Belgian prosecutors said last month that they suspect a former EU lawmaker, Pier Antonio Panzeri, “of intervening politically with members working at the European Parliament for the benefit of Qatar and Morocco, against payment.” Four people are being held in custody charged with corruption.
Qatar vehemently denies involvement, but Morocco had not publicly responded to allegations in separate arrest warrants for Panzeri’s wife and daughter – documents seen by The Associated Press – that its ambassador to Poland might have given them unspecified “gifts.”
Speaking at a news conference in Rabat with the EU’s top diplomat, foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Bourita said that EU-Morocco relations are under attack.
“This partnership is faced with continuous judicial harassment. This partnership is faced with repeated media attacks. This partnership is also faced with attacks in European institutions, particularly in the parliament through questions targeting Morocco, and which are the result of calculations and a desire to harm this partnership,” Bourita said.
In reality though, despite the well-prepared speeches – and their timing – the EU is unlikely to probe too deeply the case of bribery between the Moroccan government and the Italian MEP as no one in the EU institutions wants to harm relations between Brussels and Rabat. Although the whole affair does throw a spotlight on a number of issues, like, who, for example was also on the receiving end of bribes and for what other countries in the Middle East? Furthermore, how does “Moroccogate” affect the EU’s current views of Morocco and its human rights record?
Until now, Morocco had a special treatment and was viewed by EU officials with rose tinted spectacles. According to both Borrell and Bourita, those days are over.
He did not explicitly deny the allegations that Morocco might be involved, but reporters were unable to seek clarity because neither the minister nor Borrell took questions following their statements.
Borrell, a former president of the European Parliament, said that he had raised the corruption scandal with Bourita. “The European Union’s position is clear. There can be no impunity for corruption, zero tolerance for that,” Borrell said.
He said that “we expect full cooperation from everyone in this investigation.”
The allegations that cash and gifts were exchanged for political influence are at the heart of one of the biggest scandals to hit the European Union. EU lawmakers have suspended work on Qatar-related files and vowed to toughen lobbying laws.