HomeEuropeEU Parliament beer club boots out MEP Tarabella over Qatargate

EU Parliament beer club boots out MEP Tarabella over Qatargate

MEP Marc Tarabella swapped one set of bars for another.

An unofficial group based at the European Parliament called the EP Beer Club booted out Tarabella, who was arrested, charged and detained in a corruption scandal dubbed Qatargate that’s rocked Brussels since December.

According to an email from the group’s secretariat to POLITICO, the Beer Club’s president, Slovak center-right MEP Ivan Štefanec, sent Tarabella an email in January informing him that his membership was suspended.

The MEP has been suspended from the Belgian socialist party and the grouping of Socialist and Democrat MEPs in the European Parliament over allegations — which he strongly denies — that he accepted up to €140,000 in bribes in return for doing the bidding of a non-EU country. He was arrested on February 10 and has been in prison ever since.

The EP Beer Club has existed since 1995 and is not an official EU body, but is closely tied to the beer industry’s umbrella lobbying group The Brewers of Europe, which runs the club’s secretariat and has the same Brussels address as the club.

Aside from Tarabella and Štefanec, 58 MEPs are members. According to the club’s website, it “provides a forum to discuss issues affecting the Beer sector.”

Last month the grouping held an event on new EU packaging rules in the Parliament, inviting a top lobbyist from The Brewers of Europe to speak. “At the EP Beer Club, we can see that European brewers take their responsibility towards sustainability seriously,” the club wrote in a statement after the event.

According to an “FAQ” section on the club’s website, the brewers’ lobby group merely “supports” the club and the views expressed by the club or its MEP members “do not necessarily represent the views of The Brewers of Europe, and vice versa.”

In December, Belgian media RTBF investigated whether Tarabella was unduly influenced in his parliamentary work on the EU’s cancer plan by his ties to the alcohol industry through his membership in the club.

Other industry-linked groupings with official-sounding names that hold events in the European Parliament have raised transparency campaigners’ eyebrows in recent years, such as the European Food Forum.

Tarabella has been in pre-trial detention for almost two months, and recently led a failed attempt to get the investigating judge Michel Claise disqualified from working on the case.

A member of Tarabella’s entourage said that they took note of the decision but added: “This won’t deeply change the fate of Marc Tarabella.”

Daniela De Lorenzo contributed reporting.

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