EU's deep concerns about Chechnya:
Berlusconi is not free to ignore the Parliament
Green/EFA MEPs reacted strongly today to Silvio Berlusconi's defence of Russian actions in the province of Chechnya. Reminding the Italian Prime Minister and current President of the Council of the EU of numerous European Parliament resolutions on Chechnya, The Green/EFA Group demanded that the Presidency should properly represent the EU and its concerns, rather than indulging in off-the-cuff defences of human rights abusers.
Bart Staes, Chairman of the European Parliament's Delegation to Russia, said:
"The European Parliament accepted the conclusions of the delegation to Russia that I was part of in June this year, endorsing a resolution that: "firmly condemned the persistent and recurring mass violations of humanitarian law and human rights Russian forces committed against the Chechnyan civilian population." We MEPs agreed that the Russian actions constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity. And yet the President of the Council took it upon himself yesterday to maintain that Russia was acting legitimately in defending itself against terrorists. This is an outrageous position for somebody representing the EU to take."
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Co-President of the Green/EFA Group, said:
"Prime Minister Berlusconi is absolutely free to ignore his political rivals, disregard the opinions of NGOs and accuse the Italian and International media of being biased. But as President of the Council he is not free to entirely disregard the considered opinions of the European institutions. Despite all of our work on this issue Chechnya was not even mentioned during the summit – it only came up at the disastrous press conference afterwards."
Monica Frassoni, Co-President of the Green/EFA Group, said:
"Members of the Parliament have called on the Council and the Member States to raise the issue of Chechnya at their meetings with the Russian Federation in order to make sure that this area does not: "escape international attention and care." Prime Minister Berlusconi's scandalous remarks yesterday are certainly one way of ensuring international attention, but for all the wrong reasons. Berlusconi's inappropriate outbursts may be considered a joke by some, but the dire situation in Chechnya is nothing to joke about."