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Citát dne

Karel Havlíček Borovský
26. června r. 1850

KOMUNISMUS znamená v pravém a úplném smyslu bludné učení, že nikdo nemá míti žádné jmění, nýbrž, aby všechno bylo společné, a každý dostával jenom část zaslouženou a potřebnou k jeho výživě. Bez všelikých důkazů a výkladů vidí tedy hned na první pohled každý, že takové učení jest nanejvýš bláznovské, a že se mohlo jen vyrojiti z hlav několika pomatených lidí, kteří by vždy z člověka chtěli učiniti něco buď lepšího neb horšího, ale vždy něco jiného než je člověk.

 


SVOBODA  NENÍ  ZADARMO

„Lepší je být zbytečně vyzbrojen než beze zbraní bezmocný.“

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"Europe's task is no longer and will never be to rule the world, nor to spread its idea of prosperity and goodness by force, nor to impose its culture on the world, nor even to instruct it. Its only meaningful task in the coming century is to be its best self, that is, to resurrect and project into its own life its own best spiritual traditions, and thus to participate creatively in the creation of a new way of world coexistence."

Václav Havel

***

SPIEGEL 1 21.1.2023SPIEGEL 2 21.1.2023He who has money has power and ever greater appetites. The risk is losing touch with common sense. He gradually becomes a victim himself, without knowing it. The majority will pay the price, even if the politician may act in good faith. Money and the power associated with it, corrupts, few can resist. Few decent people will penetrate their "bubble", let alone change the established rules. Those who do not cooperate are bought or destroyed. Let us hope that the war in Ukraine will also help to stop this dangerous trend and change policy behaviour for the benefit of Europe and the future of the world. This will not happen without the growth of civic engagement, nor without capable leaders. This important article is not available in the SPIEGEL archive. It is not even listed on the front page. The media has been silent about the corruption and the investigation for almost half a year. Let us hope that the reason is the ongoing investigation, not the interest of those in power to sweep the case into oblivion. JŠ

***

EUROPA: SPIEGEL was able to view hundreds of pages from investigative files, including interrogation transcripts and conversations recorded by the secret service. They allow a reconstruction of the corruption scandal in the EU Parliament - and give an idea that it could be much bigger than previously known.

That Panzeri's network is the only one of its kind in Brussels hardly seems imaginable to many. "There are a number of countries that have systematically bought influence in the long term," says Green MEP Viola von Cramon. Apart from Qatar and Morocco, these include Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia. "This must be fully clarified. Nothing less than the credibility of European democracy is at stake."

I.The beginnings: from Morocco to Qatar

Qatar remains at the centre of the scandal to this day - largely because it was the Qataris who were apparently caught red-handed. But the investigation is first about Morocco.

The starting signal for the investigation apparently came in the form of a tip: The secret service of a friendly country warns the Belgians that a criminal organisation in Brussels is trying to push through Moroccan interests with the help of MEPs.

Panzeri continues as before - and is shadowed by the VSSE. The investigators are gathering more and more evidence that his network is apparently working in secret to influence EU institutions and above all the Parliament to Morocco's advantage.

The Moroccan foreign intelligence service, DGED, is also emerging early in the investigation. Its head, Yassine Mansouri, is said to be involved in influencing the European Parliament. According to the investigators, he met with the MEP Andrea Cozzolino, who is also said to be part of Panzeri's network, and possibly also with Panzeri himself.

This is politically explosive. If true, the scandal would have reached the highest circles of the Moroccan state.

Mansouri was one of those hand-picked children who attended the College Royal with the current King Mohammed VI - a school in the royal palace that only opens a new class whenever a royal child reaches school age. Later, the prince and Mansouri studied law. After Mohammed became king, he appointed Mansouri head of the foreign intelligence service.

In a kind of organisation chart of the Morocco Connection, which can be found in the files of the Belgian investigators, Mansouri is at the top. Directly below him is Abderrahim Atmoun, Morocco's ambassador to Poland with the best connections to Brussels and Paris. According to the investigators' findings, he is said to have controlled the Panzeri group on the ground. As early as 2014, he published a photo of himself and his "dear friend" Panzeri on his Facebook page.

The friendship was to pay off. When Atmoun travelled to Paris via Brussels, he often brought money with him, according to Giorgi's transcript. in an interrogation on 10 December - "small amounts, but at least a few tens of thousands of euros". It seemed clear to those involved that their activities were illegal - which is why they used code words. "When they went to get money, they talked about getting suits or ties," Giorgi revealed to investigators. The Moroccan government and Atmoun did not respond to several enquiries.

There are reasons why the government in Rabat was apparently prepared to play dirty tricks to advance its interests vis-à-vis the EU. Two-thirds of Morocco's foreign trade is with the EU, as EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell pointed out during a recent visit to Rabat. More than half of all foreign investment in Morocco comes from the EU, which is "hard to beat".  Morocco is also the biggest recipient of EU cooperation funds in the region - an estimated 1.6 billion euros from 2021 to 2027. The EU Commission decides on their concrete use.

Morocco also wants political support from the EU in the permanent conflict over Western Sahara. Morocco has occupied large parts of the Sahara for decades and refuses to grant the Sahrawi people independence. For its part, the EU is counting on the Moroccan government to discourage African migrants from travelling to Europe.

II.The Free Riders: Qatar and Mauritania

ln comparison, Qatar is pursuing almost banal interests. According to the investigators, the desert state wants above all to polish up its image, which has been tarnished by reports of the sometimes slave-like treatment of workers at the venues of the World Cup. Here, too, Panzeri's wide-ranging connections are paying off.

"It all started in 2018," his protégé Giorgi told investigators. Panzeri had met with Ali bin Samikh Al Marri, then head of Qatar's national human rights committee. ln October 2021, Marri will become labour minister. He is thus responsible for the

for the conditions on the World Cup construction sites.

Marri's luck: With Panzeri, he knows someone who already has a network of influence in the European Parliament. Qatar thus benefits from what Morocco has apparently built up in the years before.

Panzeri will reach a deal with Qatar in 2019 - in the autumn, he claims, a few months after leaving the EU Parliament. Giorgi, now an assistant to MEP Cozzolino, says he has set up a "lobbying project" for Qatar. An Excel file, stored in Giorgi's Google cloud, talks of a "three-step approach": "Stop attacks from other countries, highlight positive aspects, attack other countries." They also agreed on payment, Giorgi says. He can no longer remember the amounts.

Marri played "roughly the same role" as Moroccan Atmoun, Giorgi told investigators. That would mean that the minister was directly responsible for running the Panzeri group and paying them. Whether this is true is an open question. Marri did not respond to several enquiries.

It was apparently clear to those involved from the beginning that it was about more than just lobbying. The clandestine nature of the payment speaks for this. Giorgi says that he got in touch with a person in Turkey who was probably of Palestinian origin. She gave him a Belgian phone number to call in order to get the money. "The contact person was different each time," Giorgi said. He deleted all phone numbers after each transaction - "so as not to leave any traces". At most, he said, this happened two or three times a year. "That was stress for me," Giorgi complained during the interrogation.

Then, he said, the idea came up to set up a non-governmental organisation to receive the money. The result was apparently an NGO called Fight Impunity, which claims to fight against human rights violations going unpunished. Panzeri still appears on the organisation's website as its president.

IV.Damage limitation

Parliamentary President Roberta Metsola now wants to take measures as soon as possible to prevent similar goings-on in the future, or at least make them more difficult. This week, the Maltese Conservative presented a 14-point plan: MPs should not be allowed to lobby as long as they receive transitional allowances after leaving office. In future, the parliament's website should provide information about gifts and penalties for active MPs, trips and meetings in a central place.

The controversial "friendship groups" of parliamentarians are to be banned so that non-EU countries only use official parliamentary channels.

MPs have always had to report gifts to the president. Metsola herself made 142 public last week alone. She received 125 of them between the beginning of February and the end of November 2022 - thus breaking parliamentary rules 125 times. These rules state that MPs must report the receipt of a gift by the end of the following month at the latest.

After all, Metsola's gifts were mostly petitessen such as scarves, vases and books. Other MPs, on the other hand, seem to have remembered entire trips only after the corruption scandal became public.

For example, the Romanian Christian Democrat Cristian-Silviu Busoi had a business flight to a conference in Qatar paid for in February 2020, including four nights in the noble Ritz-Carlton Hotel. He did not report the trip until 19 December 2022. He had not submitted the relevant form in time because his staff had wrongly assumed that the participation in the conference did not fall under the provisions of the Code of Conduct, the EPP politician explained.

Marc Tarabella also had himself invited by Qatar to a trip in February 2020, which he did not report to the EU Parliament. Maria Arena also failed to report a mission paid for by Qatar in May 2022 - and therefore gave up the chairmanship of the Human Rights Committee last week. In a statement, she blamed her secretariat. She told SPIEGEL that she had never received money or other benefits from representatives of Qatar or Morocco.

Violations of the Code of Conduct can be punished with the withdrawal of per diems, but this rarely happens. They are not yet conclusive evidence of corruption.

So far, this accusation has only been levelled against social democrats. Kaili's pre-trial detention was extended again on Thursday. Panzeri, too, remains in pre-trial detention and, according to the Belgian public prosecutor's office, faces imprisonment and a fine. In addition, the estimated one million euros he earned with his illegal business will be confiscated.

Tarabella and Cozzolino were given a choice this week by the Socialist S&D group: Either they leave voluntarily or they will be expelled. Cozzolino went, Tarabella was expelled. It is expected that in mid-February, at the request of the Belgian authorities, the parliament will decide whether to lift their immunity, a majority is considered certain.

For Tarabella in particular, things could get serious. According to the request for the waiver of his immunity, which is available to SPIEGEL, Panzeri had heavily incriminated him. He had handed Tarabella a paper bag with about 20 000 euros every few months, most recently about half a year ago, Panzeri said in his interrogation on 10 December, according to the complaint. In total, Tarabella had received 120,000 to 140,000 euros from him to defend "certain positions" in parliament on behalf of Qatar.

The affair also has consequences for Qatar and Morocco. For Qatar, the EU had planned visa facilitation - which is now on hold. A planned air transport agreement with the EU could also be thrown into doubt. Qatar's government rejects any blame, speaking of "prejudice" and unilateral attacks.

There is also the threat of considerable trouble between the EU and Morocco. If the accusations prove to be true, "there will be consequences", says an EU official. Restrictions in diplomatic relations and intelligence cooperation, up to and including sanctions against individual persons, are conceivable.

And Eva Kaili? After her arrest on9. December 2022, she had to wait a full four weeks before she was allowed to see her daughter. The authorities had misused the child as leverage to "break" Kaili, her lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos told Greek television. He did not answer questions about the accusations against Kaili. Kaili's relationship with Giorgi is also likely to suffer, as they incriminated each other in the interrogations. Kaili was "not part of the network", said Giorgi, but: "Eva knew about the money and its origin, of course, because we live together. Kaili claimed that she never thought about the origin of the money - but that some of it had belonged to Panzeri.

Kaili claims to have known only one thing: which money in her flat belonged to whom. Giorgi always had only loose notes. Unlike Panzeri, "who had bundles of money".

The investigation

The more than 1300 pages of investigation documents that SPIEGEL received proved difficult to process. Not only were the files in French, Dutch and Italian, the suspects also used code words. It took several weeks to identify important details and persons and to establish connections.The result suggests that the corruption affair is not yet over.

Markus Becker, Rafael Buschmann, Nicola Naber, Raif Neukirch, Petra Truckendanner

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