Russian ‘blackmailing’ of Ireland ‘unacceptable’, says EU group leader

Call for issue to be included on EU-Russia summit

The pressure being exerted by Russia “must be met by a solid and united EU stand”, said Guy Verhofstadt, head of the European Parliament’s liberal group. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The pressure being exerted by Russia “must be met by a solid and united EU stand”, said Guy Verhofstadt, head of the European Parliament’s liberal group. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Mon, Apr 29, 2013, 13:17

Russian “blackmailing”of Ireland over plans for a law sanctioning officials involved in the death of a lawyer there is “unacceptable” and should be raised at the EU-Russia summit, the head of a European Parliament political group has said.

The pressure being exerted by Russia to drop support for the law or face a ban on adoptions of Russian children “must be met by a solid and united EU stand”, said Guy Verhofstadt, head of the parliament’s liberal group and former Belgian prime minister. He called on the EU’s Council of Ministers, European Commission and high representative on foreign affairs to “clearly state their solidarity” with the Irish presidency in office. “Russian foreign policy once again is showing its ugly face,” he said.

The Oireachtas committee on foreign affairs will on Wednesday consider a motion by Fianna Fáil Senator Jim Walsh calling for Russian officials involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky to be listed publicly, their assets frozen and visa bans issued for them.

Vote postponed

The committee postponed a vote on the issue last Wednesday because of an amendment by Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan, which dropped these sanctions. Committee chairman and Fine Gael TD Pat Breen delayed the vote by a week in the hope that consensus could be reached.

The Russian ambassador to Ireland, Maxim Peshkov, wrote to the committee in March warning that moves towards enacting such a law could “have negative influence on the negotiations on the adoption agreement between Russia and Ireland being proceeded”.

Mr Walsh told the committee last week the letter amounted to “intimidation” and that Ireland must stand firm on human rights’ abuses, especially since it held a seat on the UN Human Rights Council and the EU presidency.

But Olivia Mitchell, Fine Gael TD, said the committee “shouldn’t go out of our way to cause offence”. “There are many people who have been in the adoption process for years and years,” she added.

The US enacted a Magnitsky law last December and Russia responded by banning adoptions. Mr Magnitsky had been working for US businessman William Browder when he died in 2009 after being held in prison for nearly a year. He had testified in court that Russian officials had stolen millions in taxes paid by Mr Browder.