Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Central European MEPs Massively Against Refugees Resolution

Adelina Marini, September 11, 2015

Voting in the European Parliament of a non-binding resolution on refugees went by nationality. Party unity was destroyed by national differences in attitude towards the migrant-refugee  crisis and the method of dealing with it. As expected, most MEPs from Central European states voted in accordance with the will of their national governments instead of the will of their political groups. So, out of 19 voting Hungarian MEPs (Hungary has 21 seats in the EP) 12 voted against the resolution, regardless of their political orientation, and seven voted “for”. There were no abstentions. Situation is similar with Polish MEPs. Out of 41 voted 18 were against the document, 9 “for” and 14 abstained. Poland has 51 seats in the EP.

With Czech MEPs the ratio is even more in favour of those voting against. Out of 17 participants in the vote only three voted “for” and 10 were against with four abstained. Czech Republic has 21 seats. With Slovak MEPs the situation is mostly level with slight dominance of those supporting the resolution – 4 against 3, but with six abstained out of total 13 Slovak MEPs. Same case with the Latvians. Lithuanians and Estonians, however, in the vast majority supported the resolution. Of the Western European states, again no surprise, there is a great divide in views of British and French MEPs. Out of 58 voting British MEPs 34 voted “against” and 24 “for”. With the French the “for” votes dominated – 37 to 23 “against”. 

The “excellent students” in the vote were Slovenia, Malta, Luxembourg, and Ireland. They voted 100% support to the resolution and in the cases of Malta and Luxembourg all of their MEPs voted, while one of the eight Slovenian MEPs did not participate in the vote. Five Irish MEPs did not vote, shows VoteWatch data. Bulgarian MEPs voted “for” en masse – 11 people. Nikolay Barekov and Angel Dzhambazki voted loyal to the position of their group European Conservatives and Reformists (against). Sergei Stanishev, leader of PES, and a large part of the Turkish ethnic party DPS (ALDE) MEPs – Filiz Hyusmenova, Nedzhmi Ali, and Ilhan Kyuchyuk did not participate in the vote. Croatian MEPs, too, almost unanimously supported the resolution with the exception of Ruža Tomašić (ECR), who voted according to the group’s command. 

The largest disunity, as usual, was in the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group where Italian MEPs of the Beppe Grillo “Five Stars” movement voted en masse in support of the resolution and the British from Nigel Farage’s UKIP voted against. Dissent was traditionally demonstrated by the ECR as well, but it was significantly smaller. The resolution was backed by 432 MEPs. Against it voted 142 and 57 abstained. The text uses significantly milder tone compared to the draft. This is most noted regarding the European list of safe states of origin, which consist of the Western Balkans countries and Turkey. The draft resolution voiced concern that those countries were labelled safe, while violations of human rights continued to happen there.

In the voted text these countries are not mentioned even as a region. Instead of concern, understanding is shown to the possibility that these countries' citizens' procedural rights could be restricted and request is made that some guarantees are established that their citizens will not be denied the right to asylum. The European Parliament supported the EC’s proposals for relocation and resettlement (both new and old) and urged the Council to vote on it without delay. There was special acknowledgement of the efforts of civil society, which helps and treats refugees humanely and friendly. “...believes that such actions demonstrate true adherence to European values and are a sign of hope for the future of Europe”, is written in the text that was voted on. 

Sharp criticism was aimed at countries, which build walls and there was a general call to member states to create safe and legal routes for the refugees, humanitarian corridors and humanitarian visas. Political “excellent student” groups that unanimously supported the resolution are the initiators – Greens/European Free Alliance – and the far-left group. Mass support was shown in the Socialists and Democrats group where 154 members voted “for” and only two were against. In the EPP, despite the Central European MEPs’ rebellion, support is also massive – 138 to 17, and so was in the group of Liberals – 45 to 6. Marine Le Pen’s group Europe of Nations and Freedoms also voted unanimously -- 35 “against” to one abstained.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev