(from Strasbourg) Brexit, democracy and dangers of disinformation, European Solidarity Corps, climate change, unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships in the food supply chain, non-performing loans, trade with the United States, situation in Venezuela and Nicaragua. These were but some of the countless issues addressed during the plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg from March 11 to March 14. A cluster of discussions and voting sessions on new community regulations, political debates on macro-issues, latent concerns over the upcoming Brexit-day with a British government and parliament unable to deliver credible proposals for a delicate – and risky – transition with a historical bearing. It ended with “startling” controversies triggered by President Tajani’s statements on fascism and a resolution demanding the extradition to Italy of former Red Brigades terrorist Alessio Casimirri, convicted in the assassination of former statesman Also Moro.
“A dark page in history.” “As a convinced anti-fascist, I apologize to all those who may have been offended by what I said, which in no way intends to justify or play down an anti-democratic and totalitarian regime.” Upon the conclusion of the sitting the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani conveyed his official apologies for his comments in a radio interview on Fascist Italy. Tajani’s comments had sparked an outcry in Italy and across all of Europe, reverberating also in the European Parliament, where they were debated at length in the plenary of Thursday March 14. Socialists and Democrats, Greens, Liberals, asked Tajani to rectify his statement, while the United Left called for his resignation. Tajani clarified: “I am deeply saddened that, despite my personal and political history, some may feel that I would choose to be lenient with regards to Fascism. have always been whole-heartedly anti-fascist. I have always stressed that Mussolini and Fascism were the darkest chapters in the history of the past century, without any distinction. I have always fought against any form of dictatorship or totalitarianism.” The President of the European Parliament concluded: “As I said with great resolve last October in the plenary chamber, Europe was built upon the defeat of fascism and it is the strongest bulwark against any form of totalitarianism.”
A growing divide from London. Yet the first coup de theatre occurred on Monday March 11, when British PM Theresa May arrived in Strasbourg for meetings with senior EU officials (Juncker, Tajani, chief negotiator Barnier) ahead of the vote scheduled this week in Westminster with a view to regulating the exit of the United Kingdom from the EU within the impending deadline of March 29. After Brexit, the spotlight was on the hemicycle, where MEPs gave the green light to a set of urgent provisions in case of a “no deal”, namely, London’s divorce from EU-27 without a negotiated agreement. The debate in the EP Assembly clearly showed that the political climate in the EU with regard to the United Kingdom is marked by diffidence and tiredness and now everyone hopes in a rapid and painless exit of the island from the European “common home.”
Risk of fake news. Slovakian premier Peter Pellegrini attended a debate on the future of Europe in Strasbourg. The Assembly highlighted the risk of propaganda and disinformation ahead of the May election, especially coming from Russia, China, North Korea. During the plenary MEPs asked Council and Commission to suspend EU accession talks with Turkey, where human rights and rule of law are disrespected, while freedom of expression is under attack and corruption is spreading. MEPs adopted a proposal requesting increased resources for asylum and immigration policies and for external border protection.
“Youth for Climate”. MEPs presented their proposals on the strategy for long-term greenhouse gas emissions reduction by the EU with a resolution adopted with 369 votes in favour, 116 against and 40 abstentions. The resolution focuses on the transformation towards a net-zero greenhouse gas economy, in accordance with the Paris Agreement. The European Parliament welcomed the demonstrations for climate justice and student strikes “that raise awareness on climate-risk”, to save the natural environment, and ultimately our planet. MEPs thus called upon national, regional and local government, as well as the EU as a whole, “to put in place concrete measures to keep the temperature rise below 1.5°C”. The plenary sitting was attended by a large group of young people representing the “Youth for Climate” movement whose point of reference is Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, nominated for Nobel Peace Prize.