The European Parliament on Tuesday stripped of her position as Vice-President Eva Kaili, the MEP implicated in an alleged corruption scandal involving Qatar, a first step before a reform of the institution deemed essential.
This sanction for “serious misconduct” was approved almost unanimously by the deputies present in Strasbourg in plenary session, i.e. 625 votes in favor out of 628 cast, one against and two abstentions.
At the heart of the scandal that is shaking the European institutions, Ms. Kaili occupied one of the 14 vice-presidencies of the Parliament.
The elected Greek socialist imprisoned Sunday in Belgium, is suspected of having been paid by Doha to defend the interests of the emirate which currently hosts the World Cup. Three other people were imprisoned in this investigation led by a Belgian investigating judge.
Eva Kaili’s lawyer assured Tuesday that she had not accepted any “bribe from Qatar”. “Her position is that she is innocent. It has nothing to do with bribes from Qatar,” Michalis Dimitrakopoulos told Greek television.
But bags of tickets were discovered in his apartment in the Belgian capital. She did not benefit from her parliamentary immunity because the offense was found in flagrante delicto.
The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office announced a total of hundreds of thousands of euros seized, in three different places, from three suspects, during the 20 searches already carried out. The police also inspected the premises of the Parliament in Brussels on Monday to seize data from parliamentary collaborators.
The scandal threatens the credibility of the entire European Parliament, an assembly that is often at the forefront of denouncing the corrupt practices of certain countries, including within the European Union (EU) such as Viktor Orban’s Hungary recently.
Roberta Metsola expressed “fury, anger and sadness” on Monday, announcing an “internal investigation” to examine all the facts as well as an in-depth review of the institution’s procedures.
“The European Parliament will launch a process of internal reform to ensure that transparency and accountability are strengthened,” promised the presidents of the different political groups, in a joint statement.
They referred to “strengthening Parliament’s rules regarding access to its premises and meetings” and more transparency and control regarding “the funding of organizations and individuals” benefiting from such access.
Several elected officials wanted to see progress on the European Commission’s proposal for an “independent authority” on ethical issues in EU institutions.
The president of the Socialists and Democrats (S & D, left) Iratxe Garcia Perez announced that this political group, to which Ms. Kaili belonged, had decided to “sue as a civil party” in a future trial.
“Tip of the iceberg”
She wanted Qatar to be held accountable. “We have offered to ask the authorities of Qatar for collaboration in this investigation. And if it turns out that this country has tried to undermine European democracy, let there be sanctions,” she said.
Doha has denied being involved in any bribery attempts.
The agenda for Tuesday’s session has been changed and a debate is to be devoted to this matter at 4:30 p.m. local time. At the end, a text, which should plead for more transparency in the European institutions, will be put to the vote on Thursday.
German Social Democratic MEP Rene Repasi fears, like other elected officials, that the Kaili affair “is only the tip of the iceberg”, not excluding that other political groups are concerned.
Former television presenter aged 44, Eva Kaili, MEP since 2014, went to Qatar in early November where she welcomed, in the presence of the Qatari Minister of Labor, the social reforms of the emirate.
She has already been expelled in recent days from the Greek Socialist Party (Pasok-Kinal), of which she was a controversial figure, as well as from the S & D group. Her assets have been frozen by the Greek Anti-Money Laundering Authority.
Whether or not he remains in detention, like that of the three other people imprisoned, will be examined on Wednesday by the Belgian courts.