The European Parliament voted in a plenary session on Thursday to suspend the immunity of Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella (S&D) and Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino (S&D), both of whom are suspected of involvement in the Qatargate corruption scandal.
The vote comes after the Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) unanimously recommended on Tuesday to suspend the immunity of both MEPs, following a formal request to the European Parliament by the Belgian authorities on 2 January.
Both Tarabella and Cozzolino had previously indicated that they were willing to have their immunity lifted. Each is alleged to have accepted bribes and other favours from the Qatari and Moroccan Governments in exchange for supporting pro-Qatari and pro-Moroccan policies.
- European Parliament corruption: Committee suspends Cozzolino and Tarabella immunity
- Scandal at European Parliament: Belgian MEP Tarabella expelled from PS and S&D
Prior to the vote, Tarabella told reporters that he was "serene". He is also reported to have voted in favour of lifting his own immunity.
On leaving the plenary session, Tarabella told Le Soir that he was "glad" that his immunity had been lifted: "This will allow me to express myself in front of the investigators."
In a subsequent press release, parliamentary rapporteur and Left Group Co-Chair Manon Aubry said that she was "pleased" that the procedure for lifting the MEPs' immunity "was handled in record time", but expressed dismay at the fact that numerous other parliamentary reforms aimed at combating corruption have not yet been implemented.
"It must be noted that Parliament refuses to adopt the reforms of the European institutions necessary to combat the practices of interference and corruption," Aubry stated. "Essential points such as the acceleration of the establishment of an independent ethics body, the creation of a Special Commission to propose ethical reforms, the obligation to publish the origin of proposals suggested by the lobbies or the creation of a post of Vice-President in charge of the fight against corruption have all 'disappeared'."
She added: "As the Parliament goes through the worst corruption scandal in its history, some deliberately seek to put the dust under the carpet. The time has come, however, to do a major cleaning up of sick European institutions [which exhibit] a systemic culture of opacity and irresponsibility. The very credibility of European democracy is at stake. "