Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, described the arrests related to alleged corruption in the European Parliament as “very, very worrisome.”
The allegations against four people, according to Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, are “extremely devastating.”
Vice President of the European Parliament Eva Kaili, who is thought to be one of those charged, was detained.
Authorities believe a Gulf nation—reportedly Qatar—tried to sway parliament through monetary or in-kind contributions.
Qatar has refuted any wrongdoing.
In 16 searches conducted in Brussels on Friday, Belgian police confiscated cash totaling roughly €600,000 ($632,000; £515,000). In order to investigate the contents, computers and mobile phones were also taken.
According to prosecutors, two people have been released while four have been charged.
Although no suspects have been publicly identified, Ms. Kaili is believed to be one of those who have been charged.
They are accused of participating in a criminal organization, money laundering, and corruption, according to a statement from the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office.
Jaws are on the ground.
Jessica Parker, a correspondent in Brussels, provides analysis
Many people’s jaws were on the floor when Belgian officials revealed the information during the past few days.
600,000 euros have been confiscated after searches of two MEPs’ houses. In terms of the accusations, the federal prosecutor’s office was as forthright.
MEPs People I’ve spoken to have expressed shock at the severity and blatantness of the claims, though not at the idea that a foreign power may attempt to affect EU policy or try to enhance their nation’s reputation through public discourse.
Although Qatar has denied any allegations of wrongdoing, this issue is expected to take center stage as MEPs travel to Strasbourg for one of their regular plenary meetings.
Ms. Kaili, an eight-year MEP, was relieved of her responsibilities as one of the 14 vice presidents by Roberta Metsola, president of the European Parliament.
She has also been kicked out of the Greek Pasok center-left party and suspended from the Socialists and Democrats group in the parliament.
All of Ms. Kaili’s assets are reportedly blocked by Greek prosecutors.
The bribery inquiry, according to watchdogs and opposition MEPs, may be one of the largest corruption scandals in the history of the European Parliament.
While this may be the most severe instance of suspected corruption the European Parliament has seen in a long time, it is not an unique incidence, according to Michiel van Hulten, a former MEP and the director of the anti-corruption organization Transparency International EU.
With a combination of loose financial regulations and controls and a total absence of independent, or even any, ethics oversight, the parliament has permitted a culture of impunity to grow over a long period of time. It has transformed into a law unto itself in many ways.
As he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday, Mr. Borrell addressed the media and said, “Certainly, the news is very, very troubling.
As a former president of the European Parliament, I can say with certainty that the events and circumstances we are currently confronting worry me.
Before the meeting on Monday, Mr. Coveney said the accusations were “extremely hurtful” and that “we need to find the truth.”
Terry Reintke, who serves as co-chair of the Green group in parliament, has demanded that Ms. Kaili resign immediately.
The German MEP stated, “We shouldn’t even have to remove her from her vice president position.” She needs to handle this proactive.
According to prosecutors, a Gulf state has been meddling in the political and economic decisions of the parliament for a number of months, particularly by targeting aides.
Although the state has been identified by local media as Qatar, the Qatari government has stated that any allegations of wrongdoing are “gravely erroneous.”
The Middle East is one of Ms. Kaili’s vice-presidential responsibilities. She has previously stood up for Qatar.
Ms. Metsola took a flight on Saturday night from her native Malta to Brussels to witness the search of an MEP’s home, as required by Belgian law.
The European Parliament “stands firmly against corruption,” according to her spokesman, and is “completely collaborating” with the authorities.
The only institution in the EU to be chosen directly is the European Parliament. The 705 members of parliament chosen by citizens of the 27 EU member states gather to review new laws and pass them into European law.