Manel Msalmi, a Tunisian activist based in Brussels, has been accused of working as a proxy for Gulf countries in the European Parliament (EP). The EP has come under criticism for corruption and partisanship, with some MEPs acting on behalf of third-party countries and organizations instead of their constituents. Msalmi has been accused of posing as a human rights activist and anti-extremism expert while working tirelessly to promote the interests of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Msalmi’s alleged involvement in EP affairs was brought to light in a recent report by the Internal Research Centre of the Commission. The report revealed that many MEPs did not publish their meetings, and 25% of them declared outside earnings of between 3.9 and 11.5 million euros over the last five years. The gulf countries, in particular, find it challenging to work in the EP, so they often resort to proxies, including NGOs, individuals, lobbyists, and sometimes spies, to promote their interests.
Msalmi, who allegedly started working as a proxy for Gulf countries, poses as a human rights activist and pro-women rights and anti-extremism expert. However, she is in Brussels for one purpose only: to defend the Saudi-Emirate war against Yemen and boost the interest of Gulf countries. She has been working to ensure that both these countries are protected from EP work and praised by the MEPs.
Msalmi, who was previously a hairdresser in Belgium, was recruited by a Saudi diplomat in Brussels, and they entered into a relationship for a few years. The relationship between the two developed into business, and the diplomat asked Msalmi to establish an NGO for a Yemeni activist, Wesam Basendawa, director of the March 8 Bloc for Yemeni Women. Msalmi then became more involved in politics and nominated herself as a candidate in a Belgian political party, but she did not win the elections.
Msalmi presented herself as a senior leader in a European party and sometimes a senior EU diplomat. She even made statements and interviews on Arabic TVs and newspapers, suggesting that she was an official in the European Union and sometimes in the Parliament. However, investigations revealed that Msalmi was paid by Saudis to use and recruit MEP Fulvio Martusciello, who keeps some business coming to him regularly. Martusciello did some work in the plenary session of 2021 of the European Parliament in Strasbourg and called for immediate action to protect Yemeni women from Houthis, not Saudi Arabia. He did not say a single word on women being killed by Saudi air raids happening daily or issue a statement condemning the oppression of Saudi women or the theft of their freedoms. According to sources, the rate of such statements issued by Martusciello is fixed and not negotiable at €35,000.
Martusciello, a member of the Forza party, used every opportunity to make money, including taking Msalmi to the Italian parliament, for which he was paid €50,000. Msalmi also earned a considerable payment of €24,000. Msalmi took to Twitter to express her gratitude for being invited to speak at the Italian senate on coexistence, the fight against religious extremism, and tolerance in Europe and the Maghreb, thanking Italian senators, the group @ForzaItalia, and MEP Martusciello for the invitation.
The accusations against Msalmi raise serious concerns about the integrity of the EP and the influence of third-party countries and organizations on EU policy-making. MEPs are elected to represent the interests of their constituents, not the interests of foreign governments or organizations. The EP must take steps to ensure that its members are not acting as proxies for third-party countries or organizations.