PN MEPs hit back at criticism over EP search and rescue resolution

Casa and Metsola hit back at Alternattiva Demokratika criticism that both MEPs had ignored human rights in a decision to vote against a socialist-led resolution on search and rescue

David Casa and Roberta Metsola were both elected coordinators of their respective committees at the European Parliament
David Casa and Roberta Metsola were both elected coordinators of their respective committees at the European Parliament

Nationalist MEPs David Casa and Roberta Metsola have hit back at criticism from Alternattiva Demokratika, over having voted down a resolution to open ports to search and rescue boats that was defeated by populist and far-right parties.

The two MEPs voted on a resolution backed by socialist and left-wing parties pushed by the LIBE committee, in what was the final of a series of alternative resolutions presented by the EPP, the European Reformists, and the far-right IND group.

None of these resolutions garnered sufficient majorities to pass, with the socialist-led motion from the LIBE committee failing to pass on Thursday by just two votes: 288 in favour, 290 against and 36 members abstained. All Labour MEPs — Alex Agius Saliba, Josianne Cutajar, and Miriam Dalli — bar Alfred Sant who was not present, voted in favour of the resolution.

Among the 290 against the text, most were from the EPP, with Forza Italia, the right-wing nationalist parties including the far-right League, and the ECR with far-right Fratelli d’Italia, as well as some MEPs from Renew Europe.

All S&D members present apart from four voted in favour of the motion. Members of the Liberals, the GUE and the Greens voted in favour.

The motion was tabled by Spanish S&D member Juan Fernando López Aguilar, who chairs the LIBE (civil liberties) committee and called for member states to step up efforts to save asylum seekers making the perilous crossing to Europe.

The socialist-led resolution calls on all actors in the Mediterranean to proactively transmit information related to persons in distress at sea to the competent authorities for search and rescue operations and to, where appropriate, any potential vessels in the vicinity that could imminently engage in search and rescue.

But Casa and Metsola insist that this specific clause is an invitattion to bypass rescue coordination centres, by disseminating information “to any boat in the Mediterranean without any filter. It made no distinction between those vessels saving lives and any other vessels, with all the security risks that that brings with it. It would have meant a fundamental shift in how rescues are conducted and guarantee chaos,” the two MEPs said.

“That plays into the hands of human traffickers, enables organised crime, runs contrary to current maritime practice, muddies the chain of command on the high seas and simply puts the lives of everyone involved at risk.”

The two MEPs described the resolution’s clause as “a reckless add-on to the text that meant no responsible politician could support it.”

The PN MEPs said the EPP-led resolution clearly calls on member states and Frontex to step up their efforts in support of search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and calls on the Commission “to start working on a new, more sustainable, reliable and permanent approach to SAR, replacing existing ad hoc solutions and to provide material, financial and operational support to Member States for the purpose of better coordinating SAR operations”.

“We regret that the far-left did not support this,” the MEPs said.

Alternattiva Demokratika statement

Alternattiva Demokratika accused the MEPs of siding with the far-right in a resolution on search and rescue in the Mediterranean.  

“In Europe the PN is embracing the rhetoric and policies of the far-right,” AD said.

AD accused the MEPs of choosing to ignore human rights and forego saving people’s lives.

“Conservative EPP and rightwing liberal forces joined with the far-right and neo-nazis to vote against the resolution. They chose to argue over small details and commas,” the AD said in a statement.

On Friday, AD spokesperson for European Affairs Mina Tolu, took to Facebook to state that saving lives is not an act of solidarity, but a legal obligation under international law. “Why did Maltese MEPs choose to vote against a resolution that respects human rights, that would allow for more financial support for Member States, including Malta, to engage in Search and Rescue missions, and for fair and sustainable distribution mechanisms and tangible solidarity between all EU Member States?” Tolu said.