European Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili being arrested on corruption charges Friday certainly undermines the Parliament, but considering the degree of influence of the Parliament and especially of its individual MEPs, it has nonetheless been overblown, said MEP Urmas Paet (Reform/Renew), adding that around a hundred MEPs under Russian influence should be given more attention instead.
"Of course every such thing has a negative impact, but I don't think comparisons with those countries' issues are appropriate," Paet told ERR in response to it being noted that the European Parliament has previously accused Hungary and Poland of corruption. "Right now this is a few suspicions, and that definitely cannot be seen as systemic behavior. I also question what the point is of Qatar or any other country giving huge benefits to some MEP, as one — or even if there are four — isn't capable of influencing the Parliament's decisions or work."
The Estonian MEP recalled that the European Parliament had only just adopted a very critical resolution regarding Qatar during the latest plenary session, as the World Cup in Qatar was underway.
"This also very clearly shows that you can pay some guys huge amounts of money, but in reality, you need 400 people to make one decision or another in the Parliament," he said, adding that visa freedom decisions are likewise ultimately made by member states.
"So in that sense, it remains murky what the point even is in trying to wrap this, that or a third MEP up somewhere like this," he continued. "Because their influence is still very, very limited."
Paet said that Kaili has been temporarily suspended from the position of European Parliament vice president, but a Parliament vote is needed to strip her of the position. The S&D group has already expelled her from their party as well.
"So the Parliament has already mostly taken such political steps," he said. "As for legal and criminal proceedings, those are currently in Belgium's hands. So, well, it's difficult comment from the side here on how long and how the Belgian state will continue handling these things. The fact that there are more than 700 members in the Parliament and now there are suspicions against a few members — propagandistically speaking, of course that can be played."
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola suspended the powers of Greece's Eva Kaili as Parliament vice president after she was arrested on corruption charges in a bigger probe last Friday.
According to observers, the recent arrest by Belgian police of five individuals connected to the Parliament have sparked the biggest corruption scandal Brussels has seen in years, as people in question had allegedly accepted hundreds of thousands of euros from Qatar in exchange for representing their interests in the EU capital.
Hundred MEPs under direct Russian influence
Paet, who served as Estonia's minister of foreign affairs from 2005-2014, believes Russia's influence on the European Parliament is a much bigger concern, however.
"What I believe is essentially a much bigger problem — and for some reason this isn't discussed with the same resonance — is the fact that historically, and even now, during Russian aggression, there are around 100 MEPs here directly within Russia's sphere of influence," he said.
"If you look at the votes, where even on the most basic human matters, about 100 MEPs still vote against resolutions that demand something from Russia or condemn Russia or want to help Ukraine," he continued. "I believe that's a dozens if not hundreds of times more serious matter. I'd like to see the same racket raised over that and over those MEPs. This is disproportionate in a sense."
Of course it's bad when a case like the Qatar corruption scandal comes up and if this scandal is proven true as well, the Estonian MEP said.
"But the impact on Europe and on European security of a large group of MEPs sitting in the Parliament who indifferently continue to represent Russian interests here, even [as] Russian aggression [continues] is several magnitudes greater," he stressed.
Hungary situation raises questions over unanimity requirement
Commenting on Hungary's actions in blocking a planned €18 billion aid loan to Ukraine, Paet highlighted the requirement of unanimity on such decisions.
"This is an example of the fact that there has been talk for several years already that there are certain decisions where the principle of consensus should be abandoned," he said. "Now we're successively seeing what it actually means to have a consensus requirement regarding such decisions and how one or another country can block the will of everybody else, and especially in such very heavy and difficult circumstances as Russia's aggression against Ukraine."
It had been warned, and Paet himself has previously said, that this requirement could end up dangerous at some point. And now it has, he stressed.
Editor: Aili Vahtla