|‘Whatever needs to be done will be done,’ Roberta Metsola talks corruption scandal with Euronews|
By Euronews Brussels bureau
Hello, happy new year and welcome back to The Briefing!
We’re picking up things where we left off, with the so-called Qatargate.
As the corruption scandal engulfing the European Parliament continues to widen and send shockwaves, Euronews sat down with the person in charge of putting the house in order: President Roberta Metsola.
“We’re looking into everything,” Metsola told our reporter Sándor Zsíros, referring to the review process she’s launched in search of undue influence as part of the alleged cash-for-favours scheme.
“We’re looking into trips that have been approved, we’re looking into trips that were not declared. We’re looking at the process of putting forward amendments, timelines, the way resolutions are negotiated.”
The investigation by Belgian authorities has shone a light on past legislative work, particularly a committee vote in early December that approved visa liberalisation for Qatar and Kuwait, as well as an array of paid-for visits of multiple European lawmakers to the Gulf region.
Alarms bells on possible “spheres of influence,” Metsola noted, “should start to ring earlier.”
“We also need to be (more) aware ourselves,” the President said. “And this is what I will tell all the members (of the European Parliament) and the staff members: if they see something that is not right, something has to be said and something has to be done.”
Almost a month since the corruption scandal erupted, Brussels is still trying to figure out how to deal with the illicit lobbying allegedly conducted by Qatar in conjunction with a network of at least four individuals, including Greek MEP Eva Kaili and her life partner Francesco Giorgi.
The latest revelations have considerably expanded the scope of the investigation, potentially involving two additional MEPs from the socialist group – Marc Tarabella and Andrea Cozzolino – as well as intelligence and diplomatic officials from Morocco.
Both Qatar and Morocco have vigorously contested the claims. Kaili, Tarabella and Cozzolino denied any wrongdoing through their lawyers.
With new twists and turns emerging on a daily basis, Roberta Metsola has embarked on what she calls a “speedy” reform process to restore trust and crack down on misconduct.
“In essence, (to) re-introduce the concept of accountability, integrity and independence,” Metsola explained. “We can be proud of our work, but we can do better.”
The Parliament chief presented on Thursday a first draft package of reforms, seen by Euronews, featuring a total of 14 proposals, such as a cooling-off period for former MEPs, a ban on unofficial friendship groups, the mandatory publication of all scheduled meetings and new rules of access to parliamentary premises.
“I wanted to bring together all possible measures, but they are not exhaustive so they could be better enhanced,” Metsola told Euronews. “Whatever needs to be done will be done. I’m confident in that.”
Transparency International EU and Corporate Europe Observatory, two civil society organisations that monitor EU lobbying, welcomed the proposed reforms as an “overdue” and “promising” first step but criticised the fact they rely on “self-policing” by MEPs themselves.
Asked about this, Metsola defended her package and said she had received a “unanimous mandate” from all the political groups to move forward with her “immediate” proposals.
In her Euronews interview, the President, who at no point mentioned either Kaili or Qatar by name, admitted the lack of compliance with existing rules – rather than the absence of rules – laid the groundwork for the corruption scandal.
“There are rules that were enforced that were not put into place, that were not complied with by Members of the European Parliament or (their) employees. I would like that to completely change,” Metsola said.
“I would like everybody to be responsible for their actions.”