According to Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, European democracy is "under attack."
President Metsola spoke passionately yesterday at the Strasbourg plenary session of the Parliament in response to a corruption scandal that has rocked European institutions to their very core.
President Metsola declared, "I think it would be no exaggeration to say that these have been among the longest days of my career."
The intensity of her rage was evident as she continued, "I must choose my words carefully, in a manner that does not jeopardise ongoing investigations or in any way undermine the presumption of innocence."
"And, I will. So if my fury, my anger, my sorrow do not come across please be assured that they are very much present – along with my determination for this House to grow stronger."
"Make no mistake. The European Parliament… is under attack, European democracy is under attack and our way of open, free, democratic societies are under attack," said President Metsola.
"The enemies of democracy for whom the very existence of this Parliament is a threat, will stop at nothing. These malign actors, linked to autocratic third countries have allegedly weaponised NGOs, Unions, individuals, assistants and Members of the European Parliament in an effort to subdue our processes," she warned.
She said that in order to make sure that "all legal steps are respected, all information is preserved and that, where needed, IT equipment is secured, offices are sealed and house searches are able to be carried out," the Parliament had worked "in sync" with the authorities.
The president of the European Parliament claimed to have gone along with a judge and police to a house search over the weekend in Belgium.
President Metsola has relieved Vice President Eva Kaili of her duties as a "precautionary measure" and with "full respect for the presumption of innocence," and has called a "extraordinary meeting" of the Conference of Presidents to begin an Article 21 procedure to end the Vice President's term.
A report on Qatar and Kuwait is visa waivers, which was scheduled to be discussed and decided by MEPs this week, has been postponed and returned to committee stage.
"There will be no impunity… There will be no sweeping under the carpet and there will be no business as usual," she sternly warned.
In order to determine "who has access to our premises, how these organisations, NGOs and people are funded, what links with third countries they have," the President disclosed plans for an internal probe and reform process.
"We will shake up this Parliament and this town… We will protect those who help us expose criminality, and I will work to look at our whistle-blower systems to see how they can be made stronger," she vowed.
"But I must also say that while we can always look to increase deterrents, and transparency, there will always be some for whom a bag of cash is always worth the risk. What is essential is that these people understand that they will be caught," she continued.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, agreed with her assessment, calling the accusations "extremely serious" and of "utmost concern."
President Von der Leyen restated her suggestions for establishing an independent ethics agency to oversee EU institutions when speaking with reporters on Monday, according to SkyNews.
MEP Kaili was accused of corruption, and was kicked out of her S&D Group on Monday.
Authorities in Brussels have now searched MEP Kaili's parliamentary office as she awaits her Wednesday court appearance.
In connection with an inquiry into alleged Qatari lobbying, she was detained on Friday.
The office of the federal prosecutor for Belgium issued a statement in which it stated: "It is suspected that third parties in political and/or strategic positions within the European Parliament were paid large sums of money or offered substantial gifts to influence Parliament’s decisions."
Four of the six people detained on Friday, according to officials, had been accused of "participation in a criminal organisation, money laundering and corruption."
However, according to Le Soir, the Greek MEP and her partner Francesco Giorgi, who works as a parliamentary aide for another MEP, were both prosecuted, according to Belgian media site L'Echo.
The current president of the NGO Fight Impunity, Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former Italian MEP, has also apparently been prosecuted.
According to Euronews, MEP Kaili was prosecuted after Belgian prosecutors found "bags of cash" in her home. On Friday, Belgian police conducted 16 raids throughout Brussels and seized computers, mobile phones, and €600,000 in cash.
By fLEXI tEAM