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08.02.2006   Zdanoka disappointed with MEPs lack of ambition on minority rights

"This has had all the hallmarks of a bad detective novel" - Zdanoka

 

Latvian Euro-MP Tatjana Zdanoka has expressed her disappointment with MEPs failure to back parliamentary amendments strengthening the rights of the so-called 'non-nationals' living in the European Union.

 

This affects some 600,000 people, mainly in Latvia and Estonia who are denied EU citizenship even though they were in most cases born and have lived for most of their lives in what are now EU member states.

 

MEPs meeting in Strasbourg were voting on proposals to strengthen the rights of minorities within the EU and to protect people from discrimination. Whilst some significant progress was made, Ms Zdanoka sees the failure to act to defend everyone living in Europe as a great missed opportunity.

 

Speaking after the vote, Tatjana Zdanoka explained:

 

"I want to congratulate Mr Moraes for all his work to defend the rights of minorities in the EU and to campaign for better measures to tackle discrimination. It's a shame that there are not more MEPs like him or we would have emerged today with a far better and fairer platform from which to defend minority rights and tackle discrimination. It seems a total contradiction in terms to me that measures on defending the rights of EU residents should not be backed by all MEPs and points to a wider crisis in the process of European integration.

 

Protecting the rights of minorities is vital for the future of the EU. As Yehudi Menuhin said 'Either Europe will become a Europe of cultures or Europe will die'. With this in mind it is disappointing that the European Parliament was not willing to take a stronger position to develop the Union into an area of freedom, security and justice in which fundamental rights including minority rights are protected effectively".

 

Commenting on the process that led to this situation, Ms Zdanoka added:

"The development of this situation has had all the hallmarks of a bad detective story. First of all, the debates on the report were postponed, officially because of an absence of translations in some languages. Then some essential items approved in Committee disappeared from the text submitted to plenary."

 

Explaining her disappointment with the lack of stronger commitment of the European Parliament to defending minority rights, Ms Zdanoka said:

"I believe that respecting the rights of all human beings should be applied universally and equally. Who is to say whether the right to free movement within the EU of a married gay couple or of a stateless permanent resident should carry less or greater value? In my opinion, the rights of both should be respected equally.

 

Nevertheless, Liberals and Socialist MEPs voted in favour of proposals to let the Member States and the Commission off the hook on the question of measures to align the rights of stateless persons with those of EU citizens (in particular the right to vote in local elections and the Community right to free movement).

We have seen that many MEPs apply double standards when it comes to minority rights - this is clear in how Parliament failed to give more substantial backing to this important subject. It surprises me that the European Parliament is willing to adopt resolutions telling those outside the EU how to respect human rights and democracy but is not ready to give its fullest backing to defending those rights within the EU.

 

If Europe wants to regain the confidence of its citizens, if Europe wants to make itself relevant to the lives and the futures of all its residents, then Europe's politicians must turn fine words into real actions."

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