We’ve taken a deep dive into the background and career of the former European Parliament vice president as she faces corruption allegations, offering an insight into Greek politics at its most ambitious.
Kaili’s ambitions had no bounds, from her humble beginnings in Thessaloniki to national politics in Athens and then Brussels, where she eventually became Vice President of the EU Parliament. Never one to be held back by party loyalty or ideology, Kaili wanted to ascend through political circles at an incredible rate until she found her place among their elite.
Eva Kaili’s journey began in Thessaloniki, Greece
She was born into a low-income, working-class family. Receiving an education through the state system in architecture and civil engineering.
Keili left school early to help her father in his restaurant and then worked in the finance department of his company. These experiences provided her with a solid foundation to build her political career.
She often met friends and fellow activists at Cafe Sante in πορνο Thessaloniki’s historic city center in her free moments. There, she would reflect on Greece’s future and her role within it.
In 2002, she made her first political run and won a seat on the local council.
Decades later, this victory remains in the memories of those who knew her then.
Kaili’s victory at PASP (PASOK’s student branch) allowed her to gain recognition within her university’s student movement and even run for a position within its university department – which she won!
She achieved fame as one of the university’s most influential professors, a position she held from 2001 until 2007. With increased visibility on Greek political circuits, her ambitions grew, and she made efforts to diversify her involvement within the public service of Greece.
Her ambition led her to Brussels, where she served as an EU lawmaker. She was an integral part of the legislative process at the European Parliament, creating legislation on blockchain, big data, fintech, AI, and cybersecurity. Additionally, she was chairperson of several committees and a member of numerous others.
By the end of 2014, she had been elected a European Parliament Member. She served in that position until last week. During her tenure, she was also named Vice President of the European Parliament and in charge of several important committees.
On Tuesday, the European Parliament voted 625-1 to strip her of her title as Vice President due to ongoing investigations in Belgium regarding an alleged bribery scheme involving Qatar’s government and several other European politicians. She is in prison in the Haren district of Brussels.
Eva Kaili had a taste of political life at the height of Greece’s financial crisis
Her first-round election win in a department at her university was a significant victory for students of Greece’s ruling PASOK party. But, unfortunately, after only two years, she was forced to exit politics altogether – something which would keep her off national politics for most of the next decade or so.
Kaili ran again when Greece’s economy spiraled into debt, and the government cut spending, leaving public services unfunded. She returned to parliament but failed to secure her seat this time; thus, she moved into the private sector, where she advised various media and pharmaceutical companies and partied at Greece’s glamorous bouzouki nightclubs.
At one point, she earned an MA in European politics and policy.
She even made it onto the university’s honor roll – until a confrontation with Nikos Kotzias, her professor, went awry.
Kotzias responded to her request for an exemption from class with sharp criticism. “Unfortunately, someone attempts to earn their degree this way without working,” he wrote in a statement.
Kaili then assumed the position of vice president of the European Parliament in 2022 and began frequent trips to Qatar – an essential ally and primary sponsor of soccer’s World Cup. Eva required high-level approval from senior EU officials to justify each visit there.
She met with the labor and energy minister on a visit to Qatar. Praised Qatar’s reforms in her speeches and said they had “inspired” other Arab states with similar policies.
Once she returned to Brussels, she began a collaboration with EU social policy chief Margrethe Vestager on a proposal for an app for unaccompanied Ukrainian children. This pilot project cost EUR850,000 and sought to find an efficient way of helping reunite these children with their families.
Eva Kaili’s making and unmaking are emblematic of Europe’s battle against Russia’s destructive adventurism in Ukraine.
Additionally, it provides a window into the political culture of a city where politics surround personal relationships and fierce independence from increasingly intrusive Athens.
Her father, Alexandros, arrived in Thessaloniki during the mid-1960s when Turkey expelled the city’s Greek population. Together with his wife, Maria Ignatidou, he raised Kaili and Mantalena with a fierce determination to preserve their heritage. Additionally, they formed part of an influential social network, making Thessaloniki one of Greece’s key centers of politics.
At 14 years old, Kaili joined PASOK (The Panhellenic Socialist Movement) and quickly gained the election as president of her school’s student council.
After graduating, she worked as an architect in Greece for several years before moving to Brussels. She quickly rose through the European Parliament’s ranks. Setting a higher standard of committee assignments, speeches, and events than other legislators while renowned for her intense digital media outreach.
Keili was also a key figure in the EU’s pilot projects program
An avenue for lawmakers to test new initiatives and gain funding approval. According to POLITICO’s analysis of internal emails from Kaili’s office in Brussels, her team submitted more than 26 pilot projects between 2016 and 2022 – many of which overlapped with her sister’s business ventures.
Kaili actively supported the new Qatari government when it took power in Doha Kanesex, lobbying for it and meeting with a senior labor minister. According to her emails, she believed that the EU had an essential role in the Gulf region and called for increased collaboration between Qatar and the EU.
Kaili’s arrest is a stark reminder that the oil-rich states of the Persian Gulf still exert influence over international politics, and corruption and kickbacks are as commonplace in Brussels as elsewhere in Europe. She is one of 14 vice presidents in the European Parliament, and her expulsion from PASOK has caused outrage within her party in Greece; some lawmakers calling for public self-examination while others argue such disclosures would damage both her party and its reputation, as well as weaken Greece’s center-right New Democracy party.
Eva Kaili rose from humble beginnings in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city, to achieve great things.
At her first opportunity, she ventured beyond local politics. Instead, she entered politics at the national level, quickly making a name for herself.
As Vice President of the European Parliament, she was one of Brussels’ most influential MEPs. She was a frequent speaker at esteemed events and academic institutions. Additionally, she played a significant role in fostering innovation within the EU’s digital single market by chairing STOA Panel meetings, serving on Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE), serving on budgets committees as well as drafting multiple pieces of legislation on blockchain technology, online platforms, big data analytics, fintech, AI and cybersecurity – all under her guidance!
Last week, her arrest on corruption charges linked to her trip to the Gulf with partner Giorgi and former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri in 2020 was shocking. This has sent shockwaves through the European Parliament, the Socialists & Democrats group, and Greece’s PASOK party. Some members of her group have indicated partial opinions over this scandal and its potential effects on Europe’s reputation and credibility.
Her arrest has the potential to profoundly affect her career
With some members calling for her resignation and others demanding her expulsion from the European Parliament. But on the other hand, it’s an opportunity for all politicians involved in science policy to uphold its ethical standards and integrity values.
Unprecedented developments have occurred in the corruption case that has sent shockwaves across Europe’s capital and beyond. As part of its investigation, authorities seized over EUR1.5 million worth of cash and sealed offices belonging to unnamed parliamentary assistants.
Her lawyers have fiercely contested her detention in jail, asserting no evidence to back up bribery allegations. Yet she remains under electronic surveillance for at least two more months. Her legal team has repeatedly maintained her innocence, pointing out a police arrest warrant which states she called the police immediately upon learning of her partner’s arrest and instructed her father to discard phones and USB memory sticks.