group of farmers and others with agricultural interests who benefit directly from the subsidies provided for in the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The fact that many of them are at the forefront of negotiations to map out the reform of the CAP, to be put to a vote during this week, raises a clear question of conflicts of interest. Amélie Poinssot reports.
Thierry Mariani, a French far-right Member of the European Parliament who enjoys close links with Moscow, has been appointed to the governing board of an NGO in part funded by the EU and which supports democracy movements in countries neighbouring the bloc, notably countering Russian influence in those to the east. Ludovic Lamant reports on a controversy which again highlights the debate over just how far a strengthened European far-right should be allowed to join in the traditional political process in Brussels.
The withdrawal of the UK from the European Union this month was accompanied by the departure of the 73 British members of the European Parliament. The vacuum and partial redistribution of seats has caused a significant upset for the assembly’s Green members, who now find themselves overtaken in numbers by the far-right, reducing their budget and above all their clout in voting on legislation, notably regarding the raft of future policy measures for the Commission’s major “Green Deal” programme. Amid this collateral damage from Brexit, the Greens are urgently seeking new alliances, even eyeing a deal with Italy’s populist Five Star Movement. Ludovic Lamant reports from Brussels.
François Bayrou, 68, the leader of France's centre-right MoDem party and a key political ally of President Emmanuel Macron, who he helped to be elected, has been placed under investigation for suspected involvement in the misuse of European Parliament funds to pay for party workers.
Members of the European Parliament have voted overwhelmingly to reject France's candidate for a top post at the European Commission amid doubts over the probity of Sylvie Goulard, implicated in an investigation into ghost jobs at the parliament and her links with a US think-tank, prompting Emmanuel Macron to denounce 'petty' political manoeuvring.
The results of this month’s European Parliament elections, which in France and 21 other countries are to be held today, will be a key test of political parties across the continent, where anti-EU, nationalist and populist groups have been gaining ground on traditional parties. For French President Emmanuel Macron, whose LREM party, strongly pro-EU, is fighting European elections for the first time, the outcome on Sunday will also be a test of the credibility of his ambitions for the bloc. But the polling also lifts the curtain on a series of new appointments to lead the EU’s major institutions, which will hang on the results. Ludovic Lamant presents a guide to how the elections work, and the detail of what’s at stake.
To fund its campaign for this month’s European Parliament elections, the French far-right Rassemblement National party (the renamed Front National) has raised around 4 million euros through so-called “patriotic” loans from its members and supporters, to who it has promised a 5% interest rate. The party will submit the amounts raised, with interest, in its application for a post-election refund of campaign spending that is granted to parties and paid out of the public purse. The generous interest payments paid to its lending members and supporters will cost the taxpayer around 200,000 euros, and the party says it plans employing the same strategy in future elections. Marine Turchi reports.
Opinion polls are giving France's far-right Rassemblement National party (the former Front National) a short lead over President Emmanuel Macron's LREM party in the run-up to European Parliament (EP) elections on May 26th, while both are way ahead of the 31 other party lists, which are the most ever seen in EP elections in France.
Following two months of nationwide protests as a loosely formed movement communicating mostly on social media, the so-called 'yellow vests', made up of low- and middle-income earners angry at falling living standards and against the political and social elite, have formed a group to field candidates for this spring's elections for the European Parliament.
Members of the European Parliament’s ENF group, a pan-European alliance of parliamentarians from far- and hard-right parties, and mostly made up of France’s Rassemblement National, have nominated a South African organisation championing the landowning interests of the country’s white Afrikaner farmers for the assembly’s prestigious yearly Sakharov Prize, Mediapart can reveal. The move follows increasing lobbying for the Afrikaner activists by far-right groups and commentators who claim the existence of a “white genocide” in South Africa. Mediapart Brussels correspondent Ludovic Lamant reports.
Almost a third of the 751 Members the European Parliament (MEPs) have earned a combined total of up to 41 million euros from outside activities over the four years since the current legislature was elected in 2014, according to a report published this week by anti-corruption organisation Transparency International. The numbers of MEPs remunerated for outside activities – which include working for private companies, lobbyists and investment funds – has risen dramatically since 2014, reveals the NGO which highlights a limp and ill-enforced code of ethics that allows numerous potential conflicts of interest among the lawmakers who are among the continent’s highest-paid elected representatives. Mediapart Brussels correspondent Ludovic Lamant reports.
The highly questionable circumstances of the appointment of German conservative Martin Selmayr as secretary-general of the European Commission, a move initiated by commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for whom Selmayr until then served as chief of staff, has been met with outrage within the European Parliament, which on Wednesday adopted a motion describing the promotion as “coup-like” and “which possibly even overstretched the limits of the law”. But it pulled back from demanding Selmayr’s resignation, thereby avoiding a serious institutional crisis. Meanwhile, the commission, accused of blatant cronyism, has refused to compromise and insists Europe’s new top civil servant will remain in the post. Mediapart Brussels correspondent Ludovic Lamant reports.
by Ludovic Lamant
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