UPDATE – ‘European democracy under attack,’ says EU parliament president

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European Parliament President Roberta Metsola condemned alleged corruption claims in an address to the plenary on Monday in Strasbourg, France. “Make no mistake, the European Parliament, dear colleague, is under attack. European democracy is under attack,” Metsolsa said during the opening of December’s plenary session.

She also vowed there would be “no impunity” for those responsible for breaking the law and announced a reform process on lobbying and transparency rules.

Metsola referred to the “longest days” of her career and to the “fury, anger and sorrow” caused by the shocking developments. “These malign actors linked to autocratic third countries have allegedly weaponised NGOs, unions, individuals, assistants and Members of the European Parliament in an effort to subdue our processes. Their malicious plans failed,” Metsola said.

“I know also that we are not at the end of the road and we will continue to assist in investigations, together with other EU institutions, for as long as it takes. Corruption cannot pay and we have played our part in ensuring these plans could not materialise.” Metsola said the allegations surrounding Kaili were not about “left or right” but about “right and wrong” and urged lawmakers to “resist the temptation to exploit this moment for political gain.” “Do not cheapen the threat we are facing,” she asked them. “There will be no sweeping under the carpet,” she said. “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.”

“As a precautionary measure, again with full respect for the presumption of innocence, I have stripped the vice president mentioned of any tasks and responsibilities related to their role as vice president and I have convened an extraordinary meeting of the conference of presidents to launch an article 21 procedure to bring their term as vice president to an end in an effort to protect the integrity of this House”, Metsola added.

Metsola added “Now I am in politics, like so many of you here, to fight corruption, to stand up for the principles of Europe. This is a test of our values and of our systems and colleagues, let me assure you that we will meet this test head on. There will be no impunity, none. Those responsible will find this parliament on the side of the law, and I am proud of our role and assistance in this investigation. There will be 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. There will be no business as usual.”

Every single group in the European Parliament has requested that a debate on the corruption scandal be held on Thursday.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, said the accusations against Kaili threatened the confidence EU citizens have put in the 27-nation bloc’s institutions. “This confidence and trust in our institutions need highest standards of independence and integrity,” von der Leyen said during a news conference. 

She said the independent ethics body she proposed establishing would cover lobbying activities at the European Commission, the European Council and European Parliament, as well as at the European Central Bank, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Auditors. The EU does not already have comprehensive lobbying regulations.

A spokesman for the European Parliament on Monday (December 12) said the EU parliamentary body stood ready to cooperate with investigators, following allegations Qatar lavished cash and gifts on EU lawmakers officials to influence decision-making.  Jaume Duch Guillot said the European institution “stands firmly against corruption.” He added that a meeting between EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola and the heads of the political groups would take place on Tuesday (December 13) to discuss an “article about the procedure for ending the term of office of a Vice President of the Parliament.”

Euronews/ France 24 / Reuters

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