The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola delivered the following statement at the opening of the Plenary Session in Strasbourg.
I think it would be no exaggeration to say that these have been among the longest days of my career. I must choose my words carefully, in a manner that does not jeopardise ongoing investigations or in any way undermine the presumption of innocence.
And, I will. So if my fury, my anger, my sorrow do not come across please be assured that they are very much present - along with my determination for this House to grow stronger.
Make no mistake.
The enemies of democracy for whom the very existence of this Parliament is a threat, will stop at nothing. These malign actors, linked to autocratic third countries have allegedly weaponised NGOs, Unions, individuals, assistants and Members of the European Parliament in an effort to subdue our processes.
Their malicious plans failed. Our services, of whom I am incredibly proud, have been working with relevant national law enforcement and judicial authorities to break up this alleged criminal network for some time.
We have acted in sync with authorities to ensure that all legal steps are respected, that all information is preserved and that, where needed, IT equipment is secured, offices are sealed and house searches are able to be carried out. I accompanied a Belgian judge and police as required by the Belgian constitution to a house search last weekend.
As a precautionary measure, again with full respect for the presumption of innocence, I have stripped the Vice-President mentioned of any tasks and responsibilities related to their role as Vice-President and I have convened an extraordinary meeting of the Conference of Presidents to launch an Article 21 procedure to bring their term as Vice-President to an end in an effort to protect the integrity of this House.
I was also scheduled today to announce the opening of the negotiating mandate for the visa-waiver report with Qatar and Kuwait. In light of the investigations, this report must be sent back to committee.
I also know that we are not at the end of the road and we will continue to assist in investigations, together with other EU institutions, for as long as it takes. Corruption cannot pay and we have played our part in ensuring these plans could not materialise.
And I must be clear, the allegations are not about left or right or north or south. This is about right and wrong and I would appeal to you to resist the temptation to exploit this moment for political gain. Do not cheapen the threat we are facing.
Now I am in politics, like so many of you here, to fight corruption. To stand up for the principles of Europe. This is a test of our values and of our systems and, colleagues, let me assure you that we will meet this test head on.
These are challenging times for us all, but I know, I am convinced, that if we work together we can come out of it stronger.
To you, my colleagues who have lived these days with me, let me say again how deeply disappointed I am - I know you all share the same sentiment.
To those malign actors, in third countries, who think they can buy their way forward. Who think Europe is for sale. Who think they can take over our NGOs. Let me say that you will find this Parliament firmly in your way.
We are Europeans.
We would rather be cold than bought.