Thieves broke into at least 50 MEPs’ offices while politicians and their staff were ordered to stay away due to the pandemic. Laptops, iPads and other items were all stolen during the raids that have raised questions over parliamentary security. Secure cabinets containing secret and confidential documents were also targeted by the thieves.
One MEP even posted a video online to demonstrate how thieves broke into his desk and then used keys inside to access a cabinet where laptops and other computer equipment was being stored during the shutdown.
German MEP Nico Semsrott, who uploaded the video, lashed out at the lack of security and the response by the EU Parliament’s top officials.
“This is a huge scandal, and I don’t know why everybody is shutting their mouth,” he told the Politico website.
“We are pretty sure they went through all of our belongings, as it looked quite messy.”
The EU Parliament has been hit by a spate of robberies during the coronavirus pandemic
German MEP Nico Semsrott finds his office has been broken into
Mr Semsrott, who is known to wear a hoodie to work, had two laptops stolen, adding he had received reports of “between 40 and 100 MEPs” having their offices targeted by thieves.
Disgruntled MEPs have questioned how the robberies were allowed to happen when external visitors have been banned from the EU Parliament since March.
EU Parliament President David Sassoli also said MEPs and staff should work from their home countries in order to halt the spread of coronavirus.
The Parliament remained mostly empty until May when staff and some outsiders were given the go-ahead to return.
The EU Parliament has been largely empty throughout the pandemic
Czech MEP Dita Charanzova, who is a vice-president for security, has demanded a report on the break-ins.
She said: “For the moment, it is not clear if it is isolated or if there are more widespread cases.
“But the lockdown has increased the chances of such acts as fewer people were in the buildings during the crisis.
“I can only encourage members of staff to report suspected incidents.”
EU Parliament staff were ordered to work from home
Italian MEP Massimo Casanova claimed some “nice unknown people” had broken into his office and “forced the locks of his cupboards in search of, I don’t know what”.
He said “no item is missing” and is currently investigating whether documents had been stolen.
The Italian has submitted a complaint to Parliament authorities.
An EU Parliament spokeswoman said officials had already been made aware of a spate of burglaries in April.
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She said the institution had “increased the number of security agents patrolling offices”, adding “other agents control access to the building”.
The spokeswoman added DG Safe is investigating the break-ins and in contact with Belgian authorities.
According to a recent EU Parliament report, DG Safe had 756 staff and accounted for 1.5 percent of the Parliament’s overall budget in 2018.
The estimated budget for security and surveillance on EU buildings came to more than €23 million in 2020.