Expert on EU Vice President Kaili: "She thought she was in no danger"

EU Vice President Kaili is in custody on suspicion of corruption.

Expert on EU Vice President Kaili: "She thought she was in no danger"

EU Vice President Kaili is in custody on suspicion of corruption. She apparently kept the bribes from the Qataris at home, where investigators found 600,000 euros in cash. It sounds like she had nothing to fear. Is corruption at EU level a trifle? The laws are good, says corruption expert Anna-Maija Mertens from the NGO Transparency International. What's missing is control. Eva Kaili is said to have cheated her way into a committee to vote in favor of Qatar. Does corruption really work that flat?

Anna-Maija Mertens: Eva Kaili's behavior shows how willing she was to act on behalf of the state that paid her. As if she were a lobbyist herself. Lobbying is a good thing per se, and we at Transparency International are also lobbyists in the interests of political transparency. But as soon as it becomes non-transparent, it becomes difficult. It becomes a problem when there is a direct service in return - this usually takes place in the wrong way. Because for corruption you always need two sides, the giving and the taking.

Was Eva Kaili particularly stupid with the cash at home? Or is it to be feared that corruption is so common in the EU apparatus that little effort is made to hide it well?

One finding from this case is that the old-fashioned form of corruption with suitcases full of money, i.e. analogue, is still interesting. We have to keep them on our radar. Another conclusion that we have to draw: Those involved obviously felt very safe. They thought they were safe. What are we doing wrong as advocates of democracy that we are not a threat at all?

What do you think?

This bribery case shows that it is not enough to have good anti-corruption regulations. The EU actually has good laws to fight corruption. They have even repeatedly served as a reference and orientation in Germany when the lobby register was introduced here at federal level. The EU has been running such a register for years, but only for companies. States such as Qatar do not have to be entered in the register. In addition, the EU creates a so-called "legislative footprint" and publishes lobby meetings, which we in Germany are still a long way from achieving.

How does this imprint work?

The lobby register shows which interest groups are active, i.e. what interests are "on offer" for the legislators. The legislative footprint highlights the demand side. Which politicians have sought advice from whom? What meetings have there been, for example in the context of a process that resulted in a law? Thanks to the footprint, it is common practice in Europe for MEPs to publish their meetings with lobbyists. Who got involved, who was heard, who wasn't heard?

Sounds good, but isn't it enough in the end?

The problem with this is that, as we now know, only about half of such meetings are actually made public. For a very simple reason: because nobody checks compliance with this rule. No one checks whether MPs report a lobbyist interview correctly or not. But it is not enough to have good rules. In football, the referee also has to run along to check that the rules are being implemented on the field.

Who could control that?

We call for an independent control body for Brussels, and for Germany too, by the way, that simply checks again: Are all meetings recorded? Is the data complete?

An agency trying to dig up meetings that should have gone under the radar needs sweeping powers, doesn't it?

First of all, it would be a big step forward to even have such an instance. Because some things can be easily determined by simply asking someone who is looking at the data. But in fact it should not be a toothless tiger. Members of parliament would have to be obliged to provide information, and the authority would have to have the right to investigate and impose sanctions. So if the deputy does not provide the requested information within two weeks, sanctions would have to be imposed.

With 705 MEPs, that sounds like a lot of work.

It is often not that difficult to discover such suspected cases, we just don't look enough. What we notice as a transparency NGO: when political opinions suddenly change. It has been said for a very long time that we must critically comment on the human rights situation in Qatar, and suddenly it is said: This Qatar bashing must finally stop. Such a change of heart must make you prick up your ears.

Ms. Kaili is Vice-President of the EU Parliament, but one of 14. So the idea that corruption is also favored by inflated apparatuses is obvious. Aren't 14 vice bosses 12 too many?

I wouldn't say that in general. These 14 Vices also represent the diversity of the 27 member countries. The apparatus looks very large and can certainly be optimized. In this case, however, the number of vice presidents has nothing to do with the actual corruption scandal.

Frauke Niemeyer spoke to Anna-Maija Mertens

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