The European Parliament chief's long list of gifts included a dried sausage, champagne and a blue statuette of a sheep
The European Parliament chief's long list of gifts included a dried sausage, champagne and a blue statuette of a sheep AFP News

The head of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, has disclosed the many gifts she has received in the past year, albeit late, as the scandal-hit institution seeks to rebuild credibility.

The parliament has been rocked by the graft scandal that broke open last month involving MEPs allegedly taking cash bribes to defend Morocco and Qatar's interests.

Metsola has promised more transparency and accountability, and this week vowed to impose new rules to tackle foreign corruption.

Among Metsola's long list of gifts published on the parliament's website included a dried sausage, champagne, a scarf, books, chocolates and a blue statuette of a sheep.

The gifts were registered in a public document published on January 12, 2023, but internal rules stipulate that elected representatives must declare gifts by the end of the month following the month in which they received them.

Metsola took the step to "increase the transparency" and "to lead by example", her spokesman told AFP on Thursday.

Her spokesman defended the delay, noting that her predecessors were not bound by the rule and had not "declared anything" in the past.

"She is trying to change practice," the spokesman said, adding Metsola will now respect the deadline.

"The EU Parliament President being the sole enforcer of ethics rules under the current system must be exemplary in her conduct," Alberto Alemanno, EU law professor at HEC Paris Business School, said on Twitter.

"Yet another story showing a pattern of misconducts making her culturally and politically unfit for the job of fixing Qatargate," he added.

Nicholas Aiossa, of NGO Transparency International, welcomed Metsola's and other elected members' moves to reveal gifts and travel, but said they "speak to a broken system".

"The issue is that there are rarely sanctions given for not adhering to the rules," he told AFP. "We need ethical rules that are written down and not based on tradition."

Individuals caught up in the graft scandal include Greek socialist MEP, Eva Kaili, who was one of Metsola's vice presidents at the time of her arrest in December.

The measures Metsola announced on Monday include restricting parliamentary access for former MEPs; registering outside individuals who lobby, meet or speak at the parliament; a public MEPs' registry of gifts and travel received; and punishment for breaches.