Politics

Qatargate claims expose European Parliament’s ‘absence of scrutiny’

Brexit: Westminster has ‘appeased’ EU warns Ben Habib

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An admission by a former European Parliament official that it is almost impossible to keep tabs on what MEPs are up to are “staggering but not surprising”, a Brexiteer has said in the wake of the damaging Qatargate allegations. Ben Habib, himself a former Brexit Party MEP, said the lack of scrutiny which he claimed was a feature of the assembly, coupled with the vast amounts of cash on offer from lobbyists, made for “a recipe for corruption”.

Property developer Mr Habib was commenting on remarks by Emilio De Capitani, who worked for the Parliament for 26 years.

Speaking to Politico, Mr De Capitani, who now campaigns for greater transparency in Brussels, addressed claims of influence-peddling by Qatar and Morocco, which have resulted in the arrests of several people, including Greek MEP Eva Kaili, who denies all wrong-doing.

Control and oversight by national delegations was “very limited and almost nonexistent if the delegation is of a ‘big’ EU country or if the proposal has been negotiated by a ‘big’ parliamentary committee.

He added: “This makes it practically impossible to verify what these MEPs are really doing.”

Mr Habib told Express.co.uk: “It is indeed staggering but not surprising the European Parliament is embroiled in scandal.”

There are two principal causes, he suggested.

Firstly, the wording of laws was negotiated behind closed doors by representatives of Parliamentary committees and the Commission, he pointed out, with not even the committees themselves genuinely scrutinising the legislation for which they were responsible.

He explained: “Most legislation is verbose and presented to committees in near final form. So a handful of people in each case call the shots.

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“Get to them and you control the process. Legislation is then passed onto Parliament for approval where there is close to no debate and scrutiny.”

Parliament did not act as a legislative body, there was no mechanism for Parliamentarians within the chamber to propose amendments to legislation as it passed through, there was no first, second and third reading as legislation evolved and draft legislation was presented in final form, Mr Habib continued.

He said: “Then voting is not freely exercised. It is determined by Parliamentary groupings and pretty much sewn up again outside the chamber.

“Anyone familiar with these groupings will know of the backroom deals done to ensure legislation is passed. The whole process is nebulous and open to abuse.”

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Secondly, the European Parliament was “crawling with lobbying groups and vested interests being promoted”, he stressed.

He said: “They outnumber MEPs massively and their number is still growing.

“The combination of backroom dealings, the absence of scrutiny and large pockets of money seeking to influence Parliamentary outcomes is a recipe for corruption.

“The European Parliament makes Westminster look like a paragon of virtue.”

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