European Parliament president Roberta Metsola told EU leaders on Thursday she would lead reforms to prevent a repeat of a corruption scandal that has rocked the assembly.
Metsola told the 27 EU leaders meeting for a summit in Brussels that information received from Belgian authorities showed there were serious suspicions that “people linked to autocratic governments” were seeking to subvert EU democracy.
Prosecutors suspect Greek MEP Eva Kaili and three others accepted bribes from World Cup host Qatar in a bid to influence European Union policymaking in one of the biggest scandals to hit the 27-nation bloc.
Kaili and Qatar have denied any wrongdoing.
Metsola, who acts as speaker of the parliament, promised to lead a “strong process of reform”, though she said she recognised there would always be some people “for whom a bag of cash is always worth the risk”.
“It is essential that these people understand that they will get caught. That there will be consequences. That our services work and that they will face the full extent of the law,” she said, according to the text of her remarks to leaders.
“That is how we respond to re-build trust. Trust as we know takes years to build and moments to destroy.”
Metsola told a subsequent news conference that parliament would look into who could enter its premises and at non-government organisations listed on its transparency register.
She said it had already struck off No Peace Without Justice, a campaign group whose secretary-general, Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, is one of the three others also charged with corruption and money laundering in the case.
No Peace Without Justice has said its secretary general had suspended himself from his role to safeguard the organisation and that the group trusted the investigation would show he had acted correctly.
Reuters could not reach the three suspects or their lawyers for comment. None of the other non-profit organisations they work with have responded to emailed requests seeking comment.