Energean and Chariot Limited partner on natural gas project offshore Morocco

Energean plc has announced it has farmed into Chariot Limited’s acreage offshore Morocco, which includes the 18 Bcm (gross) Anchois gas development and significant exploration prospectivity.


  • New country entry in Energean’s core Mediterranean region with acreage underpinned by an attractive gas development.
  • Farm in to 45% of the Lixus licence, with the option to increase to 55% post drilling results, and 37.5% of the Rissana licence and assumes operatorship of both licences.
  • Includes the commercial 18 Bcm (gross) Anchois development, located near to infrastructure for supply of gas to domestic and international markets.
  • Up front cash consideration of US$10 million.
  • Appraisal well planned for 2024, targeting an additional 11 Bcm of gross unrisked prospective resource to be commercialised through the Anchois development.
  • Energean to carry Chariot for its share of pre-FID costs, which are recoverable from Chariot’s future revenues.
  • Significant additional near-field, near-infrastructure prospectivity that is expected to add attractive, balanced-risk growth potential.

Dr Leila Benali, Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development, commented: “This agreement is pivotal for the wider acreage offshore Morocco, on its Atlantic coast, a key energy asset for the Kingdom. We welcome Energean on these licences as the important investments will contribute
greatly to the monetisation of the country’s resources and to our ambitious energy strategy.”

Mrs Amina Benkhadra, General Director of the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines, commented: “I would like to congratulate both parties on signing this agreement. The discovery and extensive work to
date has set an excellent foundation on which the project can be developed and this partnership will now be instrumental in financing and taking it through the next phase. We look forward to working alongside Energean and Chariot in bringing the project to first gas.”

Mathios Rigas, Chief Executive Officer of Energean, commented: “This is an exciting step in the next stage of our development, one that can only enhance our position as the pre-eminent independent natural gas producer listed in London. These assets are particularly attractive as we understand the core geological, commercial and political drivers of the region, we have a track record in developing material gas resources prioritised for the domestic market and they are a complementary fit with our broader portfolio, not least the potential for surplus supply to other markets. We look forward to
working with our partners Chariot and ONHYM, and developing an outstanding resource for the benefit of all parties, including Morocco and its people.”

Adonis Pouroulis, Chief Executive Officer of Chariot, commented: “In Energean, we have secured a partner with a proven track record of rapidly building and delivering this kind of offshore development. Energean also shares our view that Anchois and its surrounding acreage offers significant upside potential and we are aligned with our plans moving forward. The new partnership
is a key step in bringing the development of the Anchois field to reality and we are looking forward to continuing the extensive work undertaken so far to reach final investment decision.”


Energean has agreed to farm into a 45% working interest in the Lixus offshore licence, which contains the Anchois gas development (Chariot 30%, ONHYM 25%), and a 37.5% working interest in the Rissana licence (Chariot 37.5%, ONHYM 25%). Energean will assume operatorship for both licences.

Farm in terms

As consideration for the interests in the licences, Energean has agreed to the following terms:

  • US$10 million cash consideration on closing of the transaction.
  • Energean agrees to carry Chariot for its share of pre-FID costs, up to a gross expenditure cap of US$85 million, covering:
  1. drilling of the appraisal well, and all other pre-FID costs, and up to US$7 million of seismic expenditure on the Rissana licence.
  • US $15 million in cash, which is contingent on FID being taken on the Anchois Development.

Post appraisal well option to increase working interest from 45% to 55%

Following the drilling of the appraisal well, Energean has the option to increase its working interest in the Lixus licence (which includes the Anchois development) by 10%, to 55%. On exercise of this option, the
amount payable would be:

  • Chariot’s choice between either:
  1. 5-year, US$50 million of convertible loan notes with a £20 strike price and 0% coupon; or 3 million Energean plc shares, issued immediately upon exercise of the option but subject to a lock-up period until the earlier of first gas and 3 years post FID.
  • Energean will pay to Chariot a 7% royalty for every dollar achieved on gas prices (post transportation costs) in excess of a base hurdle.
  • An agreement to carry Chariot’s 20% share of development costs for the Anchois development with the following terms:
  1. A net expenditure cap of US$170 million.
  2. The carry available for development costs is reduced by costs carried in the pre-FID phase.
  3. All carried amounts are recoverable from 50% of Chariot’s future revenues with interest charged at SOFR + 7%.

If the option is not exercised, subject to FID, the partners agree to progress the Anchois development with an ownership structure of Energean 45%, Chariot 30%, ONHYM 25%. All amounts carried by Energean on behalf of Chariot would be recoverable from Chariot’s future revenues under the same terms as above.

The completion of the transaction is subject to government approval.

Lixus licence and Anchois Development

The Lixus Offshore licence covers an area of approximately 1794 km2 with water depths ranging from the coastline to 850 m. The area has extensive data coverage with legacy 3D seismic data covering approximately 1425 km2 and five exploration wells have been drilled historically, including the Anchois-1
and Anchois-2 discovery wells.
Chariot’s latest competent persons report covering the Anchois Field has certified gross 2C contingent resources of 18 Bcm in the discovered gas sands and gross unrisked prospective resources of 21 Bcm in undrilled sands.

Energean and Chariot plan to drill an appraisal well in 2024, with the following objectives:

  • To undertake a drill stem test on the main gas-containing sands.
  • To target an additional 5 Bcm of recoverable gas with a 61% geological chance of success through a sidetrack into the O sands in the Anchois Footwall prospect.
  • To target an additional 6 Bcm of recoverable gas with a 49% geological chance of success through a deepening of the well into previously undrilled sands in the Anchois North Flank prospect.

Once drilled, the well is expected to be retained as a future producer for the Anchois development.

It is anticipated that the licence contains significant additional prospectivity that could allow for further balanced-risk, near-field exploration activity.

Read the article online at: https://www.oilfieldtechnology.com/offshore-and-subsea/08122023/energean-and-chariot-limited-partner-on-natural-gas-project-offshore-morocco/

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Procedural glitch clears French suspects in plot to attack Morocco World Cup fans

A court in Paris has dismissed a high-profile case against seven suspected far-right activists, including a prominent figure in the French “ultra-right”, citing procedural errors in the investigation. The suspects were accused of planning to carry out a racist attack on fans of Morocco during the recent football World Cup, in the latest evidence of rising far-right militancy in France. 

Shortly after 10pm on December 14, moments after France defeated Morocco en route to the World Cup final in Qatar, a flood of football fans hit the streets of Paris, converging on the Champs-Elysées, the French capital’s traditional rallying point for jubilant supporters. 

Most were draped in the French tricolour, though a sizeable contingent – including many French citizens of Moroccan descent – waved the red-and-green flag of the Lions of the Atlas. Both were in celebratory mode, with Morocco’s fans determined to pay tribute to an extraordinary World Cup run.  

One group’s attire, however, pointed to other plans. 

Outside a bar in the capital’s swanky 17th arrondissement, about a mile away from the Champs-Elysées, police officers acting on intelligence detained several dozen individuals suspected of planning to carry out a racist rampage.  

Body searches revealed an arsenal of weapons that included batons, tear gas canisters, shin guards and tactical gloves. One was held in possession of stickers with the three letters GUD, standing for “Groupe Union Défense”, a far-right student group notorious for its violence, which became dormant at the start of the century but has recently made a comeback. 

Ten months later, seven of them were brought before the Paris Criminal Court on Friday on charges of “carrying prohibited weapons” and “forming a group with a view to committing violence and damage”, offences punishable with up to 10 years in jail. 

In a startling twist, however, the entire case was thrown out on procedural grounds just hours into the trial, with the presiding judge arguing that police had exceeded their mandate in carrying out the arrests – and ordering the seven suspects to walk free. 

Ultra-right pedigree 

Among the 38 people detained on December 14, about half were known to have belonged to a variety of far-right groups, most of them now outlawed. A dozen were labelled “fiché S”, indicating a potential threat to national security. The majority were from the Paris region, though a handful had travelled from as far as Brittany. 

The seven men in the dock on Friday included Marc de Cacqueray-Valménier, a central figure in the French ultra-droite (ultra-right) – a term used to refer to extreme-right groups with neo-Nazi sympathies. He is believed to have led the militant group Zouaves Paris – a GUD offshoot that was banned last year.

At just 24 years of age, the scion of a family of ultra-Catholic aristocrats has already had multiple run-ins with the law, including a suspended jail sentence for his involvement in violent clashes on the sidelines of a Yellow Vest protest at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in December 2018. 

In January 2022, Cacqueray-Valménier was sentenced to a year in prison for attacking the Saint-Sauveur bar in Paris, a popular anti-fascist hideout, though he has appealed the conviction. He is also under investigation for a violent attack on anti-racism activists who disrupted a campaign rally in support of far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour

Far-right protesters wave a flag of the GUD at a rally in Paris on May 26, 2013. © Thomas Samson, AFP

Police investigating the alleged plot to attack Moroccan fans believe Cacqueray-Valménier summoned his acolytes via a Telegram message that called for a “general mobilisation to defend the flag from the Moroccan hordes”, French daily Libération reported on Thursday, citing transcripts of police interrogations. 

He is also believed to have instructed participants to delete all messages, a tactic that hindered investigators’ efforts to gather evidence – and partly explained the small number of defendants in the dock, one of whom tried unsuccessfully to delete the messaging app before investigators seized it. 

During his interrogation, Cacqueray-Valménier denied any role in the alleged plot, claiming he was “no longer a militant” and that he “identified with no ideology”. Hailing the court’s decision to quash the case on Friday, his lawyer Clément Diakonoff accused politicians of “creating a myth around” Cacqueray-Valménier and “designating him as a target”.

‘Clash of civilisations’ 

Police’s decision to carry out preventive arrests, before any violence had been committed, ultimately undermined the case against the seven suspects. While it may have helped avert disturbances in Paris, racist attacks involving far-right activists were reported elsewhere in France, despite the deployment of 10,000 police officers across the country.

In Lyon, a hotbed of far-right militancy, several dozen men wearing balaclavas attacked fans in a central square to cries of “bleu, blanc, rouge, France for the French”. One officer spoke of a “volatile mix of ultra-right activists and football hooligans”. 

Racist assaults were also reported in Nantes, Montpellier and Nice, where masked men chased after Moroccan supporters shouting “Out with the Arabs”, while hooligans marched through central Strasbourg waving neo-Nazi symbols.  

While the incidents involved only a few hundred people across the country, they reflect the growing visibility and assertiveness of France’s militant far right, with small groups jostling for influence and notoriety in a fragmented landscape. 

In a July interview with Le Monde, Nicolas Lerner, the head of France’s internal intelligence agency, the DGSI, spoke of a “highly alarming rise in violent actions or intimidations by a segment of the ultra-right”, whose targets include immigrants, rights activists and elected officials

Anti-racism advocates and politicians on the left have accused the political far right of spreading inflammatory rhetoric in the run-up to the World Cup match, stoking hostility towards populations of immigrant descent with ties to former French colonies, such as Morocco.  

Damien Rieu, a close ally of Zemmour, described the historic semi-final as a “clash of civilisations”, while Zemmour himself reiterated his complaint that the French squad featured too many players with “foreign-sounding names”. 

When French citizens “have a heart that beats for another country (…) it raises questions about their assimilation” into French society, argued Sébastien Chenu, a lawmaker in Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally and a deputy head of the French National Assembly, speaking on France 2 television. 

“In the week leading up to the France-Morocco game, parts of the far right and some in the media shaped public perceptions by repeatedly warning that incidents were bound to occur,” left-wing lawmaker Thomas Portes, the head of the National Observatory of the Far Right, told FRANCE 24 earlier this year. “When you fan the flames of hatred and blow on embers that are already burning, unacceptable things happen.” 

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A magnitude 3.9 aftershock rattles Morocco as rescuers seek survivors

A magnitude 3.9 aftershock rattled Moroccans on Sunday as they prayed for victims of the nation’s strongest earthquake in more than a century. More than 2,000 people are dead – a number that is expected to rise.

The United Nations estimated that 300,000 people were affected by Friday night’s magnitude 6.8 quake and some Moroccans complained on social networks that the government wasn’t allowing more help from outside. International aid crews were prepared to deploy but remained in limbo waiting for the Moroccan government to request their assistance.


“We know there is a great urgency to save people and dig under the remains of buildings,” said Arnaud Fraisse, founder of Rescuers Without Borders, who had a team stuck in Paris waiting for the green light. “There are people dying under the rubble, and we cannot do anything to save them.”

Those left homeless – or fearing more aftershocks – from Friday night’s earthquake slept outside Saturday, in the streets of the ancient city of Marrakech or under makeshift canopies in Atlas Mountain towns like Moulay Brahim, among the hardest-hit. The worst destruction was in small, rural communities that are hard for rescuers to reach because of the mountainous terrain.

Those same areas were shaken anew Sunday by a magnitude 3.9 quake, according to the US Geological Survey. It wasn’t immediately clear if the temblor caused more damage or casualties, but it was likely strong enough to rattle nerves in areas where damage has left buildings unstable and people have spoken of their fears of aftershocks.

The earthquake on Friday toppled buildings not built to withstand such a mighty quake, trapping people in the rubble and sending others fleeing in terror. A total of 2,012 people were confirmed dead and at least 2,059 more people were injured – 1,404 of them critically – Morocco’s Interior Ministry reported Saturday night.

“We felt a huge shake like it was doomsday,” Moulay Brahim resident Ayoub Toudite said. “Ten seconds and everything was gone.”

Flags were lowered across Morocco, as King Mohammed VI ordered three days of national mourning starting Sunday. The army mobilized specialized search and rescue teams, and the king ordered water, food rations and shelter to be provided to those who lost their homes.

The king called for mosques across the kingdom to hold prayers Sunday for the victims, many of whom were buried Saturday amid the frenzy of rescue work nearby.

Aid offers have poured in from around the world and the U.N. said it had a team in Morocco coordinating with authorities about how international partners can provide support. About 100 teams made up of a total of 3,500 rescuers from around the world are registered with a UN platform and ready to deploy in Morocco when asked, Rescuers Without Borders said.

In a sign that Morocco may be prepared to accept more help from outside, the Spanish military said it had sent an air force plane carrying an urban search and rescue team of 56 soldiers and four dogs to Marrakech to help. Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said in a radio interview that the deployment was in response to a bilateral request for help from Moroccan authorities. Another rescue team from Nice, France, also was on its way.

In France, home to many people with links to Morocco, towns and cities have offered more than 2 million euros in aid, and popular performers are rallying to collect donations. The Moroccan king ordered the opening of special bank accounts to allow donations to help those in need.

The epicentre of Friday’s quake was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, roughly 70 kilometres south of Marrakech. Al Haouz is known for scenic villages and valleys tucked in the High Atlas Mountains.


About 45 kilometres northeast of the quake epicentre, fallen walls exposed the innards of damaged homes, and piles of rubble blocked alleys. In Moulay Brahim, a poor rural community of less than 3,000 people, many of the homes made of clay brick and cinder block were no longer safe or no longer standing.

Devastation gripped each town along the High Atlas’ steep and winding switchbacks, with homes folding in on themselves and people crying as boys and helmet-clad police carried the dead through the streets.

”I was asleep when the earthquake struck. I could not escape because the roof fell on me. I was trapped. I was saved by my neighbours who cleared the rubble with their bare hands,” said Fatna Bechar in Moulay Brahim. “Now, I am living with them in their house because mine was completely destroyed.”

Hamid Idsalah, a 72-year-old mountain guide, said he and many others remained alive, but had little future to look forward to as they lack the financial means to rebound.

Some Marrakech shop owners returned to work Sunday morning after the king encouraged economic activities to resume nationwide and ordered plans to begin to reconstruct destroyed buildings.


For much of Saturday in historic Marrakech, people could be seen on state television clustering in the streets, afraid to go back inside buildings that might still be unstable.

The city’s famous Koutoubia Mosque, built in the 12th century, was damaged, but the extent was not immediately clear. The famous red walls that surround the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, were also damaged.

Police, emergency vehicles and people fleeing in shared taxis spent hours traversing unpaved roads through the High Atlas in stop-and-go traffic, often exiting their cars to help clear giant boulders from routes known to be rugged and difficult even before the earthquake.

“It felt like a bomb went off,” 34-year-old Mohamed Messi said.

The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 p.m., with shaking that lasted several seconds, the USGS said. The agency added that a magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later. The collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates occurred at a relatively shallow depth, which makes a quake more dangerous.


It was the strongest earthquake in terms of magnitude to hit the North African country in more than 120 years, according to the USGS, which has records dating back to 1900.

But in 1960, a magnitude 5.8 temblor struck near the Moroccan city of Agadir and caused thousands of deaths. That quake prompted changes in construction rules in Morocco, but many buildings, especially rural homes, are not built to withstand such tremors.

In 2004, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake near the Mediterranean coastal city of Al Hoceima left more than 600 dead.

Friday’s quake was felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere and Algeria’s Civil Defense agency, which oversees emergency response.

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Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023: A tale of Spanish resurgence and overwhelming emotion

Be it Colombia’s teenaged, cancer-survivor and ray of hope Linda Caicedo, Spain’s 19-year-old impact player Salma Paralluelo, co-host New Zealand’s first taste of victory or Morocco’s dream run, the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup was a tale of overwhelming emotions.

Spain’s success marked its re-emergence on the world map; a school of play which gave the world the tiki-taka en route the 2010 men’s World Cup triumph. However, the nation has faltered since, managing to win only two major trophies until this year.

The Spanish men marked their return with their UEFA Nations League title last month, while their women adorned the crowning jewel on Sunday, making Spain the second country after Germany to win both men’s and women’s world titles.

Culer mentality

The success of La Roja, like that of their male counterparts in 2010, lies in their Barcelona core. Two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas played a huge role on and off the field in bringing the side this far. Putellas’ anterior cruciate ligament injury on the eve of 2022 Women’s Euro proved disastrous for them, with the team eventually bowing out to England in the quarterfinal.

Putellas’ return from injury in the tournament was subdued, something Spain recovered from, thanks to the likes of Aitana Bonmati, tournament’s golden ball winner, stepping up. The Barcelona midfielder, likened to Andres Iniesta by Pep Guardiola, is having a tremendous season so far and is among the favourites for this year’s Ballon d’Or.

Real Madrid midfielder Teresa Abelleira, arguably the best holding midfielder in the tournament, proved to be her perfect companion as Spain’s midfield terrorised opponents, forming a ‘black hole’ in the middle of the park from where retrieving the ball was virtually impossible.

Barcelona Femeni has an iron grip on the domestic competitive scene. It lost just one match and drew another on its way to clinching the domestic title this season before cruising to continental success in the Women’s Champions League.

This not only gave Spain their metronome, but also handed them the perfect weapon to neutralise opponents in Paralluelo, who head coach Jorge Vilda used as a super sub especially in the business end of the tournament.

She came on for Puttellas against Norway in the semifinal to give La Roja the lead and was adjudged player of the match. Coach Vilda admitted the plan was to use Putellas to wear out the opponents and then unleash Paralluelo’s raw pace and intensity, a tactic that paid off well, earning her a spot in the starting XI in the final.

Lionesses’ share

Finalists England have no reason to be disappointed as their heroics have given fans hope that football is getting closer and closer to ‘home’. Sarina Wiegman’s stint as coach has been nothing short of a dream.

The Dutchwoman ended England’s 56-year wait for a major trophy when she led the Lionesses to glory in the 2022 European Championship. Managing a team with heavyweights like Lucy Bronze, Ellen White and Jill Scott and feisty youngsters like Lauren Hemp was no mean feat. Her measured and majestic presence on the sidelines and tactical genius earned her the 2022 FIFA Best women’s coach award, her third after winning it in 2017 and 2020. Wiegman’s skillset is so highly rated that chatter of her being considered to replace Gareth Southgate for the men’s team gig when he decides to leave did the rounds ahead of the final.

Point to prove

FIFA brought in radical changes in the tournament format when it widened the playing pool from 24 to 32 countries, matching the number of teams in the men’s version. This move was not without its critics, with concerns of the tournament being ‘dull’ or ‘one-sided’ and established teams racing away to victories sitting as prominent footnotes. But they could not have been any more wrong as the underdogs posed tough questions throughout the tournament. New Zealand shocked Norway and registered their first victory in a World Cup while Morocco brushed aside a thrashing at the hands of Germany to make the round of 16 ahead of the latter.

Signs of the turning tides in women’s football were seen throughout the tournament. Close to 42,000 were present to watch New Zealand beat Norway, a record figure for both men’s and women’s football in the country. Australia’s semifinal against England was watched by 75,000 in the gallery while streaming figures hit 11.5 million at one point, nearly half the country’s population. Before the end of round of 16, more than 1.4 million were recorded at stadiums.

The fault lines

Spain’s entire campaign was embroiled in controversy. Months before the World Cup, a player mutiny saw 15 players taking on the federation and coach Vilda for poor training and team conditions. Only three of those, including Bonmati, were present Down Under. But Putellas, Olga Carmona and Co. managed to weather the storm and take the Spanish armada to promised land.

Spain’s win, which completed a world treble of sorts (U-17, U-20 and senior), was tainted by a barrage of criticism directed at Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales and his questionable behaviour with players in the team.

Before the tournament, FIFA president Gianni Infantino threatened to black out broadcasting in five major European nations which was only resolved at the 11th hour. He criticised the double standard of broadcasters offering around $1 million to $10 million for the tournament while it had gone up to $200 million for the men’s tournament, however the larger conversation on getting to the bottom of that disparity never happened.

Several nations were in open dispute before and during the World Cup with their federations over pay and conditions. This ranges from runner-up England, which put aside a row over bonuses to reach the final, while Jamaica had to resort to crowdfunding to pay their bills.

FIFA’s stand is that they are committed to equality, and standing up against broadcast disparity would suggest the same. But the women’s winner gets around $110 million while the men’s champion Argentina took home around $440 million from Qatar last year. Infantino added to his list of World Cup gaffes, saying that women should “pick the right fights” to “convince us men (about) what we have to do”.

Norway’s Ballon d’Or-winner Ada Hegerberg’s response summed up the mood of the ecosystem to this positioning. “Working on a little presentation to convince men. Who’s in?,” she posted on X.

After the final, Putellas took the podium as a stage to demand for changes, especially in funding.

But at the end of the day the brave bunch, going up against institutional sexism, made the tournament a memorable affair with flared up matches throughout, and a phenomenal final.

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The EU’s reply to Qatargate: Nips, tucks and paperwork

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STRASBOURG — The European Parliament’s response to Qatargate: Fight corruption with paperwork.

When Belgian police made sweeping arrests and recovered €1.5 million from Parliament members in a cash-for-influence probe last December, it sparked mass clamoring for a deep clean of the institution, which has long languished with lax ethics and transparency rules, and even weaker enforcement.

Seven months later, the Parliament and its president, Roberta Metsola, can certainly claim to have tightened some rules — but the results are not much to shout about. With accused MEPs Eva Kaili and Marc Tarabella back in the Parliament and even voting on ethics changes themselves, the reforms lack the political punch to take the sting out of a scandal that Euroskeptic forces have leaped on ahead of the EU election next year.

“Judge us on what we’ve done rather [than] on what we didn’t,” Metsola told journalists earlier this month, arguing that Parliament has acted swiftly where it could. 

While the Parliament can claim some limited improvements, calls for a more profound overhaul in the EU’s only directly elected institution — including more serious enforcement of existing rules — have been met with finger-pointing, blame-shifting and bureaucratic slow-walking. 

The Parliament dodged some headline-worthy proposals in the process. It declined to launch its own inquiry into what really happened, it decided not to force MEPs to declare their assets and it won’t be stripping any convicted MEPs of their gold-plated pensions.

Instead, the institution favored more minimal nips and tucks. The rule changes amount to much more bureaucracy and more potential alarm bells to spot malfeasance sooner — but little in the way of stronger enforcement of ethics rules for MEPs.

EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, who investigates complaints about EU administration lamented that the initial sense of urgency to adopt strict reforms had “dissipated.” After handing the EU a reputational blow, she argued, the scandal’s aftermath offered a pre-election chance, “to show that lessons have been learned and safeguards have been put in place.”

Former MEP Richard Corbett, who co-wrote the Socialists & Democrats group’s own inquiry into Qatargate and favors more aggressive reforms, admitted he isn’t sure whether Parliament will get there.  

“The Parliament is getting to grips with this gradually, muddling its way through the complex field, but it’s too early to say whether it will do what it should,” he said. 

Bags of cash

The sense of resignation that criminals will be criminals was only one of the starting points that shaped the Parliament’s response. 

“We will never be able to prevent people taking bags of cash. This is human nature. What we have to do is create a protection network,” said Raphaël Glucksmann, a French MEP who sketched out some longer-term recommendations he hopes the Parliament will take up. 


For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

Another is that the Belgian authorities’ painstaking judicial investigation is still ongoing, with three MEPs charged and a fourth facing imminent questioning. Much is unknown about how the alleged bribery ring really operated, or what the countries Qatar, Morocco and Mauritania really got for their bribes.

On top of that, Parliament was occasionally looking outward rather than inward for people to blame. 

Metsola’s message in the wake of the scandal was that EU democracy was “under attack” by foreign forces. The emphasis on “malign actors, linked to autocratic third countries” set the stage for the Parliament’s response to Qatargate: blame foreign interference, not an integrity deficit. 

Instead of creating a new panel to investigate how corruption might have steered Parliament’s work, Parliament repurposed an existing committee on foreign interference and misinformation to probe the matter. The result was a set of medium- and long-term recommendations that focus as much on blocking IT contractors from Russia and China as they do on holding MEPs accountable — and they remain merely recommendations. 

Metsola did also turn inward, presenting a 14-point plan in January she labeled as “first steps” of a promised ethics overhaul. The measures are a finely tailored lattice-work of technical measures that could make it harder for Qatargate to happen again, primarily by making it harder to lobby the Parliament undetected.

The central figure in Qatargate, an Italian ex-MEP called Pier Antonio Panzeri, enjoyed unfettered access to the Parliament, using it to give prominence to his human rights NGO Fight Impunity, which held events and even struck a collaboration deal with the institution. 

This 14-point package, which Metsola declared is now “done,” includes a new entry register, a six-month cooling-off period banning ex-MEPs from lobbying their colleagues, tighter rules for events, stricter scrutiny of human rights work — all tailored to ensure a future Panzeri hits a tripwire and can be spotted sooner.

Notably, however, an initial idea to ban former MEPs from lobbying for two years after leaving office — which would mirror the European Commission’s rules — instead turned into just a six-month “cooling off” period.

Internal divisions

Behind the scenes, the house remains sharply divided over just how much change is needed. Many MEPs resisted bigger changes to how they conduct their work, despite Metsola’s promise in December that there would be “no business as usual,” which she repeated in July.  

The limited ambition reflects an argument — pushed by a powerful subset of MEPs, primarily in Metsola’s large, center-right European People’s Party group — that changing that “business as usual” will only tie the hands of innocent politicians while doing little to stop the few with criminal intent. They’re bolstered by the fact that the Socialists & Democrats remain the only group touched by the scandal.

“There were voices in this house who said, ‘Do nothing, these things will always happen, things are fine as they are,’” Metsola said. Some of the changes, she said, had been “resisted for decades” before Qatargate momentum pushed them through. 

The Parliament already has some of the Continent’s highest standards for legislative bodies, said Rainer Wieland, a long-serving EPP member from Germany who sits on the several key rule-making committees: “I don’t think anyone can hold a candle to us.”

MEP Rainer Wieland holds lots of sway over the reforms | Patrick Seeger/EFE via EPA

Those who are still complaining, he added in a debate last week, “are living in wonderland.”

Wieland holds lots of sway over the reforms. He chairs an internal working group on the Parliament’s rules that feeds into the Parliament’s powerful Committee on Constitutional Affairs, where Metsola’s 14-point plan will be translated into cold, hard rules. 

Those rule changes are expected to be adopted by the full Parliament in September. 

The measures will boost existing transparency rules significantly. The lead MEP on a legislative file will soon have to declare (and deal with) potential conflicts of interest, including those coming from their “emotional life.” And more MEPs will have to publish their meetings related to parliamentary business, including those with representatives from outside the EU. 

Members will also have to disclose outside income over €5,000 — with additional details about the sector if they work in something like law or consulting. 

Negotiators also agreed to double potential penalties for breaches: MEPs can lose their daily allowance and be barred from most parliamentary work for up to 60 days. 

Yet the Parliament’s track record punishing MEPs who break the rules is virtually nonexistent.

As it stands, an internal advisory committee can recommend a punishment, but it’s up to the president to impose it. Of 26 breaches of transparency rules identified over the years, not one MEP has been punished. (Metsola has imposed penalties for things like harassment and hate speech.) 

And hopes for an outside integrity cop to help with enforcement were dashed when a long-delayed Commission proposal for an EU-wide independent ethics body was scaled back. 

Stymied by legal constraints and left-right divides within the Parliament, the Commission opted for suggesting a standards-setting panel that, at best, would pressure institutions into better policing their own rules.

“I really hate listening to some, especially members of the European Parliament, who say that ‘Without having the ethics body, we cannot behave ethical[ly],’” Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová lamented in June.

Metsola, for her part, has pledged to adhere to the advisory committee’s recommendations going forward. But MEPs from across the political spectrum flagged the president’s complete discretion to mete out punishments as unsustainable.

“The problem was not (and never really was) [so] much the details of the rules!!! But the enforcement,” French Green MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield — who sits in the working group — wrote to POLITICO.

Wieland, the German EPP member on the rule-making committees, presented the situation more matter-of-factly: Parliament had done what it said it would do.

“We fully delivered” on Metsola’s plan, Wieland told POLITICO in an interview. “Not more than that.”

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Eva Kaili is back with a new story: There’s a conspiracy

ATHENS — Eva Kaili is spinning up a new, eyebrow-raising narrative: Authorities might have targeted her because she knew too much about government spying.

After months of silence during her detention and house arrest, the most high-profile suspect in the cash-for-influence Qatargate scandal was suddenly everywhere over the weekend. 

Across a trio of interviews in the European media, the Greek European Parliament member was keen to proclaim her innocence, saying she never took any of the alleged bribes that authorities say countries such as Qatar and Morocco used to sway the Brussels machinery. 

But she also had a story to tell even darker than Qatargate, one involving insinuations of nefarious government spying and suggestions that maybe, just maybe, her jailing was politically motivated. Her work investigating the illegal use of Pegasus spyware in Europe, she argued, put her in the crosshairs of Europe’s own governments. 

“From the court file, my lawyers have discovered that the Belgian secret services have allegedly been monitoring the activities of members of the Pegasus special committee,” she told the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.

“The fact that elected members of Parliament are being spied on by the secret services should raise more concerns about the health of our European democracy,” she added. “I think this is the ‘real scandal.’”

As Kaili reemerges and starts pointing the finger back at the government, the Belgian prosecutor’s office has decided to remain mum. A spokesperson on Monday said the prosecutor’s office was “not going to respond” to Kaili’s allegations. 

“This would violate the confidentiality of the investigation and the presumption of innocence,” the spokesperson added. “The evidence will be presented in court in due course.”

But her PR blitz is nonetheless a likely preview of Qatargate’s next chapter: The battle to win the public narrative.

A European media tour

In addition to her interview with the Italian press, Kaili also appeared in the Spanish and French press, where she expanded on her spying theory. 

In a video interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Kaili said her legal team has evidence the entire PEGA committee was being watched illegally, arguing she does not know how the police intercepted certain conversations between her and other politicians. 

“I was not spied on with Pegasus, but for Pegasus,” she said. “We believe Morocco, Spain, France and Belgium spied on the European Parliament’s committee,” she told El Mundo.

Kaili’s assertions have not been backed up by public evidence. But she didn’t equivocate as she pointed the finger.

“The fact that security services surveilled elected members of Parliament should raise enormous concerns over the state of European democracy,” Kaili said. “This goes beyond the personal: We have to defend the European Parliament and the work of its members.”

Kaili was jailed in December as part of a deep corruption probe Belgian authorities were conducting into whether foreign countries were illegally influencing the European Parliament’s work. Her arrest came after the Belgian police recovered €150,000 in cash from her apartment — where she lived with her partner, Francesco Giorgi, who was also arrested — and a money-stuffed bag her father had.

The Greek politician flatly dismissed the charges across her interviews.

“No country has ever offered me money and I have never been bribed. Not even Russia, as has been alleged,” she told El Mundo. “My lawyers and I believe this was a police operation based on false evidence.”

According to her arrest warrant, Kaili was suspected of being “the primary organizer or co-organizer” of public corruption and money laundering.

“Eva Kaili told the journalist of ‘El Mundo’ not to publish her interview, until she gave them the final OK; unfortunately, the agreement was not honored,” her lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos said on Monday.

Flying in on a Pegasus (committee)

The allegations — Kaili’s first major push to spin her arrest — prompted plenty of incredulity, including from those who worked with her on the Pegasus, or PEGA, committee. It especially befuddled those who recalled that Kaili had faced accusations of undermining the committee’s work. 

“I have absolutely no reason to believe the Belgian intelligence services spied on PEGA,” said Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, who helped prepare the committee’s final report. “Everything we do is public anyway. And we have our phones checked regularly, it makes absolutely no sense.”

Kaili’s decision to invoke her PEGA Committee work is intriguing as it taps into a controversial period of her career. 

While the panel was deep into its work in 2022, Greece was weathering its own persistent espionage scandal, which erupted after the government acknowledged it had wiretapped the leader of Kaili’s own party, Pasok. 

Yet Kaili perplexed many when she started publicly arguing in response that surveillance was common and happens across Europe, echoing the talking points of the ruling conservative government instead of her own socialist party. She also encouraged the PEGA panel not to visit Greece as part of its investigation.

The arrest warrant for MEP Andrea Cozzolino also mentions the alleged influence ringleader, former Parliament member Pier Antonio Panzeri, discussed getting Kaili on the PEGA Committee to help advance Moroccan interests (Morocco has been accused of illegally using the spyware).

A war of words?

Kaili’s media tour raises questions about how the Qatargate probe will unfold in the coming months. 

Eventually, Kaili and the other suspects will likely face trial, where authorities will have a chance to present their evidence. But until then, the suspects will have a chance to shape and push their preferred narrative — depending on what limits the court places on their public statements.

In recent weeks, Kaili has moved from jail to house arrest to an increasingly unrestricted life, allowing her more chances to opine on the case. Her lawyers also claim she will soon be back at work at the Parliament, although she is banned from leaving Belgium for Parliament’s sessions in Strasbourg.

Pieter Haeck, Eddy Wax, Antoaneta Roussi and Barbara Moens contributed reporting.

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Not just Qatargate: Eva Kaili also faces probe into EU kickbacks scheme

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Voiced by artificial intelligence.

Qatargate aside, Eva Kaili is facing a world of pain for a different reason altogether. 

Documents seen by POLITICO reveal fresh details about a separate criminal investigation that the Greek EU lawmaker is facing regarding allegedly fraudulent payments involving four former assistants in the European Parliament from 2014 to 2020. 

The probe is looking at Kaili for three potential fraudulent activities: whether she misled Parliament about her assistants’ location and work activities; took a cut of their reimbursements for “fake” work trips she orchestrated; and also took kickbacks from part of their salaries, according to a letter from the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) to Parliament President Roberta Metsola, seen by POLITICO. 

Another Greek EU lawmaker, Maria Spyraki, has also been part of the same probe. Investigators accuse her of misleading the institution about her assistants’ activities and of telling them to file expenses for fake work trips. However, the documents do not allege that Spyraki took kickbacks from salaries or false reimbursements.

In total, investigators say Kaili owes the European Parliament “around €100,000,” according to a person familiar with the case.

The details offer the first real insight into the inquiry since it became public in December, only days after Kaili was put in jail under suspicion that she was involved in an even bigger scandal, Qatargate — the alleged bribery ring that prosecutors say involved countries such as Qatar and Morocco paying off European Parliament members.

And with all Qatargate suspects now out of detention, and no new arrests since February, attention is now shifting to the fraud case. MEPs in the Parliament’s legal affairs committee will discuss Kaili’s case behind closed doors for the first time on Tuesday. 

Kaili, who was moved to house arrest earlier this month, is currently fighting the prosecutor’s request to strip her immunity — a privilege afforded to EU lawmakers. But the EU prosecutor’s office, which investigates criminal fraud linked to EU funds, has argued its probe is on solid ground.

“The current investigation pertains to strong suspicions of repeated fraud and/or other serious irregularities,” European Chief Prosecutor Laura Kövesi said in the letter seen by POLITICO, which was sent to Parliament in December and requested both Kaili and Spyraki be stripped of their immunity. 

EPPO declined to comment on the case for this article. Kaili, through an attorney, said she has promised to pay back any money owed and to comply with any recommendations. Spyraki told POLITICO that her case has nothing to do with Kaili, and she confirmed she has never been accused of taking kickbacks.

“I have no dispute on the budget based on my responsibility as supervisor,” she said. “I have already paid the relevant amount and I have already asked the services to reassess my case financially.”


The European prosecutor went public about the fraud inquiry on December 15, just days after Kaili had been arrested in Brussels in connection with Qatargate. 

The notice named both Kaili, who belonged to the center-left Socialists and Democrats grouping, and Spyraki, a former journalist and former spokesperson for the center-right Greek party New Democracy, which is affiliated with the large European People’s Party group in Brussels.

The announcement came the same day Kövesi sent her immunity-lifting request to Metsola. The documents also named four former staffers of Kaili and two former assistants to Spyraki as potentially participating in the different schemes. 

But officials publicly offered few specifics about the inquiry, only noting that it was unrelated to the Qatargate affair, which had also ensnared Kaili’s life partner Francesco Giorgi, as well as several other current and former EU lawmakers. 

Now the details are starting to emerge. 

According to the letter seen by POLITICO, the EPPO probe is examining both Kaili and Spyraki over irregularities regarding their assistants’ “physical presence at the place of employment” and “related European Parliament decisions on working time.”  

According to the same letter, another line of inquiry is “fake missions, submission of false supporting documents and undue reimbursement claims for missions expenses by the APAs on the request of Ms Kaili and Ms Spyraki.” APA is an acronym for accredited parliamentary assistant.

Eva Kaili poses for the “MEPs for #millennialvoices”campaign in 2016 | European Parliament

Kaili specifically is also under investigation for receiving “payback” from her assistants’ salaries and the falsified expenses.

The public prosecutor’s probe follows an investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud office, known as OLAF, which was completed on November 23 of last year. OLAF then transferred its case to EPPO, it said in a December statement.

OLAF said it would leave any follow-up to the public prosecutor’s office, declining to comment beyond its statement four months ago. 

Immunity fight

The EPPO case is also becoming entangled in the fight over whether to lift Kaili’s immunity.

Immunity is a special privilege MEPs enjoy that is intended to protect them from being arbitrarily prosecuted for what they say or do as EU lawmakers. It can be waived following a recommendation by the legal affairs committee and a vote by all MEPs.

Parliament is now starting that process for Kaili, having already kicked it off for Spyraki. MEPs will discuss Kaili’s immunity at the legal affairs committee gathering on Tuesday.

Investigators say Kaili owes the European Parliament “around €100,000” | European Parliament

Spyros Pappas, Kaili’s lawyer, argued that typically, such fraud cases are closed after OLAF finishes its probe — as it did with Kaili — with the lawmaker paying back whatever the office says is owed. He also questioned how officials could justify lifting immunity for actions that stretch back to 2014. 

“One cannot but question both the legality and the opportunity of the initiative taken by EPPO,” he said. “The answer can only be given by the General Court of Justice of the EU.”

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Being a digital nomad isn’t just for singles. Here’s how families make it work

To many, the lifestyle of a “digital nomad” is an aspirational one — you can live anywhere in the world, visa permitting, with your laptop as your office.

Forget the daily grind of the rush hour commute. As long as there’s decent Wi-Fi, simply pick a coffee shop, park or pool and get to work.

The lifestyle has become more popular in the wake of the Covid pandemic, which accelerated the trend of remote working. The number of American digital nomads increased 9% in just 12 months from 2021 to 2022, to a total of almost 17 million, according to the jobs platform MBO Partners.

But one factor deters many from the lifestyle: kids.

Whether it’s schooling, health and safety concerns, or the question of a child’s ability to develop lasting friendships, parents face multiple barriers.

But some have taken the plunge anyway. Two families tell CNBC Travel how they’ve made it work.

Keller family: French Polynesia

Sam Keller is the founder and CEO of Working Without Borders, which calls itself “the world’s first company providing coworking retreats for families with culturally immersive programming for kids and teens.” 

He’s also a dad of two kids under the age of 12.

Sam Keller, founder of Working Without Borders, which organizes coworking retreats for families.

Working Without Borders

“My wife and I each had living abroad experiences, but we couldn’t figure out how to make it happen” again, he said. “Then we had kids.”

The couple scoped out a school while on vacation in French Polynesia, thinking it could be “the place where we can go live,” he said.

Another factor worked in their favor: Keller’s wife Pascaline Cure works for Airbnb, which allows her to work anywhere she wants.

So together they made a big move from California to French Polynesia. And not just at any time — they moved during the pandemic.

“The stars aligned, we made it onto the plane and decided we’re going to make lemonade out of lemons of this pandemic.”

Sam Keller with his family in Bora Bora.

Working Without Borders

Education is regularly cited as the biggest challenge for digital nomads with children. Navigating an unfamiliar school system, often in an entirely new language, can be a struggle.

“We found that [in French Polynesia] there are a fair number of private schools that will accept kids for as short a time as a couple of weeks or a month. Then there are plenty of schools set up to provide online support, or online-only schools with really good teaching and instruction and curricula,” Keller said.

Homeschooling is another option for some, but Keller prefers to call it “world schooling,” which he says “embraces this notion of viewing the world as your classroom.”

“From the playground you could see stingrays swimming by,” he said. “Kids are out as part of the curriculum, so we’re paddling outrigger canoes in the lagoon, seeing sea turtles and dolphins. It was just magical in so many respects.”

He added that now more resources exist to help people learn about the digital nomad lifestyle, thanks to its growing popularity. Companies, like this own, let families “dip their toes in the water,” and some Facebook groups for world schooling have more than 50,000 members — so there’s always someone to answer a question, he said.

Elledge-Penner family: 20 countries

The beautiful Indonesian island of Bali, famed for its laidback lifestyle, is a popular destination for digital nomads.

Martin Penner and Taryn Elledge-Penner from the boutique travel agency Quartier Collective call it home, along with their three children, aged between seven and 12.

Since leaving Seattle in 2018, the family has visited nearly 20 different countries, including Japan, Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey and Sri Lanka. Sometimes they stay a few weeks, but typically they’re in one place for one to three months.

Taryn Elledge-Penner and her son Viggo in Ahangama, Sri Lanka.

Quartier Collective

Penner said his children were part of the reason they decided to leave the United States.

“We traveled a lot as individuals and just felt that the world was this big, wild place — and that our world in Seattle had shrunk in a way,” he said. “We had to show them the world and didn’t want to miss this connection to something bigger.”

Elledge-Penner said they wanted more time with their kids, to make their journey sustainable and, critically, to connect with other families.

“When we left it was lonely for families like ours on the road,” she said. “Now that has really changed and a lot of families have realized this is an option, going longer and deeper.”

The family of five have enjoyed a range of experiences: living on a farm in Japan where they slurped soba noodles from a 30-foot hollowed-out bamboo pole; making pottery in Mexico; and taking in a shadow puppet show in the Cyclades in Greece — though they didn’t understand a word.

Penner said the key to making the lifestyle work for them is “connecting with people” and not approaching places “as a travel highlight hit list.”

Martin Penner walking with two of his children in Japan.

Quartier Collective

But it’s not all fun and games. There are also practicalities to be reckoned with, Elledge-Penner said.

“One of the challenges has been finding a balance with time and space on our own — and away from each other and the kids,” she said. “We’ve gone such long periods being together, every waking moment of a day.”

“We all need a break and space, normally by going to work or school. Even though this is what we’re choosing, it still requires some balance and that can be difficult to find and that can lead to tension.”

The pre-teen marker is a natural point when pressures mount.

She also touches on what she calls “decision fatigue.”

“The time to plan out the logistics, getting from A to B, where to stay, it can literally be a full-time job and really exhausting,” she said.

Once again, education is one of the biggest questions for global nomads with kids, but — like Keller — Elledge-Penner said there are plenty of options.

“Things have changed a lot from when we first set out. It’s tenfold the number of options you can find and plug into as a world schooling family,” she said.

“We’ve dropped into schools in different countries around the world. There are accredited distance learning programs too and home-schooling pods. For literally anybody who wants to untether from their current school system, it’s totally possible to find whatever you’re looking for.”

The couple noted that the family dynamic has changed since they started traveling in 2018. Their daughter, for example, now wants more long-lasting friendships, while the idea of having a dog — and a bedroom she doesn’t have to share with her brothers — is a big draw.

“The pre-teen marker is a natural point when pressures mount. Lots of families we see stop traveling when [kids] are that age. Now they want to spend more time around friends [which is] a big shift from when we started out.”


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