On Tuesday, the European Parliament held a debate with the EU Commission on the corruption investigation implicating the State of Qatar, as well as the broader need for more transparency in the EU institutions.
Opening the debate, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said there must be zero tolerance for corruption, while also calling the allegations "extremely serious." Johansson did applaud the work of the Belgian prosecutors, law enforcement, EP President Roberta Metsola, MEPs and officials, for their full support and quick, decisive action.
"Shame on [anyone accepting payoffs]," she said. "Shame on you for violating trust. Trust of the people of Europe who expect you to fight for their interests. For violating the trust of your colleagues who work very hard and truthfully."
Johansson announced that in 2023, the Commission will propose a new law that criminalises all forms of corruption in all Member States; not just bribery but also illicit enrichment, embezzlement and abuse of power, with tough penalties.
'Corruption destroys institutions'
MEPs also expressed their shock, sadness and anger about the "greed of some individuals," acting like they were "in a bad Netflix film," damaging the image of the parliament and "casting a dark shadow on all of us."
Corruption destroys institutions, they said, making it clear that they want to fight to restore trust in the European Parliament. "Criminal behaviour of a few individuals cannot undermine the work of an immense majority" of MEPs working for the European citizens, they said.
MEPs called for a full internal investigation, cooperation with Belgian authorities and additional measures to prevent similar cases in the future.
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Better rules on transparency, adding third countries to the EU’s lobbying register, robust implementation of ethics rules and setting-up of an independent EU ethics body as well as a separate committee of inquiry, were some of the proposals mentioned during the debate.
Several MEPs wanted to disband Parliamentary delegations and transfer their roles to standing committees. "We see clearly here today, that there is no tolerance for corruption," MEPs said.