The long rise and abrupt fall of Greek MEP Eva Kaili – POLITICO

ATHENS – Just last Monday, MEP Eva Kaili opened a new research center to promote blockchain technology in the EU.

Leading experts and policy makers from EU institutions and the Greek government were present, including the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola.

“The attendance was overwhelming,” Kaili proudly tweeted, along with several photos from the event.

Fast forward to this Monday when the 44-year-old – who is one of 14 female vice-presidents of the European Parliament – was charged with corruption in the Qatar scandal inquiry, had her responsibilities as vice-president suspended and was expelled from both the social-democratic PASOK party in Greece and the Group of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament.

The MP was “caught in the act” – the only circumstance that can lead to the immediate revocation of parliamentary immunity.

Her partner, 35, Francesco Giorgi, assistant to an Italian MEP and founder of the NGO Fight Impunity, was also jailed and charged with corruption. The couple’s assets and property, as well as those of Kaili’s family in Greece, have been frozen.

No one could have predicted this fall for one of the most glamorous couples in the European Parliament at the height of their careers.

Rise of a seductive loner

Eva Kaili attends the first conference of the #SD40 network of young S&D MPs in Athens, Greece on 22 May 2015 | Menelaus Myrillas/SOOC/AFP via Getty Images

Born in Thessalonica with blonde hair and blue eyes, she got involved in politics at an early age and joined the PASOK youth group at the tender age of 14. A decade later, in 2002, she became the youngest member of Thessaloniki City Council. She studied Architecture and Civil Engineering before moving to the Greek capital and earning a Masters in European Affairs.

In 2004 she ran unsuccessfully as the youngest candidate in national elections. Although she lost the vote, she got a job as a news presenter at Mega channel, where she worked for several years. She was a member of the Greek Parliament from 2007 to 2012 before moving to the Belgian capital in 2014 to become an S&D MEP.

Kaili made a name for herself with several bold and outspoken acts that broke with her party colleagues, such as an initial refusal to support Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou in a crucial 2011 vote of confidence amid Greece’s financial crisis. Kaili changed her mind and Papandreou survived.

She has been regularly photographed with Greek-Russian billionaire media mogul Ivan Savvidis in Thessaloniki Bouzoukiaor flashy nightclubs where Greek folk music is performed live in a sea of ​​carnations.

Kaili claimed that her grandfather was murdered by communists, which later turned out to be completely false. She never apologized, nor was she ever held accountable by the Greek media.

The Socialist MEP has been deeply involved in the EU’s increasingly compelling digital agenda with its complex dossiers, including artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and blockchain.

She worked closely with her sister, Mantalena Kaili, the chief executive of ELONtech, a non-governmental organization focused on the impact of legislation on new technologies. Eva and Mantalena were close, the two sisters were regularly spotted together at EU tech conferences or on long shopping sprees in downtown Athens.

As one of the few Greek women in a high-profile European post, Kaili enjoyed widespread support from local media, which ran lengthy profiles of her glamorous lifestyle.

Her Italian partner Giorgi worked as a sailing instructor alongside his main job as an MEP’s assistant. His glamorous life is documented on his Instagram profile, which is full of photos from sailing in Sardinia or skiing. Also in 2018 he can be seen on business in Doha.

A couple since 2020, they lived together with their little daughter Ariadni, who is one and a half years old.

From sparkling to spoiled

Shortly after her arrest on Friday, PASOK leader and MEP Nikos Androulakis ousted Kaili from the party, accusing her of acting as a “Trojan horse” for the ruling conservative New Democracy party.

He also said that New Democracy is preparing to run Kaili in Greece’s upcoming national elections. Some reports in recent months had indicated that Kaili would run for mayor of Thessaloniki with Conservative support.

Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou rejected these claims.

But in recent years Kaili had moved closer to the Conservatives.

“A young woman and a very good friend who is a protagonist in European affairs was appointed Vice-President of the European Parliament yesterday! Congratulations,” tweeted Grigoris Dimitriadis, who recently resigned as the Conservative government’s chief of staff.

“Kaili is very well connected and has managed to gain the respect of the New Democracy Party, even that of Kyriakos Mitsotakis,” the pro-government Greek newspaper Proto Thema wrote in a profile about her after the election victory. “The prime minister fought for her election as vice president,” the newspaper reported.

In November, Kaili gave a speech in the European Parliament, praising Qatar and how hosting the World Cup had made the Gulf state “a historic change” and made it a “pioneer on workers’ rights”. Meanwhile, the plenary was preparing to adopt a resolution condemning the treatment of migrant workers in Doha. PASOK quickly distanced itself from their stance.

Also in November, the Vice-President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, a photo with Kaili in Abu Dhabi. Schinas, the commissioner from Greece, has been criticized by MPs for his tweets on Qatar in recent months. In a recent tweet, he commended Qatar for “considerable and tangible progress on labor reform” and called for those reforms to continue. A spokesman for the European Commission defended Schinas’ stance, pointing out that they “reflect exactly the reports of the ILO (International Labor Organization)”.

For its part, the Greek government said Kaili’s case was an example of why wiretapping politicians was justified. “Those who have expressed absolute positions on whether or not law enforcement should keep tabs on political figures may need to approach them with greater skepticism,” government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou told local media on Saturday.

Sophie in ‘t Veld, the liberal Dutch MEP and lead rapporteur on the European Parliament inquiry into spyware, dismissed such claims. “That’s nonsense,” she said.

Although Kaili was reportedly one of the politicians under Greek state surveillance, she herself said that the parliamentary committee she was part of was not supposed to visit Greece as part of its investigation into spyware. “This problem has now solved itself,” commented ‘t Veld.

Several socialist representatives have called on her to give up her seat in the European Parliament. “She has been distancing herself for months, and her positions and values ​​are incompatible with PASOK,” said party spokesman Dimitris Manzos.

Vincent Manancourt contributed to the reporting.

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