EU official faces scrutiny for taking free Qatar Airways flights

A top EU official was found to have taken nine Qatar Airways flights for free as the investigation into the Qatar-linked corruption scandal in the EP continues
Bradley Caslin /

As a corruption case continues to unfold in the European Union (EU) and its legislative bodies, a top transport official at the European Commission (EC) was found to have traveled on free Qatar Airways flights while the bloc was negotiating an open skies treaty with Qatar. 

The official, Henrik Hololei, who has been the Director-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) at the EC since 2015, flew business class for free on Qatar Airways nine times between 2015 and 2021. The details, obtained through freedom of information requests, were revealed by Politico. Six of the flight took place during the negotiations of the open skies agreement, while four were directly paid for by either the Qatari government or parties related to the Gulf state’s leadership. 

Corruption allegations have been investigated by the Belgian police as well as the European Parliament (EP) after four former and current Members of the EP (MEPs) were arrested for potential bribes paid by multiple governments, including Qatar. 

In February 2023, the MEPs of the Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) grilled Carlos Bermejo Acosta, the Head of Unit at the DG MOVE, regarding the open skies agreement with Qatar. Previously, the EP enacted a regulation that would suspend all legislative work related to any deals that would involve the Gulf State, while the investigation into the corruption allegations is ongoing. 

On February 2, 2023, the EP lifted the parliamentary immunity of Andrea Cozzolino and Marc Tarabella. Both MEPs “may have been involved in acts of corruption connected with interference by one or more third countries aimed at influencing the debates and decisions taken in the European Parliament,” according to the text published by the legislative body on the date when the immunity was lifted. 

Both MEPs were indicted on the allegations of corruption linked to the Qatar case. 

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