‘European democracy is under attack’: European Parliament President Roberta Metsola made a strong promise to reform the institution, which is rocked by an alleged corruption scandal involving Qatar.
Belgian police raided the premises of Parliament in Brussels, after the incarceration of Greek elected representative Eva Kaili on Sunday.
This socialist MEP, who occupies one of the 14 vice-presidencies, is suspected of having been paid by Doha to defend the interests of the emirate which currently hosts the Soccer World Cup.
Three other people were imprisoned in this investigation.
The sums seized during the 20 searches carried out to date are spectacular: “600,000 euros (CA$860,000) at the home of one of the suspects, several hundred thousand euros in a suitcase found in a a Brussels hotel and around 150,000 euros (CA$215,000) in an apartment belonging to an MEP”, according to the count of the federal prosecutor’s office.
These allegations are extremely concerning. It is a matter of trust in the people at the heart of our institutions. — Ursula von der Leyen
Roberta Metsola expressed “fury, anger and sadness” in the Strasbourg hemicycle on Monday afternoon. “There will be no impunity […] nothing will be swept under the carpet”, she promised, announcing an “internal investigation” which will examine all the facts related to the European Parliament and which will ensure that the institution improves its procedures.
“We are going to launch a reform process to see who has access to our premises, how these organizations, NGOs and people are financed, what links they have with third countries. We will ask for more transparency on meetings with foreign actors,” promised Ms. Metsola.
No parliamentary immunity
As of Saturday evening, Eva Kaili had been stripped of all the tasks delegated by President Roberta Metsola, including that of representing her in the Middle East region.
Tuesday morning, the Conference of Presidents, the political body of the European Parliament, should launch the voting procedure on the withdrawal of her position as Vice-President for “serious misconduct”.
Excluded from the Greek Socialist Party (Pasok-Kinal), of which she was already a controversial figure, but also from her political group in the European Parliament (S&D, left) on Monday, Eva Kaili did not benefit from her parliamentary immunity, because the violation was found in flagrante delicto. “Bags of tickets” were discovered in his apartment.
Whether or not he will be kept in detention, like that of the three other people imprisoned, will be examined on Wednesday before the Brussels council chamber.
His assets were also frozen on Monday by the Greek Anti-Money Laundering Authority.
“These allegations are extremely concerning. It is a matter of trust in the people at the heart of our institutions,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, recalling having proposed the creation of an “independent authority” on ethical issues.
Doha has denied being involved in any bribery attempts. “Any allegation of misconduct by the State of Qatar is seriously misinformation,” a Qatari government official said on Saturday.
A heated debate to be expected
Chance of the calendar, the European Parliament had to look into the facilitation of visas for Kuwait and Qatar. The subject was removed from the agenda. And the debate scheduled for Wednesday on “the defense of democracies against foreign interference” promises to be agitated.
“We must be firm against corruption,” called for Iratxe Garcia Perez, president of the S&D group, of which Eva Kaili was a member.
“We won’t let our work get dirty, we won’t let this Parliament get dirty, we won’t let Europe get dirty,” said Frenchman Stephane Sejourne, president of the Renew group (centrists and liberals).
44-year-old former television presenter, Eva Kaili, MEP since 2014 and elected in January 2022 to one of the vice-presidencies of the European Parliament, went to Qatar in early November, where she greeted, in the presence of the Qatari Minister of Labour, the emirate’s reforms in this sector.
The organization of the World Cup by Qatar bears witness to the “historic transformation of a country whose reforms have inspired the Arab world”, Ms. Kaili also said on November 21 at the rostrum of Parliament.
The new affair seems to have amused the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban. “Hello to the European Parliament! “he wrote with irony on Twitter, while his country is singled out by the European institutions for its level of corruption.