The next part of Katargate.  New information has been revealed.  How did Qatar and Morocco pay for the hotels of EU leaders?

The next part of Katargate. New information has been revealed. How did Qatar and Morocco pay for the hotels of EU leaders?

Politico analyzed spending disclosures by EU commissioners over the past three years and found that seven top figures in Brussels accepted free accommodation from foreign governments.

At a time when European institutions are already under intense scrutiny for foreign influence following the Qatargate corruption scandal, the information revealed will raise new ethical questions at the EU’s highest levels.

Among those who used free hotel accommodation on business trips was a senior diplomat of the European Union Josep BorrellNeighborhood and Extension Commissioner, Oliver Várhelyi and vice president Frans Timmermans.

“Everything according to the law”

In statements explaining their actions, all Commissioners’ offices said so took advantage of the offer of free accommodation in accordance with the official code of conduct.

Transparency advocates, however, say the Commission, which is the EU’s chief executive, needs to tackle the problem and rewrite the law.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable”

said Nick Aiossa, head of policy and advocacy at Transparency International EU.

“I do not think so,” he said, “the commissioners or officers should not accept any visit or benefit.”

The disclosure follows an investigation by Politico against the former head of the Commission’s transportation department, Henrik Hololei, which eventually led to his resignation and led officials to tighten the rules.

Hololei was traveling free of charge on a Qatar Airways flight while his team was negotiating an air deal with the Gulf country.

Where did they fly?

A new analysis by Politico found that the practice of accepting free nights was more common during commissioners’ business trips to the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia.

When asked about free hotel stays, seven committee members’ offices have confirmed that they have accepted paid accommodation from foreign governments, but they argued that sometimes allowing a third country to pay the costs is standard diplomatic practice and according to the guidelines.

Throughout the Commission, officials advocated for free accommodation when traveling on business, demonstrating the executive’s code of conduct for its members. This document states that:

“You must not accept free transportation offered by other people, unless it is in accordance with diplomatic usage or courtesy, or unless the chairman has previously approved it.”

It states that commissioners are also not allowed to receive hospitality, “except in accordance with diplomatic customs and etiquette.”

The code was updated in 2018.

The Code of Conduct was last updated in 2018. Its purpose is to provide guidance to Commissioners on how to handle issues ranging from conflict of interest to transparency and integrity.. Violations may result in censure by the Commission.

Politico’s analysis of travel spending from 2020 has shown a mixed picture with some European Commissioners they often agreed to stay in hotels for free – especially when traveling in the Middle East – while others decided to get a Commission to cover accommodation costs.

When it comes to traveling within the EU, Commissioners regularly accept free hotel stays from the host government. However, the practice of taking advantage of the free night offered by non-EU governments is revealing a controversy in the shadow of the Qatargate scandal, where high-ranking politicians are alleged to have accepted money from foreign governments in exchange for influence.

foreign policy chiefs

In total, Politico’s analysis found that commissioners have accepted free accommodation from nine foreign governments over a three-year period.

Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, plays a major role in shaping Brussels’ policy towards countries outside the union. According to public documents, he received free accommodation during business visits to Qatar and Uzbekistan, and twice to Jordan.

Responding to questions about Borrell’s trip, a Commission spokesperson said the High Representative “have to carry out many missions in third countries”perform their duties and represent the EU.

“The costs of his mission were mostly covered by the Commission”

the spokesman said.

In the specific cases of Qatar, Jordan and Uzbekistan, “accommodation was provided by the relevant national authorities in accordance with the rules of diplomatic hospitality”.


– added the spokesman – “in accordance” with the code of conduct.


Commissioner Várhelyi, who is in charge of the Neighborhood Policy, has agreed to stay at the hotel free of charge during his mission in the country. Morocco, Israel and Jordan.

In response to questions, the Várhelyi cabinet also highlighted how the code of conduct was “respected”, acknowledging that during the trip to Morocco in 2020. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Morocco covered overnight “as a sign of respect.” And time travel in 2022″as an honor The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel provided accommodation.”

The Várhelyi team also confirmed this when traveling with Borrell “accommodation in Jordan was provided by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to all heads of delegation, as is customary during ministerial meetings.”

So is the Commissioner of the Interior Ylva Johansson accepted accommodation from Morocco during a trip to this North African country in 2020, made with Várhelyi.

“Before the start of the message, our cabinet assessed that this is in accordance with ethical principles”

Johansson’s office said.

“That’s why we submitted under ‘expenses paid by the organizers’, the organizers were the Moroccan government.”

More committee trips

Other commissioners also agreed to stay at the hotel for free from time to time.

As part of the trip abroad of the group’s treasury loan recovery strategy, the Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn spent one night in Qatar and one night in Kuwait in early 2022.

“All expenses were covered by the Commission except accommodation, which was covered by the relevant national authorities in accordance with diplomatic hospitality”

The Commissioner’s Office has confirmed.

The statement also said it was “accepted in accordance” with the ethics code and Hahn was staying at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Frans Timmermans

And the Vietnamese government welcomed Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans on a trip last year.

“It is normal for the Vietnamese government to do this with high-level guests, and accepting this kind of hospitality is in accordance with the Commissioners’ Code of Conduct.”

– was written in the statement of Timmermans office.

Vice President Margaritis Schinas at the same time he accepted free accommodation from United Arab Emirates in 2021 when attending the Dubai Expo and visiting in Abu Dhabi for meetings with officials, which was first reported by the investigator “Follow the Money”, which also investigated the Qatari trips of the commissioners.

“Emirates provided accommodation – in accordance with normal regulations and diplomatic protocol – to all VIPs attending the Expo as they have already arranged all the necessary equipment to attend the event.”

Schinas office said when asked about the trip.

Eric Mamer, the Commission’s chief spokesman, said the approach to accepting free travel and hospitality was “clearly spelled out” in the code of conduct. But, he added, “Whether to accept an invitation from a third party or not depends on the individual’s situation.”

Zero in cost

The vast majority of commissioners did not explicitly disclose that a third party paid for their expenses – instead they simply noted in public transportation filings that “zero” was used for accommodations on certain trips.

One of the rare differences is As Samson, the commissioner in charge of energy policy. In his public filing, he noted in the comments section that he was traveling to Egypt in June 2022 Accommodation was “provided by the local government.”

Asked about the visit to Cairo, Simson’s office said the Egyptian government had offered to provide accommodation for the Commission’s delegation, and his team had accepted the offer. A statement from Simson officials reiterated that it was “in line” with the code of conduct.

Even if the commissioners’ teams argued that free hotel stays from foreign governments followed the rules set out in the regulations, that probably wasn’t enough to satisfy transparency advocates.

“Unless the law specifically prohibits it”

said Aioss of Transparency International, “it should be changed.”



Michael Gradus

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