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When the Qatar bribery and corruption scandal involving incumbent and former MEPs and staff  broke out, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said at the assembly’s Plenary Session in Strasbourg, France, on 12 December 2022:
Statement of EP President Metsola on the ongoing investigations into the Qatari bribery scandal
©European Union 2022     Source: European Parliament
Photos: various sources

Dear colleagues,

I think it would be no exaggeration to say that these have been among the longest days of my career. I must choose my words carefully, in a manner that does not jeopardise ongoing investigations or in any way undermine the presumption of innocence.

And, I will. So if my fury, my anger, my sorrow do not come across please be assured that they are very much present – along with my determination for this House to grow stronger.

Enemies of the European Parliament, beware! (Photo: EP Strasbourg)

Make no mistake.

  • The European Parliament, dear colleagues, is under attack.
  • European democracy is under attack.
  • And our way of open, free, democratic societies are under attack.

The enemies of democracy for whom the very existence of this Parliament is a threat, will stop at nothing. 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. Our services, of whom I am incredibly proud, have been working with relevant national law enforcement and judicial authorities to break up this alleged criminal network for some time.

We have acted in sync with authorities to ensure that all legal steps are respected, that all information is preserved and that, where needed, IT equipment is secured, offices are sealed and house searches are able to be carried out. I accompanied a Belgian judge and police as required by the Belgian constitution to a house search last weekend.

As a precautionary measure, again with full respect for the presumption of innocence, I have stripped the Vice-President mentioned [i.e., MEP and parliamentarian Vice President Eva Kaili] 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.

I was also scheduled today to announce the opening of the negotiating mandate for the visa-waiver report with Qatar and Kuwait. In light of the investigations, this report must be sent back to committee.

Roberta Metsola who, in January 2022, was newly elected  President of the European Parliament with more than the absolute majority of the votes: “I am here to fight for the principles of Europe”

I also know 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.

And I must be clear, the allegations are not about left or right or north or south. This is about right and wrong and I would appeal to you to resist the temptation to exploit this moment for political gain. Do not cheapen the threat we are facing.

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. 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. We will launch a reform process to see who has access to our premises, how these organisations, NGOs and people are funded, what links with third countries they have, we will ask for more transparency on meetings with foreign actors and those linked to them. We will shake up this Parliament and this town and I need your help to do it.
  • We will protect those who help us expose criminality and I will work to look at our whistle-blower systems to see how they can be made stronger.
  • But I must also say that while we can always look to increase deterrents, and transparency, there will always be some for whom a bag of cash is always worth the risk. What is essential is that these people understand that they will get caught. That our services work and that they will face the full extent of the law. As happened in this case.

“We are Europeans. We will not be bought.” (Photo: content creators across the EU in a September 2022 meeting with Commission President Ursula von der Lyen, in yellow jacket, and EP President Roberta Metsola, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg)

These are challenging times for us all, but I know, I am convinced, that if we work together we can come out of it stronger.

To you, my colleagues who have lived these days with me, let me say again how deeply disappointed I am – I know you all share the same sentiment.

To those malign actors, in third countries, who think they can buy their way forward. Who think Europe is for sale. Who think they can take over our NGOs. Let me say that you will find this Parliament firmly in your way.

We are Europeans.

We would rather be cold than bought.



Images from Flickr
Featured image (Qatari camel)/Peter Dowley, CC BY2.0
European Parliament Strasbourg/Robert Cutts, CC BY-SA2.0
EP President Metsola/European Parliament, CC BY2.0
Europeans/European Parliament, CC BY4.0