An unnamed Qatari diplomat has warned that 'Qatargate' — the name for an ongoing corruption scandal involving EU officials and the governments of Qatar and Morocco — has the potential to undermine the previously "close and collaborative relations" between Belgium and Qatar, and could even have broader negative consequences for global energy security.
"We have observed with great concern the selective condemnation of our country this week," the diplomat, who works at Qatar's mission to the EU, told l'Echo. "Inaccurate information leaked to the media by individuals involved in the investigation sought to manipulate public opinion and distort the opinion of deputies."
More than €1.5 million in cash has been seized by the Belgian authorities in connection with the scandal, according to which the Qatari and Moroccan Governments are believed to have made payments to senior EU officials in exchange for their support for pro-Qatari and pro-Moroccan policies. (No cash payments have yet been uncovered in connection with the Moroccan aspect of the investigation.)
The Qatari diplomat was particularly scathing in his criticism of the Belgian Government's failure to liaise with the Qatari Government throughout the investigative process: "It is deeply disappointing that the Belgian government has made no effort to dialogue with our government in order to establish the facts once it became aware of the allegations."
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In addition, the diplomat denounced the EU's "discriminatory" recent decision to ban Qatari officials from entering the European Parliament, and suggested that such actions might have "a negative effect on regional and global security cooperation, as well as on ongoing discussions on poverty and global energy security."
Economic relations between Qatar and Belgium have been increasingly intertwined over the last couple of decades. According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), Belgian exports to Qatar have increased at an average rate of 14.4% each year since 1999, reaching $233 million in 2020, while Qatari exports to Belgium have risen at an even more rapid annual rate of 26.4%, reaching $276 million in the same year.
Along with Australia and the United States, Qatar is one of the world's leading exporters of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine precipitated a global energy crisis, numerous countries — including Belgium — have increasingly turned to Qatar to meet their energy needs. Currently, 34% of the LNG unloaded at Belgium's LNG terminal in Zeebrugge is imported from Qatar.