He Qatargate it is also shaking the trade union world hard. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has dismissed this Saturday its general secretary, Luca Visentini, implicated in the corruption plot to allegedly favor Qatari and Moroccan interests in institutions such as the European Parliament and which, according to the investigation, it is feared could having extended its tentacles to other international organizations.
Although the ITUC has not verified that the Italian committed an illegality, it considers that his actions in the context of the plot led by the former MEP (and also a former trade unionist) Pier Antonio Panzeri, from whom he received cash for his campaign, discredits him as head of the international labor movement, a position to which he had just been elected when the scandal broke. The case has generated great concern in the union environment because it has highlighted the “vulnerability” of the organization to attempts at foreign interference or corruption, as warned by an internal report that EL PAÍS has been able to consult. The fact that it has not been fully achieved this time does not mean that the mechanisms do not have to be strengthened to avoid a new Qatargate, because “it damages the credibility of the trade union movement, its strength and representativeness”, stress union sources present at the ITUC meeting held this Saturday in Brussels.
Visentini has once again proclaimed his innocence before the members of the general council of the ITUC, meeting at the Belgian union headquarters to decide the future of the Italian, who on December 21 was removed from his duties, but not forced to resign. Faced with his repeated refusal to resign from his position, the decision-making body of the union organization decided to submit him to a vote of confidence that he clearly lost: 57 voted against him, only 12 supported him and there was one abstention, according to sources present. at the meeting.
The 53-year-old Italian trade unionist led the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) until his election on November 21 as general secretary of the ITUC, which represents up to 200 million workers in 168 countries and territories. He had only been in the new position for a few days when he was arrested as part of the first wave of the Qatargateon December 9.
Although he has admitted to receiving €50,000 from Panzeri for his ITUC leadership campaign; and he performed shortly before his election a controversial trip to Qatar paid for at least in part by that country, has always denied allowing itself to be influenced by Doha. The judge who instructs the Qatargate he was released on supervised release two days after being arrested along with Panzeri and the then still vice president of the European Parliament, the Greek socialist Eva Kaili. Both remain in preventive detention to this day, along with another Socialist MEP, Marc Tarabella. All of them, as well as Kaili’s parliamentary assistant and partner Francesco Giorgi, recently released with an electronic bracelet, are accused of corruption, money laundering and belonging to a criminal organization. Another Italian MEP and Socialist, Andrea Cozzolino, is under house arrest in his country awaiting deportation to Belgium.
In January, the ITUC decided to entrust trade unionist and former Swedish labor minister Eva Nordmark with a special commission to investigate “the circumstances linked to the allegations made against Visentini.” A month later, when announcing that she had completed her report, Nordmark was already very concerned with a situation that she, she warned, constitutes “a threat to the fundamental values of the democracy, justice and solidarity defended by the trade union movement”.
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“Atypical decisions”, “poor judgment” and “personal ambitions”
In the final report, which this newspaper has been able to consult, it is concluded that Visentini repeatedly made “atypical decisions” with which he showed “poor judgment” and contributed to “eroding the leadership” of the organization with actions that “could have overlapped personal ambitions to the welfare of the organization”. But he also points out that the whole case reveals a longstanding “collective failure” to “protect the ITUC from the threats facing the global trade union movement”.
“We have found an operational, financial, constitutional and political environment vulnerable to the type of corruption” under investigation, says the report, which has not been made public, but was distributed confidentially this week among ITUC members. The union confederation “lacks modern rules and procedures necessary to guarantee that no outside influence can contaminate the organization,” he warns. Although he says he has not discovered any further attempts to “corrupt” the ITUC, he believes that the events of the past year “reveal how vulnerable the organization is if urgent reforms are not carried out.”
“We need firewalls”, agree union sources, who recognize that the concern is multiplied by the fact that in the Qatargate investigate the alleged attempted interference by a country whose democratic standards are far from ideal, does not guarantee the same rights to women and men and has a “dire” labor situation for the most vulnerable workers, as was denounced on the eve of the World Cup soccer match held by the Gulf State.
It is precisely the laundering of the country’s image before the sporting event that supposedly led to the corruption attempts of various institutions. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has also been questioned for its attitude on the eve of the World Cup. During a hearing on the football event held in the Human Rights subcommittee of the European Parliament on November 14 – under the presidency of the Belgian socialist Marie Arena, also punctuated by the Qatargate due to his close relationship with Panzeri, from whom he inherited this commission from which he is now separated—, the head of the ILO office in Doha, Max Tuñón, surprised by positively assessing Qatar’s efforts in labor matters, something that had also been made in the months and weeks prior to the World Cup figures that would end up trapped by the Qatargateespecially Eva Kaili.
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