Roberta Metsola: Under pressure after corruption

Roberta Metsola

The President of the European Parliament did not declare numerous gifts.

(Photo: IMAGO/Future Image)

Ever since the corruption scandal broke in the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola has presented herself as the chief investigator. Nothing will be swept under the carpet, promised the President of the European Parliament. Nobody will go unpunished.

The bribery scandal has occupied Parliament since December. Belgian investigators had arrested several MEPs and employees of the European Parliament on suspicion of corruption and money laundering and seized 1.5 million euros in cash. The money is said to come from the Emirate of Qatar and Morocco.

Metsola then announced a crackdown and a fundamental reform of lobbying rules. Now it turns out that the Maltese politician apparently did not follow all the rules of parliament herself. Just last week, she subsequently declared more than a hundred gifts and five sponsored trips from the past year.

According to “Politico”, this includes a trip to Burgundy last October, where she spent a weekend with her husband in a five-star hotel. It was invited by a wine company that wanted to bestow the honorary title of lady on Metsola. The European Parliament paid for the trip in the company car, and the host paid for the stay, including the gala dinner.

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Such trips are generally permitted, but must be entered in the Parliament Register by the end of the following month. The same applies to gifts received. But very few MPs stick to it – also because the rules have not yet been checked.

She got books, statues, medals or bottles of wine

The fact that Metsola is now only declaring its trips and gifts under the impression of the scandal puts Parliament in a bad light again. Her defenders, on the other hand, argue that she is a role model with her transparency.

The Green MP Daniel Freund, who considers the lobbying rules in Parliament to be too lax, praised the conservative politician: “As President, she must set a good example.”

Metsola’s spokesman denies that she broke any rules because the reporting requirements for the Speaker of Parliament do not apply. Incidentally, she passed on all the gifts to the administration for safekeeping. The gifts are, for example, books, statues, medals or wine bottles that were presented to her during visits.

>> Also read here: Bribery scandal: The best anti-corruption program is to move away from oil and gas

Metsola recently presented a reform plan with 14 measures to make it more difficult to influence parliament. Among other things, MPs should not be allowed to do lobbying for two years after leaving Parliament. They will also have to document all their meetings with third parties in connection with a report or legislative proposal. The so-called friendship groups in parliament are also to be banned. These are loose networks of individual MPs with foreign governments.

Critics say the measures don’t go far enough. For example, it is criticized that interest representatives from third countries should still not appear in the transparency register. So far, only representatives of companies and non-governmental organizations have to be registered there. Several MEPs are also calling for better protection for whistleblowers.

Four people are currently in Belgian custody due to the scandal. These are former Parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili and her partner Francesco Giorgi, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri and another non-governmental organization employee.

The public prosecutor’s office is also investigating the two Social Democratic MEPs Andrea Cozzolino and Marc Tarabella. The procedure is currently under way to lift the immunity of the two.

More: Metsola presents reform proposals for the EU Parliament.

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