The European Parliament scrambled Monday to get ahead of the widening scandal of alleged huge cash bribes from figures working on behalf of World Cup host Qatar.
One of the assembly’s vice presidents, Greek socialist Eva Kaili, has been charged with corruption by Belgian prosecutors and her assets have been frozen by her homeland.
Three of Kaili’s associates have also been charged, after bags of cash were found in her home shortly after she returned from an official visit to Qatar, and a second MEP’s house has been searched.
EU foreign ministers, arriving in Brussels to discuss sanctions against Iran and Russia, warned that the scandal threatens the credibility of European institutions.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said:
The allegations against the vice president of the European Parliament are of utmost concern, very serious.
“It is a question of confidence of people into our institutions, and this confidence and trust into our institutions needs higher standards.”
In Strasbourg, the president of the parliament, Maltese conservative Roberta Metsola – who this weekend attended a police search of a Belgian MEP’s home – prepared to address the crisis.
According to parliamentary sources she would meet the leaders of the assembly’s rival political groupings and address the issue from the podium at the opening of the week’s session.
Kaili has been remanded in custody by an investigating magistrate in Belgium and has not travelled down to Strasbourg, the parliament’s official seat, for the plenary session.
She received a new legal blow on Monday, when Greek authorities froze the 44-year-old former television presenter and her relatives’ assets.
Several MEPs as well as transparency campaigners have called for tougher anti-graft rules.