Sinn Féin MEPs abstain in vote on Russia resolution

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan opposes motion saying EU ‘doesn’t have a clue’ on sovereignty

Luke “Ming” Flanagan said while it was obvious Russian president Vladimir Putin was “not a very nice individual” the EU had “given up the right to lecture anybody on sovereignty”. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Luke “Ming” Flanagan said while it was obvious Russian president Vladimir Putin was “not a very nice individual” the EU had “given up the right to lecture anybody on sovereignty”. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

Sinn Féin MEPs have abstained on a European Parliament resolution condemning human rights abuses in Russia.

Independent MEP Luke “Ming” Flanagan voted against the resolution, which also criticised Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its “financing of radical and extremist parties in EU member states”.

The strongly-worded non-binding resolution was passed by a clear majority of MEPs but was opposed by eurosceptic groups including France’s Front National and the UK Independence Party.

Sinn Féin, whose four MEPs belong to the European United Left and Nordic Green Left group, said it abstained because the resolution’s analysis of the conflict in Ukraine was “unbalanced” and “completely ignores any responsibility of the EU’s for its role in the development of this conflict”.

Mr Flanagan said while it was obvious Russian president Vladimir Putin was “not a very nice individual” the EU had “given up the right to lecture anybody on sovereignty”.

The resolution, written by Lithuanian MEP Gabrielius Landsbergis of the European People’s Party (EPP), the parliament’s main centre-right bloc, criticised Russia for its crackdown on gay activists, political opponents, journalists and human rights workers. It passed by 494 votes to 135 with 69 abstentions.

Deliberate violation

The resolution said Russia’s “direct and indirect involvement in the armed conflict in Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea”, together with its violation of Georgia’s territorial integrity and “political destabilisation of its European neighbours”, were a deliberate violation of democratic principles and international law.

It said the parliament was “deeply concerned at the ever more intensive contacts and co-operation, tolerated by the Russian leadership, between European populist, fascist and extreme right-wing parties on the one hand and nationalist groups in Russia on the other”.

France’s Front National has reportedly received loans worth several million euro from a Russian bank. A report by Political Capital, a Budapest-based think-tank, last year showed that Moscow has established links with a number of other far-right parties in Europe.

Sanctions

Russia remains under EU-US sanctions, and retaliated last month by blacklisting European figures from travelling to the country. The parliament’s resolution argued that economic sanctions were working and called on EU leaders to maintain or increase those sanctions when they gather in Brussels for an EU summit later this month.

A spokesman for Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson confirmed she and her three party colleagues Lynn Boylan, Matt Carthy and Liadh Ní Riada abstained in the vote.

The spokesman said Sinn Féin recognised and condemned Russia’s human rights abuses but it believed the conflict in Ukraine stemmed from “a zero-sum political game between Russia and the West” that forced Ukraine into choosing to ally itself with one or the other.

“While the report acknowledges the corrosive part played by Russia in the region it completely ignores any responsibility of the EU’s for its role in the development of this conflict. It is simply an unbalanced report,” the spokesman added.

Mr Flanagan did not return calls on Thursday. Explaining his No vote in the parliament, he cited the response to Ireland’s rejection of the Nice and Lisbon treaties, when “you brought in the EU Commission tanks with your money and you forced us . . . to change our vote.”

He added: “This union should shut the hell up about sovereignty until it learns what it really means. You have not got a bloody clue.”