Strasbourg round-up: MEPs debate foreign affairs and human rights priorities

Written by Rajnish Singh on 22 July 2014 in Special Report
Special Report

During a Strasbourg plenary session MEPs have called for EU action on the Gaza crisis, Boko Haram and human rights abuses in Sudan and Egypt.

In a resolution passed by the European parliament, MEPs have called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza region, with S&D vice president Victor Boştinaru highlighting that, "More than 200 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, including many children, have been killed in the Gaza strip."

He also stressed that, "1000 missiles have been fired by Hamas and Palestinian militants into Israel. The ongoing crisis serves neither Israel nor Palestinian interests. The response to this cannot be more violence and further suffering for the civilian populations on both sides."

"The ongoing crisis serves neither Israel nor Palestinian interests" - Victor Boştinaru

The EPP group's foreign affairs spokesperson Cristian Preda called for a political solution, saying, "The way out of the crisis is of course not violence. We support all diplomatic efforts to achieve a de-escalation of the conflict through a ceasefire."

The Romanian MEP wanted to see "peace and security for both Israel and Palestinians".

MEPs encouraged key regional players such as Egypt and Jordan to play a role in bringing about peace, with Boştinaru regretting Hamas' decision to reject a ceasefire initiative proposed by Cairo which had been accepted by the Israeli government.

Members also called on national governments and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to do more in supporting a ceasefire agreement.

For Preda, the long-term objective was "to reach a negotiated settlement for the Middle East conflict on the basis of a two-state solution". To achieve this he cited the need for "credible efforts from both sides with enhanced support from the EU".

Iraq

MEPs also discussed the violence in Iraq perpetrated by jihadist terrorist group Isis. Parliamentarians condemned attacks on civilians, hospitals, schools and places of worship, as well as Isis' claim of the establishment of a caliphate in areas under its control across Iraq and Syria.

The European parliament also urged the Iraqi security forces to respect Iraq's commitments on human rights and fundamental freedoms while combating the terrorist group.

However, the deputies pointed to the need for a political solution which included all members of Iraqi society and which would address their grievances. To help stop the bloodshed and the breakup of the country, MEPs stressed the need to establish an inclusive Iraqi government which represented all the political, religious and ethnic groups of its society. They also urged that the Iraqi army be reorganised along non-sectarian and non-partisan lines.

The EU was called upon to devise a new Arab foreign policy strategy which included working with Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to de-escalate the violence in Syria and Iraq.

MEPs also wanted to see better international coordination to take appropriate legal action against foreign fighters, including EU citizens who had joined Isis, were carrying out terrorist acts and had been identified as a security risk.

Nigeria

Three months on from the kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls by the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram, MEPs have adopted a resolution supporting the 'Bring back our girls' campaign.

EPP vice-chair Mariya Gabriel said, "This kidnapping is part of a continuing wave of violent acts perpetrated by Boko Haram which has displaced thousands of people. It's also very alarming to see that children and women are targeted in these attacks."

"This kidnapping is part of a continuing wave of violent acts perpetrated by Boko Haram which has displaced thousands of people" - Mariya Gabriel

Grave concern was expressed during the debate over reports of forced conversions to Islam and the imposition of Sharia law in areas controlled by Boko Haram.

The resolution also called upon the Nigerian government to recognise and respect press freedom and media, and that it should work more closely with the UN and other international actors to find ways to block funding for Boko Haram and restrict its movements.

Pointing to the socioeconomic and political challenges facing Nigeria, Gabriel also stressed the need for the EU to use development aid to "help address root causes of the rise of Boko Haram".

Sudan

The parliament has debated the case of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, who was condemned to death after being accused of adultery and converting to Christianity by Sudanese authorities. M

MEPs called on the government in Khartoum to repeal all legislation that discriminates on grounds of gender and religion and called for the EU to push for a strong resolution at the next human rights council in September, to address what they felt were widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the country.

Egypt

Deputies raised concerns about the recent court cases in Egypt, including the handing out of lengthy jail terms to three Al Jazeera journalists, and death sentences to 183 people.

They called upon the president of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to act without delay to ensure no death sentences were carried out. MEPs regretted that the new government carried out media and internet censorship, and highlighted worsening violence against women and the criminalisation of LGBT people for expressing their sexual orientation and the right of assembly.

About the author

Rajnish Singh is commissioning editor for the Parliament Magazine

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