Political group leaders have joined forces in condemning President Donald Trump’s recent signing of an executive order banning nationals of seven countries from entering US territory.
In a debate in the European Parliament, one senior member even said President Trump would not be welcome in Europe while the ban is in place.
However, UKIP’s Nigel Farage, reportedly an unofficial “advisor” to the new president, disagreed, arguing that Trump should be invited to address parliament for an “open dialogue.”
In a rare show of unity, most MEPs described the travel restrictions as “arbitrary and defying the core values” of western democracies, such as freedom, non-discrimination and solidarity.
Opening the debate EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini welcomed the clarification by the US authorities that EU citizens will not be affected by the travel ban, even if they hold the nationality of one of the seven affected countries.
But, speaking on Wednesday, she made it clear that "this does not change our overall assessment of the executive orders. The EU will not turn its back on anyone who has the right to international protection.”
The Italian official added that "this is where we stand, this is where we will continue to stand.”
Her comments were partly echoed by EPP group leader Manfred Weber who told the mini plenary, “Trump was elected and we want dialogue. When Trump says he fights illegal migration or radical Islamism, we agree. But the travel ban is not that.
“Generalised suspicion of countries and people leads to xenophobia. The US was always a country of liberty and fundamental rights, now Trump condones torture”.
By doing so, “a state becomes a criminal itself“, he added.
Further reaction to the ban came from Italian member Gianni Pittella, who heads the Socialist group, who said: “The provisions are an attack against European legal culture and fundamental values. Let’s be blunt: the travel ban is not against terrorism. This is a lie, a demagogic one, as it hits some countries while it does not hit those with which Trump does business.”
He added, “I call on air companies not to refuse passengers from the countries in the ban. And we should avoid Trump visiting the EU until the ban is in place: doors are locked for him.”
Elsewhere, the ECR leader, British Tory Syed Kamall said “this arbitrary ban sends a message that there is an inherent contradiction between being a good Muslim and being a good citizen of a western democracy. It simply plays into the hands of Daesh and other extremists, who make exactly the same claim.
“However, Americans voted for the candidate, who does what he promised to do. So we must accept that this President, his priorities and policies are the consequence of the growing tide of discontent.”
The Liberal ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt said the fact that no terrorist coming from the banned countries has ever acted on US soil shows that “this is pure discrimination“, a measure meant to fuel populism and nationalism.
He added that Europe is also threatened by those forces, and hoped that European leaders, when they gather in Valletta for an EU summit on Friday, will stand up to this ”bunch of populists and nationalists who want to destroy us.”
GUE/NGL leader Gabi Zimmer commented, “Trump intentionally announced the executive order on Holocaust Remembrance Day - this was not a mere coincidence. I am afraid this won’t be the last time we will be debating Trump in this Parliament.”
One sole dissenting voice came, predictably, from UKIP member Nigel Farage who said that in the US, a “genuine elected democrat is doing what he was elected to do.”
He described European complaints as “proof of the EU´s anti-Americanism” and proposed inviting President Trump to Parliament for an “open dialogue.”
GUE/NGL MEPs, meanwhile, criticised the EU institutions' “hypocrisy” in criticising Trump's “inhumanity” towards migrants, while at the same time proposing a new deal to send refugees and migrants back to Libya, a country with a “serious deficit” of human rights.
Italian GUE MEP, Barbara Spinelli, said, "While the EU-Turkey agreement continues to be widely criticised, we are participating in the development of a new agreement with Libya which is even more worrisome."