The arrest of four EU officials and insiders on corruption charges is a disaster for the bloc, says the FT. Among those ensnared in the Qatar-linked “cash-for-favours” probe is Greek MEP Eva Kaili, who was one of the European Parliament’s 14 vice-presidents. It’s a terrible look for a body that presents itself as the EU’s “moral conscience”. And it’s particularly embarrassing given that Brussels has noisily threatened to withhold €7.5bn of funds from Hungary over its misuse of EU money. The Hungarian PM, Viktor Orban, has been quick to mock. “And then they said the EP is seriously concerned about corruption in Hungary,” he tweeted, alongside a picture of politicians rolling with laughter. Respect for the law is “pivotal to how the EU defines itself”. Without this, as Orban’s taunting shows, it loses its ability to “hold others to account”.
Then there’s the “global impact” of the scandal, says Ralf Neukirch in Der Spiegel. The EU is eyeing-up rapprochement deals with the Gulf states, because their large energy reserves offer a handy solution to the continent’s gas problem. To this end, foreign minister Josep Borrell had planned to appoint a special representative for Qatar before Christmas to “consolidate the strategic partnership”. That might not be considered appropriate now. Any move to strengthen ties will look crooked, and create the impression that Qatar is simply “buying access to Europe”. From the parliament itself, to citizens trying to heat their homes, “there are only losers in this affair”.