The European Parliament will ban all unofficial “friendship groups” with third countries, strengthen its whistleblower protection systems and conduct a comprehensive review of all recent legislation, in response to a widespread Qatar-related corruption scandal, which it will host the soccer world cup.
The financial interests of lawmakers will be scrutinized and a new regime to track all meetings with third-country representatives is being considered, Roberta Metsola, the speaker of parliament, said on Thursday. This is part of a package of anti-corruption reforms that she says will be ready “in the new year”.
Belgian police have charged four people, including Greek MEP Eva Kaili, after raids on politicians’ homes uncovered around €1.5 million in cash, allegedly part of a Doha corruption campaign.
Metsola, who briefed 27 EU leaders on the scandal on Thursday, said he would review parliament’s regulations to ensure the chamber “is not for sale to foreign actors who seek to undermine us”.
“This will include strengthening parliamentary whistleblower protection systems, banning all unofficial friendship groups, a review of the rules scrutiny of our code of conduct and a comprehensive and in-depth look at how we interact with third countries.” , he added. she told reporters.
MEPs from centre-right, liberal and centre-left groups told the Financial Times they were contacted by Qatar through the Qatar-EU Parliamentary Friendship Group in Brussels. The group cooperates with the Qatari embassy in Brussels.
Parliament would also look into who has access to its buildings and non-governmental organizations accredited to the body.
On Wednesday, parliament suspended the accreditation of No peace without justice, an NGO which Metsola said was “allegedly linked to this investigation”.
Among the items on Parliament’s agenda of particular interest to Qatar is the issue of visa waiver for Europe, which members of the parliament’s Home Affairs Committee backed in a vote in December. A full parliament vote on Qatar’s visa waiver was scheduled for this week but was suspended following the arrests.
A comprehensive review of “what was voted on and worked on” it was requested, Metsola said, adding: “We will look into everything. We will investigate any undue pressure and any undue influence that we see occurring.”
The response would also include a “thorough review” of the declaration of financial interests by all 705 chamber members, Metsola said. You also proposed “a new mandatory transparency register of all encounters with any third country actor”.
Separately, MEPs voted on Thursday to support measures to boost transparency and accountability across all European institutions in response to the corruption scandal.
These include a commission of inquiry to investigate corruption allegations, a special commission to look into transparency flaws, and a vice-president responsible for fighting corruption and foreign interference within the European Parliament.