Brussels (EFE) in the Eurocámara linked to Qatar and Morocco that accumulates four defendants.
On the occasion of his trip to Madrid, prior to the start of the Spanish presidency of the Council in July, Metsola gave an interview to EFE in which he spoke of the institutional response to “Catargate”, including the protection of people who internally denounce cases of corruption or harassment, of the situation of Catalan MEPs or their plans for the future.
Question: Before coming to the position, did you ever think that you would encounter such a challenge?
Reply: You never expect what you are going to find in a position with responsibilities such as managing a Parliament of 704 deputies. No one could prepare us for war, sanctions packages, Ukraine and Moldova as accession candidate countries, the energy crisis and a scandal involving Parliament with allegations of corruption. These are challenges that we face every day and I am glad to have the support of my colleagues to promote not only legislation but a reform of this institution to make it more visible, effective, transparent, modern and open.
P: He has promised to initiate a review of issues, trips, legislation that may have been influenced by this corruption case. How far back in time do you want to go?
R: At the moment what we are taking are precautionary measures in the context of legal proceedings. We have cooperated since the first day. Without speculating about different countries, although I know what is being talked about in the media, this Parliament has an obligation to take the preventive measures that we have taken.
P. What measures have been taken?
R. For the moment, we have looked, for example, at all the proposals for visits by delegations or commissions that were planning to go to Qatar or Morocco, except for interparliamentary forums or authorities located in those countries. The commissions themselves have said that time must be given to see how the investigation and trial progress before making decisions.
P. In the case of the Spanish MEP who has been penalized for harassment, her assistant did not know where to turn when she considered reporting this case internally. How does Parliament commit to protecting its most vulnerable staff, the assistants, when they want to pull the plug on a corruption or harassment case?
R. I have asked Quaestors (MEPs who handle administrative issues) to propose specific measures to address more systematic cases of workplace bullying and how to report incidents. Some deputies, myself included, have received training that the plenary session believes should be mandatory. We are exploring the possibility of including counselors, mediators, psychological training, and psychiatric help within the medical service. There are all kinds of proposals on the table to ensure that whenever you want to transfer information confidentially and securely, the procedures are as strict and secure as possible.
The Spanish presidency
P. Travel to Spain with a very full agenda. The country faces a period of a year and a half with at least three key electoral dates. How do you see this stage?
R. I see the visit as a preview of the Spanish presidency of the Council, a transcendental occasion for any country to show its ability to influence within the European Union. Spain has continued to demonstrate over the decades that it is an extremely leading country, both in its relations within the Union and with our Mediterranean and Latin American partners. In June there will be a visit by all the group leaders, which I will lead, in which we will meet with all the ministers to see how to approach what will also be a very important legislative period. From twelve to six months before the European elections we will be closing the most important files, all the legislative instruments that are on the table and that will have to be concluded during the Spanish presidency.
P. You are expected to make a decision on the seat of Carles Puigdemont and other Catalan MEPs whose credentials could not be verified following the letter from the Central Electoral Board. Have Parliament’s services completed the report you are waiting for on the case? Do you expect to make a decision soon?
R. The response to the letter is still in the hands of the competent services within Parliament, whose response I am still waiting for, and also a series of judicial decisions. In this case I am always in the hands of legal advice and this is how I will continue to address this issue.
P. There has also been a request from the Spanish Government to be able to use the Spanish co-official languages in plenary. How is the report on this case progressing and when could the Bureau vote?
R. I have met with a good number of Spanish members of the European Parliament and government representatives to discuss the co-official languages. Since 2006, any citizen can write to the European Parliament in any of these languages and would receive a reply in these languages. Now the request has been expanded to be able to speak to them in plenary. I have also asked the services to give me their opinion on the feasibility of the request, which I am treating seriously. And then I will go to the Board and ask for a decision on how to proceed with that request. We have a very tight schedule ahead of us, but nothing will be delayed.
Renewal of charges in the EU
P. Talks have begun about who will be a candidate for the next positions in the European Union. Do you plan to run again in the European elections in your country or do you have any other ideas?
R. Being President of the European Parliament is an honour, a privilege and a lifelong responsibility. And I will work every day for the rest of my term to make sure as many people as possible vote. That is my main objective in each and every Member State. In my own Member State, I will run for my seat as I have done in the last four European Parliament elections. That would be my goal, and my challenges keep me pretty busy here.