January 27, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Qatargate investigation targets Avramopoulos

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen launched an urgent investigation into the links of her 26 commissioners with the former head of the migration service EU Dimitris Avramopoulos, who has become implicated in mounting corruption allegations about Qatari influence in Brussels.

The commissioners have half a day to respond to von der Leyen, until 10:30 Brussels time on Wednesday evening, reports politico.euupon seeing the sent email. The commission also asks Avramopoulos himself to explain how he complied with the lobbying rules.

Avramopoulos, a former EU commissioner for migration, was an honorary board member of the non-governmental organization Fighting Impunity, created by former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, who is currently in prison on preliminary charges of corruption and money laundering. Avramopoulos admitted that he received payment in the amount of 60,000 euros from Fighting Impunity and has since stepped down from his role on the honorary board of an NGO.

The scandal that resulted in the MEP Eve Kylie was also accused and stripped of the position of Vice-President of the European Parliament, shocked the EU establishment and undermined credibility of the block regarding ethical standards.

In an email seen by POLITICO and apparently sent earlier on Wednesday to “contact paragraphs on Transparency and Ethics” in each of the commissioners’ offices, an EU official asked if members of the commissioners’ panel or cabinet staff interacted with Avramopoulos or The fight against impunity (which she calls AITJ, after its full name, Association Against Impunity and for Transitional Justice) last year. Recipients were only allowed until mid-morning to respond.

“Did your member or cabinet have any interaction (correspondence, meetings, contacts) with former commissioner Avramopoulos between February 3, 2021 and December 1, 2021 as an honorary member of the AITJ board [?]”. The official asked the same question about any communication with any other representatives of Fight Impunity or with Avramopoulos “in any other capacity” during the specified time period, “and if so, report the subject of this interaction.”

Zivka Petkova, von der Leyen’s top team coordination and administration director, asked for answers by 10:30 today. European Commission Deputy Spokesperson Dana Spinant said: “Today we are sending [Аврамопулосу] a letter to ask him how he fulfilled the conditions for the permission we gave him for this post mandate activity [в Fight Impunity]”. “We said from the very beginning that we were looking into the meetings that took place between the former commissioner Avramopoulos and members of the board,” Spinant added, saying that the commission does not comment on internal correspondence.

Avramopoulos told POLITICO he has not yet received the commission’s letter, but his role does not require any lobbying from EU commissioners or officials. In a letter sent earlier to the commission, Avramopoulos said that he not only approved the investigation process, but also asked to intensify it.

“As you may be aware, the EU-approved honorary council membership of the aforementioned organization has been the subject of political controversy, slander and speculation,” Avramopoulos wrote, according to a document seen by POLITICO. “I am sure that the conclusions that the commission will come to after a quick check of the full compliance of my actions with the terms of the decision will definitively and unequivocally separate my name from actions and behavior that we all did not know about and had nothing to do with,” he said.

He said that when he asked to be allowed to join the anti-impunity council, he told the commission that he would be the only council member who would receive a remuneration of 5,000 euros a month before taxes because he would be involved in “actively promoting » NGO and all rewards have been duly declared to the Greek tax authorities.

Avramopoulos met with current migration chief Ylva Johansson and Cypriot Commissioner Stella Kyriakides in November 2021, but Eric Mamer, the European Commission’s chief spokesman, said on Wednesday: “As far as we understand, he has not represented an NGO in any of these meetings.”

PS The main thing in this investigation is not to find yourself. After all, von der Leyen could check the NGO before approving Avramopoulos, right?

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