by William Nattrass
Wednesday, 21
December 2022
Spotted
10:00

EU attempts to blame bribery scandal on ‘external forces’

The bloc's spin campaign is whirring into action
by William Nattrass
Who are EU kidding, Madame President? Credit: Getty.

When news broke of an investigation by Belgian police into corruption in the European Parliament, it was assumed that the EU would be forced to face up to institutional failings — and even, perhaps, to learn a little humility along the way. The investigation has already seen four people charged, including a European Parliament vice-president, and around €1.5 million in cash seized by investigators. 

The money was allegedly used by Qatar to buy influence among MEPs, in a system of corruption which also implicates NGOs and lobbyists. There have been hints that Morocco also used shady connections between politicians and lobby groups to buy influence in Brussels. 


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But the willingness of some MEPs to accept bribes from foreign powers has simultaneously given the EU a perfect PR angle for distracting attention. European Parliament President Roberta Metsola solemnly declared that “the European Parliament is under attack” after news of the investigation broke.  

The audacity of the statement was staggering. The corruption scandal has exposed alarmingly lax standards of accountability and ethics in the European Parliament, but according to Metsola it’s the institution and by implication those in it that needs protecting.  

“The enemies of democracy, for whom the very existence of this parliament is a threat, will stop at nothing,” Metsola warned. “Malign actors linked to autocratic third countries” have, she added, “weaponised NGOs, unions, individuals, assistants and Members of the European Parliament in an effort to subdue our processes.”  

Credit where it’s due – the statement is the work of a clever crisis communications manager. It subtly turns the scandal on its head, portraying MEPs as lambs led to the slaughter by unscrupulous foreign powers. The latent xenophobia can’t be missed: according to this version of events, corrupt practices perverting the inherent purity of Brussels institutions must have originated outside Europe. 

And in recent days, there have been more attempts to deflect attention away from key parts of the story. Based on what’s currently known of the investigation, there is a clear Left-wing link between those implicated. So, when an investigation into a member of the centre-Right European People’s Party group was announced, Left-wing politicians and journalists seized upon the news with delight, presenting it as proof of equal culpability across the political spectrum. 

But, again, spin was at play. The investigation into the Right-wing MEP pertains to fraud in parliamentary allowances and is unconnected to the influence buying scandal. It is further evidence of poor ethical standards throughout the European Parliament — but it does not change the Left-wing focus of the wider institutional corruption scandal.  

The European Commission, where the real power lies, has not yet been touched by the investigation. But the tragedy of the affair for Europeans is that while MEPs provide the scant excuse for democratic accountability in Brussels, an anti-democratic culture of bribery and improbity appears to have been allowed to thrive among them. And in portraying corruption as an “attack” by external forces, rather than evidence of institutional failings, EU leaders only dig the hole of dishonesty deeper.

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AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago

The gravy train is under attack! Protect the gravy train!
Not quite as persuasive when summarised this way.

Michael James
Michael James
1 month ago

British Rejoiners will keep quiet for a while and then resume their propaganda campaign as if nothing has changed.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael James

They might do well to keep a low profile, lest any of those in former positions of influence, either within the EU or in support of it, find themselves implicated in what is unlikely to be the last scandal to emerge. If it was happening amongst our own MPs in Westminster with the expenses scandal, those on the European gravy train won’t have been slow to partake in the trough.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Murray
Neil Ross
Neil Ross
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael James
Last edited 1 month ago by neilandross
Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
1 month ago

Blaming others for wrong behaviour is a fundamental tactic of the left; reaching back to Marx and Lenin, in America it is enshrined in the neo-marxist manual, Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. Hillary Clinton, an enthusiastic disciple, accused Trump of “Russian collusion,” while the Clinton Foundation took money from Russian lobbyists while she was Secretary of State. So not surprising to see job and power protection schemes emanating from the left at the EU. It comes from a place of presumed moral superiority, central to leftist “progressive” thought and propaganda, which they portray is standing in contrast to the capitalist and individualistic “far right.”

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 month ago

Tactic of the left? If you changed every ‘left’ to ‘right’ in your comment, and vice-versa etc, you would be just as valid. It’s a tactic of just about everyone blamed for wrong behaviour, but exaggerated by ALL politicians – a discourse on Trump’s mouthings would perhaps be the summit of such displacement.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
1 month ago
Reply to  Tony Price

A fundamental difference: The left embraces victimhood. It is central to Marxist theory, which perceives the common man as a tool abused by economic elites for the preservation of their capital and power. Victimhood awards a theoretical higher moral plane, since they are not the nefarious agents of their plight. Any who now embrace the leftist collective in politics believe they benefit from the presumed higher moral plane, whatever the economic or social privilege they enjoy as individuals.

David Lawrence
David Lawrence
1 month ago

These malign actors have thrown money at us. Thrown I say. What are we supposed to do with it other than pocket it?

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 month ago
Reply to  David Lawrence

Those poor, impoverished high officials took that money to protect lesser mortals from their own greed and they’ve been arrested for their good works. How terrible.<snigger, snort, giggle – ROFL>

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago

Wow!!! This takes gaslighting to a whole new level. The lack of accountability is staggering. The European Parliament President should be promptly dismissed for making such an unhinged statement.

I live inCanada. I have been following European politics only for the last year or so. The sickness and authoritarian rot in the EU was shocking to discover.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

How quick the EU bosses are to play the victim card ! The only way in which they are victims is as victims of their own mendacity and incompetence in setting up a system which is so prone to such lobbying and corruption. So no sympathy from me.
As for the “managed democracy” they label “democracy”. A rubber stamp parliament which cannot initiate any legislation (appointees only for that !) and speeches often limited to 2 minutes. What meaningful contribution can any MEP make in 2 minutes.
<<“The enemies of democracy, for whom the very existence of this parliament is a threat, will stop at nothing,” Metsola warned.>>
The EU commission are the enemies of democracy. And the EU parliament merely an impotent bystander.

Iris C
Iris C
1 month ago

The EU parliament was always a honey comb for the MEPs to lick.. Right back at the beginning, I remember reading that some members would sign in to get their expenses and attendance fees and then go straight back out the door.
Also the fact of having two parliamentary buildings (one in Brussels and one in Strasbourg – to appease the French) is an example of inefficiency on a grand scale, let alone institutional corruption.
We are well out of it!

tintin lechien
tintin lechien
1 month ago

i am sure Farage knows a few secret tales too! MEPs are unelected and they all in it for the

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  tintin lechien

Hold on a moment – MEPs are elected. (They’re just useless – in the sense that they have no real authority to do anything – it’s the ultimate “non job” – and a vey well paid one too). Did you mean something else ?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

Hold on a moment, Peter. MEPs are not really elected, at least not (pre-Brexit) in the UK. As a voter all I could do was put my cross against the name of a party. The party decided who was on its list and in what order.
I don’t call that electing an individual MEP.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

You’re quibbling. It’s an election. People vote. How the candidates are selected is another matter. The parties here decide who’s on the candidate list too. It’s just done through a different mechanism that you or I might not like either. Frankly, I don’t like our system or the EU’s. But they’re still elections. And there’s nothing to stop you starting up a new party and standing yourself if you don’t like it. Hold on – UKIP did that. And it made a difference. And now we’re shot of the whole thing (well, not totally yet sadly). So you can’t any more !