The rich Gulf countries have been on a spending spree for years with Europe’s top politicians, and it was not just Qatar that was in on the action. In fact, many nations, such as the United Arab Emirates, are not relying on illicit bribes in suitcases full of cash, but instead are setting up entirely legal foundations and NGOs and then paying out politicians hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time.
Now, a new report from Dutch newspaper NRC details how Poland’s former foreign minister, Radosław Sikorski, who is currently an MEP, has been receiving $100,000 per year from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), totaling $500,000 over the past five years.
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He has earned this huge sum of money by being a member of the Advisory Council to the Sir Bani Yas Forum, an exclusive conference that is part of the UAE’s soft power diplomacy and is closed to the media.
In light of the Qatargate bribery scandal, money flowing from oil- and gas-rich Gulf countries into the pockets of EU politicians is being called into question, along with the various benefits and lobbying from a variety of countries within Europe’s institutions.
The ex-foreign minister has also traveled to the UAE at the Middle East state’s expense and has not declared this fact in his financial disclosure to the European Parliament, according to a report from Polsat News.
In his letter to NRC editors posted on Twitter, Sikorski argues that he had no obligation to report that travel, as it was not carried out in an official capacity. He also argued that he never made any secret of the fact that he was paid for being a member of the advisory council within the UAE’s forum and that he has paid his taxes in full on that income.
Sikorski says that the Sir Bani Yas Forum is a highly respected conference held in the Middle East and that the Advisory Council to the forum includes a former Australian prime minister, an ex-foreign secretary of Britain, and a former deputy of the secretary general of the United Nations.
He also refutes that his activities in the advisory council have in any way influenced the way he has been voting in the European Parliament. He points to the fact that on all matters relating to either the UAE or Saudi Arabia, he has always voted in line with positions taken by the European parliamentary caucus he is a member of, the European People’s Party (EPP).
The revelations about the MEP’s income have caused a storm in the media and in political circles in Poland. Senior leading Left MP Adrian Zandberg took to Twitter to criticize Sikorski.
“The UAE is an authoritarian state that does not respect freedom of speech and is embroiled in a dirty war in Yemen. Sikorski has in this way closed the door on being in a future government. A Polish minister cannot appear on such a payroll,” posted Zandberg.
Questions have been asked whether Donald Tusk, the leader of the opposition liberal Civic Platform (PO), knew about Sikorski’s involvement with the UAE. Sikorski was a foreign minister in a government led by Tusk and is an MEP elected on a Civic Platform ticket.
Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has called for a full explanation of Sikorski’s involvement, especially now that foreign media have published the case. Sikorski has in the past few months also been under attack for some rather unguarded comments.
Sikorski made international headlines after the Nord Stream pipelines were blown up in a sabotage attack. After the pipelines were blown, Sikorski tweeted “Thank you USA,” implying the U.S. was behind the attack.
During a radio interview, he also claimed that the Polish government had in the early days of the Ukraine war considered taking part in a partition of Ukraine.
Both of these statements were used by the Kremlin regarding claims that the U.S. was responsible for the damage to the Nord Stream pipelines and that Poland was quietly attempting to seize Ukrainian land.
Sikorski is reported to have been attempting to lobby Donald Tusk for a place on the liberal’s list in the coming Polish parliamentary elections and is rumored to be interested in returning to his former post of foreign minister. Sikorski has also harbored ambitions to be an EU commissioner responsible for foreign policy or of being the head of NATO. He has also on two occasions attempted to become his party’s candidate for president of Poland.