Metsola takes Sant to task over Navalny resolution abstention

Labour MEP Alfred Sanrt abstains on Russia resolution, accused by Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola of parrotting Russian propaganda

The heads of Malta’s European Parliament delegations have gone head-to-head after Labour MEP Alfred Sant abstained on a resolution condemning Russian human rights violations and the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Former Labour Prime Minister Alfred Sant abstained on a European Parliament resolution on Russia, calling on the EU and Russia to be less confrontational and more objective.

Sant said the Parliament’s position as described in the resolution contained rhetoric that can only lead to further escalation of hostile sentiments between the two sides. “Clearly, the end point to such escalation could be war, for which the blame would not be attached to only one side.”

The resolution is one of a series of European Parliament resolutions dealing with Russia and mainly addresses the recent deployment of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, the imprisonment of Russian activist Alexei Navalny, and alleged illegal activities by Russian military intelligence service on the territory of the Czech Republic which caused explosions of an ammunition depot back in 2014.

Notwithstanding his abstention, Alfred Sant condemned without any reservations the treatment being given across the line to opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“As a full member of the Council of Europe, Russia is failing to honour its commitment under the Council’s charter. However, the resolution repeats and amplifies accusations that are part of a long exchange game between Russia and its critics. The objectivity and transparency of these claims are doubtful,” Alfred Sant said.

Sant said the EU’s relationship with Russia should be based on a mutual respect of international law, human rights standards and fundamental freedoms, with the aim of strengthening peace and security in the region.

Sant’s abstention was enough for Nationalist head of delegation and European Parliament vice-president Roberta Metsola to accuse him of “parroting Russian propaganda” on the very day that the Russian Federation sanctioned European Parliament President, David Sassoli, and the European Commission’s Vice-President, Vera Jourova.

“It is a betrayal of Maltese and European values. It is a shocking slap in the face to the expectation of collegiately in the face of third-country aggression. It is a blow to all of those pushing for justice and respect for human rights under unimaginable pressure looking to the Parliament for support,” Metsola said.

“Perhaps worst of all, it exposes the worst kind of weakness, submission and hypocrisy – traits that will be used by autocrats who know now who they can rely on in the European Parliament.

“17 years to the day after Malta joined the EU despite their best efforts, the Labour Party is yet to understand what it means. What is Robert Abela’s position? Does he stand with his Head of Delegation?”

In the resolution, MEPs said that should military build-up lead to an invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the EU must make clear the consequences for such a violation of international law and norms would be severe. Such a scenario must result in an immediate halt to EU imports of oil and gas from Russia, the exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT payment system and the freezing of assets and cancellation of visas for Europe of all oligarchs tied to the Russian authorities.

The resolution also deplores the revelation that the Russian intelligence services set off the explosion of an arms depot in Vrbětice, Czechia, in 2014, in which two Czech citizens were killed.

It also called for the immediate and unconditional release of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose sentencing is politically motivated and runs counter to Russia’s international human rights obligations. It was approved by 569 votes in favour, 67 against with 46 abstentions.

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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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