Sant abstains on Syria resolution, Metsola dubs stand ‘reprehensible’

Alfred Sant on Syria resolution: “European Parliament is entrenched in the belief that it has the compass by which to judge political behaviour elsewhere... however, this House interprets them in political mode”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Former Prime Minister Alfred Sant has abstained on a European Parliament resolution on Syria, saying sanctions are mainly hurting civilians in a conflict that has left tens of thousands of victims, displacing huge populations.

All other Labour MEPs and Nationalist MEPs voted in favour of the resolution, in which the European Parliament strongly condemned all atrocities and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Syria, in particular by the Assad Regime, but also by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

The resolution was adopted by 568 votes for, 79 against and 37 abstentions. 

The Labour MEP told a plenary session of the Parliament that the Assad regime commits widespread atrocities but voting on the resolution presented for adoption ten years after the conflict started raises highly political and ethical dilemmas.

“The European Parliament is entrenched in the belief that it has the compass by which to judge political behaviour elsewhere. Among its criteria, are mentioned the values of human rights as defined in Western Europe, which I share,” he said.

“However, this House interprets them in political mode, even if we pretend differently. Double standards prevail when votes are decided and slanted information snippets get slit into resolutions.

“On Russia, the Crimea and Navalny; on China, the Uighurs and Hong Kong; on Turkey and the Kurds; on Venezuela; on Myanmar; on the Catalan representation in this House, the arising issues demand a principled, non-eurocentric and consistent approach. We do not have it, even as admittedly, more reprehensible developments occur in situations outside our parliamentary competence, upon which we seek to stand in judgement”.

In his statement to the plenary of the European Parliament, Alfred Sant said that in the circumstances, in order to remain coherent with the values he believes in, he could only abstain or stay absent on resolutions like this one on Syria, even though the evidence of reprehensible state action remains very strong.

In a reaction, Nationalist MEP and European Parliament vice-president Roberta Metsola said Sant’s stand was “reprehensible”.

“Sant wants you to believe that you can remain impartial between the fire brigade and the fire. Even on Syria, with all the blood-soaked evidence we have seen in the last 10 years. Even if it means propping up the Assad regime. Reprehensible.”

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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