European Parliament corruption scandal: Roberta Metsola promises 'wide-ranging' reforms for new year

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By Euronews
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola speaks with the media as she arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022.
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola speaks with the media as she arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

The president of the European Parliament has promised a wide-ranging reform package to be ready in the new year to tackle corruption among MEPS, following the scandal over an alleged attempt by Qatar to buy influence.

Roberta Metsola said the measures would include strengthened protection for whistleblowers, a ban on unofficial "friendship groups", a review of the MEPs' code of conduct, and an "in-depth look" at interactions with third countries.

She began a news briefing in Brussels by saying that the scandal that broke last weekend had been damaging for the EU, democracy, and "everything we stand for". Work would start now to right the wrongs that had been done, Metsola said.

Four people have been charged in connection with a Belgian anti-corruption investigation involving EU politicians, officials and a Gulf state, widely reported to be Qatar. Doha denies misconduct.

They are accused of participating in a criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering. Prosecutors say the operation involved "large sums of money" and "substantial gifts".

A pre-trial hearing for Greek MEP Eva Kaili -- stripped of her role as one of the European Parliament's 14 vice-presidents -- has been postponed until 22 December.

Metsola indicated that to a certain extent, the system had worked. Rules can be tightened and overhauled, she said, but in this case, the corruption had been investigated, uncovered and the alleged offenders caught. 

There had been full and open cooperation between the parliament and the authorities, she said.

The parliament's president also promised a thorough review of the financial interests of all MEPs. Among other concerns, she also cited the threat of authoritarian states using non-governmental organisations as a front to push their own agendas in dealing with Europe.