GUE/NGL MEPs have rounded on the conclusions from last week’s European Council’s meeting in Brussels by describing the policies on Syria, the migration deal with Turkey and the CETA trade deal as inhumane and undemocratic.

Group Vice-President and Cypriot MEP Neoklis Sylikiotis spoke on behalf of GUE/NGL and focussed on the EU’s lack of action over the Syrian crisis: 

“GUE/NGL’s principal position and beliefs are that we are in favour of peace and against any war. We condemn the attacks by the Syrian regime and the Russian bombings on Aleppo.”

“There are no good and bad bombs – they are all equally devastating. Whether it’s a jihadist bomb in eastern Aleppo or the US bombs in Syria, we at the EU have a responsibility to act on Syria. That includes not turning a blind eye to the plight of the Syrians when EU allies are committing war crimes.”           

The Cypriot MEP also condemned the increasing powers of FRONTEX and border agents. However, he reserved his strongest criticism for the EU deal with Turkey over refugees and migrants and described Ankara as an unsuitable partner on a humanitarian issue:

“The European Council’s insistence on implementing the unacceptable agreement made with Turkey over migrants and refugees is unfortunate. It’s an agreement which violates international law and sets out the conditions for the trafficking of refugees,” said Sylikiotis.

“Instead criticising the increasingly authoritarian Turkish government for its daily violation of human rights and freedoms, for its invasion of Syria, for the genocide perpetrated against the Kurds, for the silencing of journalists and for the violations committed against every minority, the EU is rewarding it for keeping refugees away from its borders.”   

“We will not allow the visa-exchange issue to be passed unless Turkey implements all its obligations in respect of each member state,” argued Sylikiotis.

He also criticised a lack of unity over the relocation of refugees amongst member states – a theme picked up by Vice-President of the European Parliament and Greek MEP Dimitrios Papadimoulis:

“Mr Tusk and Mr Juncker, Greece and Italy need proper and cohesive solidarity from the EU – not 'flexible solidarity'. If we allow member states to treat the EU 'à la carte', this Union will run the risk of being dissolved,” implored Papadimoulis. 

Irish MEP Martina Anderson (Sinn Féin) also had strong words on the situation in Syria but remains pessimistic about what the EU might do:

“Turkey is not a safe country – ask the Kurds, ask the journalists, ask the political opponents of the regime. Ask the Syrian child refugees being forced to work in Turkish factories for €1 an hour.” 

“The EU needs to prioritise its meagre relocation agreement and encourage member states to do more to address this humanitarian crisis.”

“I’m not holding my breath though, as consecutive Council initiatives, such as trying to limit human rights protections in the ongoing safe countries negotiations, show they are increasingly incapable of showing humanity,” said the Irish MEP. 

Another major topic from the Council conclusions was the CETA trade agreement with Canada and the war of words that followed over the Walloon veto. Vice-President Sylikiotis lauded the Parliament of Wallonia for standing up to the Commission:

“Citizens have had their say by doing everything they can to marginalise TTIP only now for the Council to try and get CETA through the backdoor.” 

“We welcome the courageous Parliament of Wallonia for not yielding to Commission blackmails and ultimatums to sign CETA.”

“The Walloon Parliament has salvaged the dignity of Europe and expressed its will on behalf of the people of our continent,” added Sylikiotis.      

Papadimoulis also shared those sentiments on CETA by lending his support to Wallonia:

“Stop bullying the Walloon authorities. Their objections and concerns are well-founded!” said the Greek MEP.

Dutch MEP and long-time campaigner against CETA Anne-Marie Mineur MEP also decried the bullying tactics by the Commission over the past week, 

“If CETA is the blueprint for how the European Union is negotiating free trade agreements, we might as well call it a day now.”

“Is it part of the blueprint that the president of the European Parliament takes over the negotiations without any mandate? That member state parliaments are given no time to discuss the agreement in depth? Or that essential matters such as the legality of the interpretative declaration, the compatibility with the European legal system or how competences are divided?”

“Is it part of the blueprint that negotiations take place exclusively behind closed doors with business given a front-row seat and citizens and NGOs outside?”

“If CETA is the blueprint for our future free-trade agreements then we should be ashamed of calling ourselves a democracy!” pleaded the Dutch MEP. 

Lastly, Irish MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan (Independent), took issue with the lies perpetrated by certain political groups over the safeguarding of legal protection for member states from big multinationals:

“The EU and Canada already have judicial systems for rights and protections equally for all its citizens, companies and corporations – with appeals all the way possible to the supreme court or the European Court of Justice.” 

“Certain parties are paddling lies that the ISDS (Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement) and ICS (Investment Court System) are one of the same.” 

“If you change the label on a tin of cat food to a tin of caviar, it does not change the content. It still has the same rubbish within,” argued Flanagan.

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