A short verbal exchange recently between a TV presenter and a low-profile politician and former lawmaker from a small country on the periphery of the European Union laid bare a long-standing problem of non-transparent lobbying in the highest EU institutions in Brussels.
A TV host on a popular Croatian talk show asked a guest how she copes with the growing European inflation of 13 percent since she has savings of 700-800,000 Euros in publicly available bank accounts.
This financial data was known to him because the Croatian anti-corruption institutions require that leading Croatian politicians must make their assets publicly available online every year, in order to prevent conflict of interest.
Croatian MP Marijana Petir, the guest on the show, was visibly rattled by the unexpected question.
She was not disturbed by inflation and the loss of around one hundred thousand Euros, but by the fact that this little-known information was presented in an extremely popular show watched by over half a million people, roughly a quarter of the Croatian adult population.
So, instead of answering about inflation, she immediately changed the subject and stated that her savings are a private matter, that she earned everything fairly and that she regularly and transparently submits her financial data to the relevant institutions.
Her dark forebodings turned out to be correct because the information about the bank account overshadowed the rest of the interview and was a hot topic in the Croatian media and public for days.
Soon, many interesting data emerged like skeletons out of a closet.
For example, of the 151 representatives of the Croatian parliament, which includes prominent businessmen and wealthy heirs, Petir has the largest independent savings: roughly 700 thousand Euros.
Her savings are roughly twice as large as this year's reported assets of Zoran Milanović, the incumbent Croatian president who has held coveted political positions for two decades, including the mandate of prime minister and the position of leader of the second largest party in Croatia.
Furthermore, the available property data show that Petir did not inherit anything, is not married and has no joint property, and has no loans or debts.
In other words, the entire amount is the result of her political career spanning only 17.5 years, in addition to less than two years of work in the real sector.
Few investigative journalists have tried to reconstruct her career and the sum of all salaries, arriving at the same conclusion that her claims of "fair earnings" do not hold water.
The most fruitful period is certainly her mandate as a member of the European Parliament when she received a net salary of 4,500 Euros during the five years from 2014 to 2019.
This still constitutes approximately a third of her total savings.
Petir was also a member of the Croatian Parliament for six years, where her net salary was twice as low, giving a quarter of her savings. If we also include minor jobs in her younger days, we get an amount of barely two-thirds of her total savings.
This superficial calculation of course implies that she hasn't spent a cent in two decades, which is simply impossible considering her well-known lavish lifestyle.
Despite the fact that these contradictions were made public, no one managed to answer the key question - where did the money really come from?
Petir herself avoids answering the question – where do her staggering earnings come from?
"My savings come from 20 years of work in different workplaces, which were not only related to the European Parliament or the Croatian Parliament,” she was quoted as saying in the media.
“Salaries for official positions are public and available, while the amount of salaries for other positions, based on the contract, cannot be disclosed to the public," she hastened to add.
Neither the Croatian nor the European Parliament provides an answer.
Although their rules dictate that they are required to report the amount of savings and interest group affiliations, they are apparently not required to report the full source of money and lobbying policies; for whom, and against whom.
The website of the EU Parliament only briefly reveals that she is chair of the Croatia-Israel friendship group, while the website of the Croatian Parliament lists her membership in the inter-parliamentary friendship groups with Hungary, Israel, North Macedonia, and the United States.
Finally, there is not a single Croatian or European media outlet, newspaper article, not even a blog, that writes about her true employers and lobbying activities.
Not only for Petir, but also for most of the dozens of similar cases in the EU Parliament.
The answer to the question of how a little-known peasant politician accumulated hundreds of thousands of Euros is yet quite simple - it comes from anti-Iranian and anti-Palestinian lobbying for the Albania-based terrorist group MKO and the Israeli regime in the EU parliament.
Just two weeks after entering the EU parliament, she boasted on her private website that she is the only Croatian member of the delegation with close relations with the Israeli regime, and her Zionist rampage was evident throughout her five-year mandate, in the form of tens of examples.
In her speeches, she repeatedly promoted the lie that Palestinians use "human shields," thus whitewashing the Israeli regime’s war crimes. She also claimed that the EU's humanitarian aid to Palestine "finances terrorism", equating criticism of Israeli policy viz a viz Palestine with anti-Semitism, and demanding that Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement be put on the EU terror list, etc.
She has traveled to the Israeli-occupied territories at least three times, from where she proudly opposed EU labeling of products originating from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Petir thus ardently defends the apartheid regime responsible for the ethnic cleansing of millions of Palestinian Muslims and hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Christians, but at the same time paradoxically presents herself as a great Catholic concerned about the violations of the rights of Christians in the world.
In one of her freaky rants, she named Iran, Syria and Turkey as allegedly "the most aggressive anti-Christian countries."
There is also ample evidence that points to her close ties with the MKO, a notorious anti-Iranian terrorist organization based in Albania that is responsible for the killings of tens of thousands of Iranians, which Petir indirectly refers to as "Iran's human rights organization" on her website.
She held meetings with Maryam Rajavi, promoted MKO propaganda on her Twitter page, and most importantly, used their disinformation for anti-Iranian presentations in the EU Parliament.
Among numerous anti-Iran speeches is a particularly bizarre one in which she says: "It is well known that the position of women has declined after the revolution," and goes on to cite various fake data from MKO pamphlets, including the alleged "denial of education to girls."
This is while, before the Islamic revolution, more than three-quarters of women were illiterate, while today literacy is almost 100 percent and the number of female university students is 50 percent higher than in Germany and some other European countries.
Astonishingly, no one among 700 EU representatives confronted Petir or her ignorance, while High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said she was aware of the "worrying situation."
Most of Petir's other activities in the EU Parliament are limited to marginal agricultural and Balkans-related regional issues, so the possibility that she profited from other types of lobbying can be ruled out.
Petir is not an isolated case. Out of a total of 11 representatives from Croatia in the EU Parliament from 2014 to 2019, three more participated in pro-MKO anti-Iranian activities: Jozo Radoš, Željana Zovko and Ruža Tomašić. Tomašić's replacement Ladislav Ilčić has also been active since 2021.
A similar phenomenon exists in neighboring Slovenia, which also has five representatives who have actively lobbied for MKO terrorist group in recent years: Franc Bogovič, Ljudmila Novak, Patricija Šulin, Romana Tomc and Milan Zver.
Overall, there are between 40 and 50 individuals who have participated in such activities in the EU Parliament in recent years. More than half come from the Eastern EU countries, the rest mainly from the marginal parties of the Western EU.
The MKO's purchasing a prominent MEP of a major Croatian party obviously represents an issue, not only due to the accompanying cost but also international repercussions. On the other hand, dealing with cheap marginal figures from the European periphery does not pose any problem.
The Petir case is also reminiscent of the well-documented case from Spain where the MEK financed the European campaign of the radical right-wing party Vox with several hundred thousand Euros.
Again, everything happened discreetly and legally, without an anti-corruption process or major controversies.
So, with the relatively cheap cost of a few million Euros given by their Zionist sponsors, the anti-Iranian terrorist group managed to gather the same number of representatives in the EU Parliament as Poland.
This is not an Iranian problem alone, but also a European problem.
European citizens, experts believe, should ask themselves if the highest EU institution is so vulnerable to the lobbying influence, how prone is it to ultra-rich corporations, let alone an overseas master?
(By Ivan Kesic)