How to save NGOs from the Qatargate black sheep

Euro bank notes in a briefcase

Millions of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are doing outstanding work every day, both locally and globally. They are helping to change the world in their niche, and their hard-working employees deserve admiration and respect.

Yet, like in any other public activity, there are disingenuous people using NGOs as a cover to bribe and carry out non-transparent lobbying and influence peddling, as the so-called Qatargate case has shown. In this scandal, a former Member of Parliament, a former Vice-President, and several of their Socialist colleagues abused the system for their benefit. Gladly, they are now facing the scrutiny of justice. However, the case has shown that we need to reinforce control and plug loopholes so that corruption cases like Qatargate will be prevented as much as possible.

We EPP Group Members have been advocating for clear standards and transparent and enforceable rules. Unfortunately, not everyone in the European Parliament is willing to cooperate with us in a thorough reflection and investigation of the Qatargate scandal. These are mainly the colleagues from the Socialists and the Greens. During this moment of a massive confidence crisis the Institutions are facing, it is up to all of us to try to restore trust.

We need to expose the black sheep undermining our work and that of all legitimate NGOs worldwide

The millions of Euros stuffed by front organisations, disguised as NGOs, into the suitcases of the accused is a massive blow to all of us trying to do politics reasonably and respecting the rules. The vast majority of Parliament and the other Institutions should not be mixed up with the criminals that took bribes, and we do not want to blame all NGOs because of the misconduct of a few. We must fight together if we want to regain citizens' trust. We need to expose the black sheep undermining our work and that of all legitimate NGOs worldwide.

To make the EU legislation’s process as transparent as possible, we support the immediate measures for greater transparency introduced by the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola. However, we need to get to the core of the scandal too. We urgently need comprehensive financial pre-screening of NGOs before they are listed in the transparency register, formalise the publication of contractual agreements between the European Commission and NGOs, and a stand-alone NGO Regulation which establishes a clear definition and makes it possible to treat prominent, large-scale NGOs like companies with the same reporting obligations.

Moreover, we call for the creation of a European equivalent to the US Foreign Agents Registration Act. We need politicians and lobbyists from third countries to register and reveal how they approach EU lawmakers, including formal contracts. The EPP Group will further continue working on concrete steps in Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee and in close cooperation with the European Court of Auditors.

We should not forget that we are living in difficult times. There is a brutal war raging on our continent. We are facing an economic and energy crisis. It is more important than ever that we allow citizens to maintain confidence in our European Institutions and their law-making process. We are on the same side in this struggle with all the NGOs that want to solve problems. We need to set rules that will make it harder for non-transparent and fictional NGOs to sneak around and deceive EU Institutions. We are determined and we will persevere in this fight, with or without the support of the Socialists and the Greens.

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The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 176 Members from all EU Member States

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