"A shock and bad publicity for the European Parliament", commented Luxembourg MEP Christophe Hansen (CSV). Several members of the institution, including its vice-president Eva Kaïlí from Greece, have been remanded in custody on suspicion of corruption for allegedly taking money from Qatar to exert influence at the parliament. "We need to investigate to the end to find all the people possibly involved."
The European Union already has a transparency register, on which lobbyists must register before meeting MEPs. "We have to ask ourselves whether the system is demanding enough," says Hansen. For example, there is the question of chance meetings outside parliament. Even if recording each discussion would require "additional administrative work. This is the discussion.”
I had a bad time thinking about the image of the Parliament.
He sees this case as a demonstration that "these tricks do not pass. It will be an example for anyone who wants to give in to attempts at corruption.”
From shock to anger
For Charles Goerens (DP) too, "it's a shock!” The veteran politician says that the parliament “is doing everything to prevent corruption, and one of its members did not know how not to give in to temptation. I am disappointed." However, he is not in favour of the "reflex of [introducing] a new law for every problem".
"I had a bad time thinking about the image of the parliament", added Isabel Wiseler-Lima (CSV). "I don't know how many times in my human rights committee I said the word corruption and that it was unacceptable.” But she also fails to see how to make an institution that is already "a glass building" more transparent. "Everything that is said is recorded, publicly." She hopes that justice "will take its course. There should be no doubts at the end.”
Greens want a stricter register
Marc Angel (LSAP) said he was "sad and angry. Corruption is poison for democracy". This at a time when the EU is pointing the finger at Hungary for its lack of efforts to curb this phenomenon. "We will criticise Mr Orban for something systemic, and he will be able to use isolated arguments to attack Brussels," the MEP admitted. He is counting on the Parliament's committee on foreign interference to think about new rules.
I expect a clear reaction from the other parties.
"I'm stunned, shocked, angry and sad", said Tilly Metz (déi Gréng). Her Green party group in the parliament is in favour of stricter regulations. "Those who enter the parliament must register. But what is left to the discretion of the parties are the appointments that MEPs have outside. For the Greens, it is compulsory to register them. I expect a clear reaction from the other parties.”
"I believe in innocence until proven otherwise", replied Monica Semedo (independent).
No Luxembourg MEPs contacted
The six MEPs say they have never been contacted by Qatar.
Some are taking a fresh look at events. "Ms Kaïlí spoke very positively about Qatar, although this was not the position of her (Socialist) group," said Christophe Hansen. "Her stance shocked me three weeks ago, when she tried to convince us not to vote for a proposal against Qatar," added Marc Angel. Tilly Metz had also been "surprised by the position of some people who wanted to make this text less harsh." Even though "many are in campaign mode with about a year and a half to go before the next elections and are firmer,” relativises Monica Semedo.
The European Parliament is expected to vote by the end of the week on whether or not to dismiss Eva Kaïlí as vice-president of the institution. She has already been dismissed from her related duties by the president, Roberta Metsola.
This article was first published in French by Paperjam and has been translated and edited by Delano.