Updated to include comments from European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.
Following through on her intention to propose reforms in response to the criminal corruption scandal involving Qatar, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola set out a 14-point plan to tighten rules for lawmakers on contacts with lobbyists and financial declarations.
Metsola presented her proposals on Thursday in a closed-door meeting with the heads of the Parliament’s nine political groups, officially called the Conference of Presidents.
Insisting the Parliament will strengthen integrity, independence and accountability, Metsola said on Twitter, “Our aim is to move ahead fast”.
“These immediate reforms are the first steps in rebuilding trust in European decision-making and the launch of a wider reform of the European Parliament,” she added in comments to the press today following the Conference of Presidents.
Integrity. Independence. Accountability.
Today I presented a first set of proposals to reform, re-build trust and re-affirm the European Parliament as a modern and open institution, to @Europarl_EN group leaders.
We will move ahead fast.
— Roberta Metsola (@EP_President) January 12, 2023
The 14 proposals seen by POLITICO would, among other things, bar ex-lawmakers from lobbying for two years after leaving office and remove their unlimited access to the Parliament when no longer in office.
Another more central proposal is the one that will require any MEPs, assistants or civil servants to disclose who they are meeting when discussing ongoing legislative work, irrespective if those meetings take place on parliamentary premises or not. Currently, only rapporteurs or committee chairs are required to make such disclosures.
In December, the European Parliament was rocked by the news that Belgian authorities launched a probe into current and former MEPs accused of taking bribes in exchange for favours from Qatar and Morocco.
Four people have been charged with corruption and money laundering, including Greek EP Vice-President Eva Kaili, who was swiftly removed from her position by a landslide plenary vote of 625 to one of her fellow MEPs over her involvement in Qatargate. Qatar and Kaili deny any wrongdoing.
Metsola’s spokesperson said following the Conference of Presidents today that there was full support for the proposals from the leaders of the political groups and the President received a mandate to take work forward on the objectives presented.
He added that there was full agreement on the importance of moving ahead fast, and the EP President would be continuing consultations and report back on progress to the Conference of Presidents.
Metsola had set out her intentions for reforms in a statement issued in the new year, which she said would include “an overhaul of the current rules and improving internal systems, including on enforcement”.
The same statement also announced the request for an urgent procedure for the waiver of immunity of two Members of the European Parliament following a request from the Belgian judicial authorities.
As the European Parliament President sets out to restore the damage caused by the scandal, Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela last month leapt to Qatar’s defence and criticised Metsola, a Maltese political rival from the Opposition Nationalist Party, for having moved “too quickly” on the scandal.
He also insisted that the allegations should not taint links between Qatar and Europe, particularly on energy supply.
Meanwhile, The Shift has reported on Malta’s dealings with Qatar with eight visits in one year, including President George Vella meeting two brothers accused only two months earlier in a British court of financing terrorism in Syria.