When Roberta Metsola was elected president of the European Parliament a year ago, she did a lot of firsts.
She was the first person from Malta, which was the smallest country in the European Union, to hold the position; first woman in twenty years; and the youngest president in Parliament history at the age of 43.
She also became the first president of the Parliament to take part in a police raid on December 11, which was part of an investigation into suspicions of criminal corruption involving actual cash bags and allegations that Qatar and Morocco had tried to buy influence in the legislature.
In an interview with The New York Times, Ms. Metsola talked about the raid and said that she was sometimes skeptical about what was to come and sometimes incredulous about what had happened.
She spoke about the raid from her office in the European parliament building in Brussels last week, saying,
Nothing could have prepared me for it.” But I did what needed to be done.
The scandal has shocked the Parliament, the weakest of the three institutions that make up the European Union, threatening to portray it as broken as it tries to take on a larger role in policymaking.
In addition, it presents a significant obstacle for Ms. Metsola, who is handling the criminal investigation and advocating for a slew of rule modifications aimed at increasing the transparency of the legislature.
As pressure mounted to condemn Qatar for its human rights record, the Belgian police conducted multiple raids and made arrests in Brussels on December 9 regarding allegations of a criminal corruption scheme funded by Qatar and Morocco.
Both Morocco and Qatar have denied the allegations leveled against them.
Eva Kaili, a Greek vice president of the Parliament, was among those accused. Francesco Giorgi, her life partner and an aide to another legislator; and Antonio Panzeri, a former senior Italian legislator.
Corruption, money laundering, and forming a criminal organization are among the charges against them. Through her attorney, Ms. Kaili has claimed innocence; The other people haven’t said anything.
Ms.Metsola flew from Malta to Brussels,
Where she arrived shortly after 7:30 p.m. She then raced the 62 miles across Belgium to the legislator’s residence.
She recalled that her driver turned off her car’s blue emergency lights and slowed down before turning onto his street in a town near Liège. Locals were cheering as they watched the England-France World Cup quarterfinal match at a nearby pub.
Ms. Metsola stood at her Belgian colleague Marc Tarabella’s front door at 8:51 p.m. with nine minutes left, surrounded by armed police officers and lawyers.
Ms. Metsola said in the interview.
That Ms. Kaili had previously asked for general permission to visit Doha whenever she wanted, but she had declined. Instead, in order for Ms. Kaili to “represent the positions of the Parliament in her capacity as vice president” and report back to her, she approved the specific October trip.
She acknowledged that Ms. Kaili’s suspicious behavior leading up to her arrest, such as voting in favor of Qatar at a committee meeting regarding Qatari visa-free travel to the European Union, might have made her reconsider her decision.
However, “the benefit of hindsight is always easy,” she stated.
She replied, “I’m sure we’ll continue to have different requests” when asked if she anticipated more corruption revelations.
Investigations will always take place. However, she added, “I hope we create firewalls” against corruption.
Before assuming lobbying roles, Ms. Metsola has received support from advocates for transparency due to her track record as a campaigner against corruption in Malta.
However, he stated that he believed Ms. Metsola.
Would struggle to implement independent oversight of the Parliament’s anti-corruption rules in order to improve their enforcement.
She will have to stand her ground and make enemies, including members of her own party. Mr. van Hulten stated, “I’m not sure she’s willing to do that.”
He continued, “There is a great deal at stake, not only for the Parliament as an institution but also for her personally.”
She has the option of running for president again, but she has declined to discuss her plans.
She made a name for herself in the European Union during her thirties by working at the European Council,
Where member states negotiate policies and reach agreements on the continent’s most difficult issues. She was an expert in migration policy, which was probably the most contentious issue the bloc was facing at the time.
She stated, “You had to cross all sorts of aisles and say “Hey, can we do this together?” in order to get anything done. Could you aid me? Would you be able to provide me with a small amount of what I need in that other file if I assisted you today?
Ms. Metsola has become one of the most outspoken supporters of Ukraine in Europe since Russia invaded the country last year parliament.
She was one of the first leaders to visit Kiev following the Russian invasion. A European Union flag and a Ukrainian flag are displayed side by side outside her office.
She claimed that she reflected on her experiences as a young woman traveling across Europe by rail, a prized rite of passage for many young Europeans, on the train to Kyiv.
She claimed that after that, she got a call from her mother in Malta, who was furious to learn from the media that her daughter was going into a war zone.
Public by world news spot live