Rule of law, COVID-19, hybrid threats: MEPs discuss EU summit results

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.


Political leaders demand more action against countries breaching the rule of law and express solidarity with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, in a debate on Tuesday.

In a debate assessing the outcome of the 21-22 October European Council with Presidents Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, the leaders of most political groups said not enough was being done to address the attacks on the rule of law. Manfred Weber (EPP, DE) called it disappointing that Article 7 procedures had not been continued. Iratxe García Pérez (S&D, ES) and Stéphane Séjourné (Renew Europe, FR) insisted that these countries should have their COVID-19 recovery plans rejected.

In turn, Beata Szydło (ECR, PL) said that raising the issue of the rule of law during the COVID-19 crisis, the hybrid attack on the eastern borders and the surge in energy prices is an “act of political bad will”.

On the COVID-19 pandemic, other MEPs including Ska Keller (Greens/EFA, DE) highlighted the need for a greater rollout of vaccinations, including outside the EU. The need for more solidarity and better coordination between member states was also raised, while Marco Zanni (ID, IT) said that the violent protests taking place in various EU cities show EU institutions must do more.

On Belarus, some leaders stressed the EU must not compromise with the Belarusian dictator-president. Most speakers called for solidarity with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania and help for migrants, while disagreeing on the way this assistance should be given. Several MEPs called for a new migration policy to prevent “an evil autocrat from instrumentalising refugees,” said Martin Schirdewan (The Left, DE).

During the debate, Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced that the Commission is proposing to blacklist transport operators involved in smuggling or trafficking people to the EU’s borders with Belarus. She also said that even countries facing a hybrid attack must respond by respecting the rule of law and fundamental rights.

Background

The October summit dealt, among other issues, with the EU’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, in particular the progress in implementing vaccination strategies, increasing energy prices and how to mitigate their impact on EU businesses and consumers, and the situation of rule of law. The European leaders also exchanged views on migration, external relations and the digital transition.

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