The president of the European Parliament has warned that “European democracy is under attack”, following allegations that Qatar bribed EU officials to win influence.
Democracy Under Attack
Roberta Metsola said that “open, free, democratic societies are under attack”.Belgian police have arrested four people, among them European Parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the accusations were “very serious” and called for the creation of a new ethics body to oversee the bloc. MEPs who spoke to our correspondent say they are shocked by both the scale and blatancy of the accusations. Belgian police seized cash worth about €600,000 ($632,000; £515,000) in 16 searches in Brussels.
Ms Kaili – an MEP for eight years – was suspended from her duties as one of 14 vice-presidents by Metsola. She has also been suspended from the parliament’s Socialists and Democrats Group and expelled from the Greek center-left Pasok party.
Watchdogs and opposition MEPs said the bribery investigation could represent one of the biggest corruption scandals in the parliament’s history. Prosecutors said they suspected a Gulf state had been influencing economic and political decisions of the parliament for several months, especially by targeting aides. Local media has named the state as Qatar, although the Qatari government said any claims of misconduct were “gravely misinformed”.
The European Parliament is the EU’s only directly elected institution. Some 705 members of parliament, elected by voters in the 27 nations which make up the EU, meet to scrutinize proposed legislation and vote through European law.
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