Since late 2022, the Qatargate scandal has gripped Brussels — and it shows no sign of letting up.
The affair was back on the European Parliament’s agenda during January’s plenary week; MEPs voted Marc Angel (S&D, Luxembourg) in as Vice-President, filling the role left vacant by Eva Kaili (NI, Greece) after her arrest as part of the Qatargate probe in December 2022. Then, in early February, Parliament voted to lift the immunity of two other MEPs that Belgian authorities suspected of being involved in the scandal: Andrea Cozzolino (S&D, Italy) and Marc Tarabella (S&D, Belgium).
As developments continue to emerge, we wanted to know how MEPs have reacted to the revelations. So, we took a deep-dive into their social media output and plenary speeches during two key time periods:
- January’s plenary week in Strasbourg (16-19 January)
- February’s plenary session in Brussels (1-2 February).
Curious? Uncover the latest Qatargate insights below.
Qatargate Conversation: Decrease in Volume, Decrease in Priority Level?
During January’s plenary week, Qatargate appeared a total of 222 times across parliamentary dialogue. That number represents only one-fifth of the post volume we initially tracked in the five days after the scandal initially broke.
February’s volume fell even lower, with just 37 mentions throughout the two-day plenary session in Brussels. The waning numbers suggest that the topic may be falling lower on many MEPs’ priority lists — despite the continued outcry from the public and the media alike.
Qatargate by Political Group: GUE/NGL Lead on Transparency
In January, ID stood out as the most vocal political group on Qatargate by far — accounting for over 25% of the dialogue, even though the group occupies under 10% of seats in Parliament. The numbers indicated a clear drive for support for their candidate for Vice-President, Annalisa Tardino (Italy), as her election to this high-profile role would have been a major boost for the group, especially in advance of the 2024 elections.
Unsurprisingly, S&D also ranked highly as the group rallied to support Angel. However, Greens-EFA — the third and final group to field a candidate — only showed up in fifth place, suggesting a missed opportunity to carve out a strong position in the conversation.
By February, the share-of-voice among political groups was somewhat different. GUE/NGL took the top spot, due largely to the contributions of MEP Manon Aubry (France). This is reflective of Aubry’s continued leadership on transparency — she served as rapporteur on the requests to waive Cozzolino and Tarabella’s parliamentary immunity, and is also one of four MEPs to publicly lend support to LobbyLeaks.eu, a new NGO-led initiative designed to facilitate information-sharing on “shady lobbying” practices.
Qatargate Hashtags: Conversation Narrows In Scope
In January, there was a sizable variation in hashtags, indicating a wide scope to the conversation. Notably, #moroccogate appeared in the top-five hashtags as similar cash-for-influence claims began to emerge — accusations which the country strongly denied.
However, by February, the conversation was once again centred around the main #qatargate hashtag. This correlates with the overall decreasing post volume and suggests that many MEPs are beginning to move away from commenting on the scandal — perhaps a conscious decision in light of next year’s elections. What’s unclear, though, is whether this approach will be well-received by the media and the public.
- Many MEPs are becoming less vocal on the Qatargate scandal — but will voters punish them for this in next year’s elections?
- GUE/NGL — and Manon Aubry in particular — are leading the wider conversation around corruption in lobbying as of early February.
- The scope and volume of the conversation is narrowing. However, this is likely to change over the months ahead as the Belgian authorities continue with their investigations.
We used Quorum European Union’s social media monitoring capabilities to analyse MEPs social media output (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) and plenary speeches between 16-20 January 2023 and on 1 and 2 February 2023.