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Qatar Airways: The commission requested clarification

Qatar Airways: The commission requested clarification

The European Ombudsman is investigating the European Union Commission over flights and hotel accommodation donated by the Gulf emirate of Qatar. In a letter to Commission Chair Ursula von der Leyen today, Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly asked for information about how the agency handles business travel requests from its senior staff that are paid for by third parties.

At the same time, O’Reilly called on the Commission to change its rules and disclose travel expenses paid by third parties.

Free flights for senior officials

Specifically, the investigation is about the travel of the head of the Directorate General for Mobility and Transport – that is, the top official under the responsible EU Commissioner Adina Valjean. According to Politico, he has flown Business Class for free with Qatar Airways several times since 2015. Four of those trips have been paid for by the Qatari government or groups close to the government.

According to a spokeswoman for the EU Commission, hotel accommodation costs were also covered. At the same time, the EU Commission negotiated an aviation agreement with Qatar. O’Reilly stressed that this “raises the legitimate question of potential undue influence on EU decision-making in this area”.

Commission: compliance with applicable rules

As the EU Commission spokesperson explained today, the official in the current case complied with all applicable rules. As Head of the General Directorate, he is responsible for examining potential conflicts of interest in cases involving himself. At the same time, the authority announced that it intends to tighten existing rules.