European Parliament ‘under attack’, Metsola tells plenary after Qatar corruption allegations

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola insists there will be no ‘impunity’ following allegations of corruption by Qatar

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola

President Roberta Metsola has warned colleagues the European Parliament is under attack following alleged corruption by Qatar.

“The enemies of democracy for whom the very existence of this Parliament is a threat, will stop at nothing,” she said, speaking during a plenary opening in Strasbourg on Monday.

Four people have been charged in connection with an anti-corruption investigation into the European Parliament.

European Parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili and three others were charged and imprisoned on Sunday in Belgium, amid a police probe into alleged corruption linked with Qatar.

Five were arrested last Friday after 16 searches into suspicions of substantial payments by the Gulf state in order to influence MEP’s decisions. The arrests were carried out in Brussels.

Metsola said the parliament has acted “in sync” with authorities to ensure that all legal steps are respected, that all information is preserved and that, where needed, IT equipment is secured, offices are sealed and house searches are able to be carried out.

“I accompanied a Belgian judge and police as required by the Belgian constitution to a house search last weekend,” she said.

She said corruption “cannot pay” and the parliament has played its part in ensuring plans do not materialise.

“I was also scheduled today to announce the opening of the negotiating mandate for the visa- waiver report with Qatar and Kuwait. In light of the investigations, this report must be sent back to committee,” she told the plenary.

Metsola told those present that “allegations are not about left or right or north or south”.

“This is about right and wrong and I would appeal to you to resist the temptation to exploit this moment for political gain. Do not cheapen the threat we are facing,” the president said.

She insisted there will be no impunity, and no sweeping under the carpet. “We will launch an internal investigation to look at all the facts related to the Parliament and to look at how our systems can become yet more watertight.”

A reform process to see who access to premises and how organisations and NGOs are funded will be launched.

“We will shake up this Parliament and this town and I need your help to do it,” she said. “While we can always look to increase deterrents, and transparency, there will always be some for whom a bag of cash is always worth the risk. What is essential is that these people understand that they will get caught. That our services work and that they will face the full extent of the law. As happened in this case.”

“To those malign actors, in third countries, who think they can buy their way forward. Who think Europe is for sale. Who think they can take over our NGOs. Let me say that you will find this Parliament firmly in your way.”