EP President Seeks to Waive the Immunity of Two of its Members
President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola launched Tuesday an urgent procedure that would see the immunity of two members waived in light of the recent corruption scandal involving Qatar and Morocco.
The move comes as Belgian authorities press their investigation into several members of parliament (MEPs) who have allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for supporting EU policy changes that would favor those two countries.
“From the very first moment,” Metsola said, “the European Parliament has done everything in its power to assist in investigations and we will continue to make sure that there will be no impunity.”
But Parliament has recognized that, for some, the scandal has already done its damage and left a black eye on the institution. “These criminal proceedings involving the Parliament are damaging for democracy, for Europe and for everything we stand for,” a spokesperson for the president told OCCRP.
Although not identified in the official statement, Italy’s Andrea Cozzolino and Belgium’s Marc Tarabella are believed to be the two MEPs targeted to have their immunity waived.
Tarabella had his home raided by authorities last month, while Cozzolino has denied any wrongdoing as the investigation into the scandal continues.
For now, Belgian authorities have not submitted any additional requests to the EU Parliament to waive the immunity status of its MEPs, a spokesperson told OCCRP.
A third member of Parliament, Eva Kaili, has already been charged for her alleged role in the scandal, in which she allegedly accepted bribes in the hundreds of thousands of euros in exchange for promoting EU policy developments that would benefit Qatar’s standing within the EU community.
In one instance, she echoed claims that the Gulf state is a “frontrunner in labor rights,” despite its well-documented, egregious mistreatment of migrant workers in the build up to the 2022 World Cup.
In a series of raids that led to her arrest last month, Belgian authorities seized some 600,000 euro (US$636,171), with over a hundred thousand reportedly found in Kaili’s apartment.
“I have no insight into whether money was found or how much was found,” Kaili’s lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, told local media. She has since been relieved of her duties as vice-president of the EU Parliament.
Metsola’s probe into the scandal, which should be concluded in just over a month, will offer “no impunity” for those found culpable, the EP president said.
Also shared with OCCRP is that Metsola is preparing a reform package in the coming weeks that will strengthen Parliament’s rules and procedures, designed to prevent such bribery scandals from occuring in the first place.
“Corruption cannot pay and we will do everything to fight it,” Metsola said.