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Top EU transport official transferred after row over Qatar-paid trips

March 29, 2023 at 10:30 pm

A passenger aircraft, operated by Qatar Airways at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar [Christopher Pike/Bloomberg/Getty Images]

The European Commission’s Transport Unit chief, Henrik Hololei, has been transferred to another post, a spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday. The transfer comes after a row over several Qatar-paid trips Hololei took, Reuters reports.

“At his request, the College (of Commissioners) has decided to appoint Henrik Hololei, who is the general director for mobility and transport, to the position of … advisor in the DG (Directorate-General) for international partnership from the 1st of April,” Commission chief spokesperson, Eric Mamer, told reporters.

A spokesperson for the European Commission’s Human Resources added that “this is not a disciplinary measure but a transfer to an equivalent post”. Hololei did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Politico revealed last month that Hololei flew business class for free on Qatar Airways several times between 2015 and 2021, which he subsequently confirmed.

In light of the European Parliament’s cash-for-influence scandal, European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly had asked in a letter to Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, about the business trips as they came at a time when his department was closely involved with negotiating an EU-Qatar air transport agreement.

The Commission said the trips were authorised as Hololei was not part of the negotiating team and so no conflict of interest was identified, but that it is reviewing its guidelines.

Belgian authorities have, in the European Parliament’s cash-for-influence scandal, detained two EU lawmakers, with a third held in Italy, on charges that they and others linked to the European Parliament received cash and gifts from Qatar, in return for influence over decision-making. Qatar has denied any wrongdoing.

READ: Qatar furious over Belgian probe into possible external influence at EU