The European Parliament has refused to provide information on a controversial trip by President Roberta Metsola and her husband to the French wine region of Burgundy. When asked by the German Press Agency, the parliamentary speaker only said that the visit to a wine brotherhood with an overnight stay in a five-star hotel in Beaune was part of Metsola's mandate as president and in line with overriding security and protocol obligations. Metsola has followed the rules that have been applied to all previous presidents.
The spokesman did not answer the question of what costs the EU Parliament incurred as a result of the Christian Democrat politician's trip from Malta. He also did not answer whether Metsola or her husband received any wine during the visit and did not respond to a request for details of the travel program.
Metsola's visit to Beaune made headlines last week because the 44-year-old politician was accompanied by her husband and stayed with him in a five-star hotel at the expense of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin wine fraternity. According to revelations from "Politico", part of the trip last October was also a five-course dinner.
Criticism from Greens and Liberals
Over the weekend, Parliament speaker Jaume Duch Guillot said Metsola had been invited to Beaune to give a speech on protecting gastronomy, for which the region is famous. She acted on behalf of the European Parliament.
Criticism of the information policy of the parliamentary leadership is now coming from the ranks of the MPs. "Of course, Metsola, as President of the EU Parliament, has a duty to answer all questions," said the spokesman for the German Greens in the European Parliament, Rasmus Andresen, of the dpa. "She has to set a good example as President."
FDP MP Moritz Körner commented: "Metsola has declared the fight against corruption in Parliament to be a matter for the boss. She must deliver accordingly and cannot immediately back down when it comes to increasing transparency when it comes to her personal trips and benefits."
Does Metsola now have to investigate itself?
Metsola first issued a statement on the trip to Burgundy on January 11, after Parliament had previously been rocked by a corruption scandal. However, she did not state that her partner accompanied her on the trip. According to parliamentary rules, she should have declared the trip at the end of November last year. Metsola now argues that other Speakers of Parliament have also not made trips public.
Her environment also points out that the former German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also a guest at the wine brotherhood Confrèrie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. However, the visit in November 2021 took place together with French President Emmanuel Macron and was organized by the French Elysée Palace to bid Merkel farewell as chancellor. In addition, the CDU politicians did not stay overnight.
It was initially unclear whether Metsola was now threatened with consequences. In theory, sanctions could be imposed. However, there is no automatism. The President of Parliament is actually responsible.
Belated list of gifts
In addition, Metsola made 125 gifts public too late, contrary to the rules for MPs. This was announced a few days ago. According to the listing, the politician gave most of the presents for the safekeeping of the parliamentary administration or stored them in her office. The latter were, for example, pictures, vases and books. A spokesman emphasized: "The President accepts gifts on behalf of the institution. She does not keep them." He had also emphasized that he wanted to increase transparency.
The corruption scandal in the EU Parliament is about alleged influence from Qatar and Morocco on political decisions in the European Parliament. The judiciary charged, among other things, with the then Vice-President of Parliament Eva Kaili of participation in a criminal organization, money laundering and corruption.