TATJANA ŽDANOKA: WHY I VOTED NO

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The recent resolution of the European Parliament in connection with the “poisoning of Alexei Navalny” (https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2020-0232_EN.html) calling on EU governments “to prioritise the approval of the EU Magnitsky-style human rights sanctions mechanism and its implementation in the near future”, to halt the Nord Stream 2 project and demanding that Moscow repeals the recent changes to the Russian Constitution caused a massive response. I have received many questions about why I was on the list of 84 MEPs who voted “NO”.

I am in general against the sanctions. This mechanism as a tool does not work correctly in interstate affairs and often leads to the opposite results and creates unnecessary pressure between countries.

The resolution on Russia, as well as preceding up on Belarus (https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2020-0231_EN.html), is more all empty bubbles. However, it can have the consequences and mainly addressed to the European Council, i.e. heads of states and relevant Ministers. Resolutions like that are usually raw documents, which “mould” very quickly and the scheme looks like following. The agenda generally approving on the eve of the plenary session includes reports have prepared in advance in the committees on future regulations and directives. In addition, there is a set of “urgent” resolutions. Political groups offer them. If the majority of political groups agree, the agenda approved.

Draw your attention to the uniqueness of the fact that in the final version of the resolution the proposal is to punish people not for the fact of committing a crime, but merely for being mentioned in the investigations of Navalny and co. The main problem here is that these third country citizens are being punished for actions committed in the same country, and not at all on the territory of the States that apply such punishment. In my memory, and I have been working in the European Parliament for 15 years, this has never happened.

I incredibly surprised by the vote of German MEPs. Almost all voted “yes”. As we know, Germany has “Nord Stream 2” and logically, at least some politicians from the Angela Merkel’s party had to be against stopping construction. Moreover, this applies to the representatives of the Socialists and Democrats previously headed by Schroeder!

If we are turning back to the fuss was about. It has started from a statement of Mrs Merkel. I can guess the Americans have solid dirt on her. It might explain many of her words over the past 5-6 years, especially about what happened in 2014 in Ukraine, and are well-founded conversations about her long lime collaboration with the Stasi. There are more other things unclear: why is she so strict and afraid to make this topic public? I think there is more here in the background. Her inconsistent actions are incomprehensible to me without the assumption that strings are pulling her are the same, which blocks “Nord Stream 2” contracting companies to make progression for several months yet. Initially, no one there wanted to refuse, but later on, when turned out that their annual turnover, the lion’s share, is on branches located in the United States, are under threat, quickly jumped off. So, by the way, in connection with the sanctions over the Crimea, it happened with the Corporation “Siemens”.

What else was shocking about the resolution? Unprecedented meddling in Russia’s Internal Affairs! At the same time, the US has not even ratified many UN documents. For example, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on civil and political rights. According to which citizens can complain about their country. The Russian Federation recognised this right, but the US did not. The same protocol also prohibits the death penalty. The fact that there is no such ban in America does not worry about European officials. Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, delivered a major policy speech to MEPs last week and calmly argued that the United States is our strategic partner. She has been criticising only Russia and Belarus. What do they dislike about the changes to the Russian Constitution? Terms of the election of the President? It defies criticism because of in most of the countries; there are no restrictions on holding the highest office. Secondly, they do not like the story about the supremacy of national law over international treaties. But Russia is not reintroducing the death penalty!

One way or another, after such a vote on the resolution, the topic about Russophobia has to be included. Russia is now to blame for all the bad things that are being done. I want to illustrate this with the short anecdote. “Putin received information that Theresa May is pregnant. So what, he requested, am I also guilty in that?” It is harsh but rustic truth. This resolution builds a wall between Russia and the West, Russia and the EU. Justice is an essential meaning for Russians. Elections themselves, as a democratic tool, are not sufficient to declare that mechanism ensures that state strives for ideals. Obviously that now becoming increasingly important the fourth power. Elections can be genuinely fair only if all competing parties and politicians placed on an equal footing. Suppose everyone has access to the media and the voters. Currently, this is far from the case in many EU countries, including Latvia. My country is also unique in that a significant part of the population – so-called “aliens” – do not have the right to participate in elections at all.

Additionally, let’s not forget about double standards. At the same September session of the European Parliament, the issue of serious breach by Poland of the rule of law was on the agenda (https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2020-0225_EN.html). The procedure for its punishment has begun like, previously, to Hungary. In both countries, there is an unlimited dictatorship of the ruling parties. In Poland, this is Kaczynski’s “Law and justice”, in Hungary, Orban’s “Fidesz”. Authorities walk over the opposition there; the press incredibly restricted; moreover, courts cleared out of disloyal people. But the same poles politicians in the European Parliament are preparing resolutions against Russia. The most active is Anna Fotyga, a former Polish Foreign Minister who hates everything connected to Russia in an animal hatred. Her party accused of violating the rule of law and democracy, but she is the prominent leader in criticism of Russia for violating the rule of law and democracy. We see here not just a double standard but the absence of any standard at all.

In the resolution, the European Parliament calls on the European Council to punish Russia with further sanctions. The mechanism for putting pressure on the Council to make such decisions is straightforward. If someone from the EU tries to protest, as the Italians, Czechs, and Hungarians once did, they immediately informed that there would be problems with receiving subsidies. Now, Cyprus has shown its character, outraged by the restraint of Brussels on the issue of sanctions against Turkey. Will see how events will happen. Brussels has powerful tools against potential rebels.

And in conclusion, about Lukashenko. The “West” had no hamper by his status as the “last dictator of Europe” until now. I still do remember these flirtations with Lukashenko in 2017 when we, the MEPs, suddenly sent to an official meeting in Minsk. I was in that delegation. We met, in particular, with the Belarusian Foreign Minister, Mr Makei. The EU Ambassador to Minsk, Mrs Wiktorin, was flirting with him. Afterwards, Lukashenko was invited to Brussels for a summit. Even more recently, in autumn 2019, he got the invitation to the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Eastern partnership. Has something changed in him or has something changed in the political structure of Belarus since then?

The main target now is to avoid repeating the Ukrainian scenario in Belarus. Lukashenko will have to open the windows and freshen the air in the country, allow severe political competition. There is no other way.

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