MEPs were asked to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 13 voted no. Here's why

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By Orlando Crowcroft
People hold banners during a demonstration in front of the Federal Chancellery, in Berlin, Thursday Feb. 24 2022, following the Russian attack of Ukraine
People hold banners during a demonstration in front of the Federal Chancellery, in Berlin, Thursday Feb. 24 2022, following the Russian attack of Ukraine   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

From a TV screen above the plenary of the European Parliament on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made an impassioned call for Europe to prove that it supported his invaded country.

Earlier, parliamentarians had stood at their desks applauding Ukraine and wearing blue and yellow flags. Outside the parliament, Ukrainians and their supporters maintained a noisy vigil.

Sat at a table wearing a t-shirt, Zelenskyy’s speech was so moving that even the parliament's translator was choked with tears. After a debate, MEPs were then asked to vote on a resolution that called on Russia to cease the violence and condemned the war Vladimir Putin had started.

A massive majority - 637 MEPs - from the far left to the far right, from Romania to Portugal to Finland, united and voted yes.

Mick Wallace voted no.

“Much of the resolution is important and necessary,” Wallace told Euronews on Wednesday.

“It correctly condemns Russian aggression and calls for humanitarian support for Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees. These are terms we wholeheartedly support.”

But much of it, Wallace said, was not. It called for the strengthening of NATO’s forward military presence, a dramatic increase in defence spending and the strengthening of the European pillar within NATO. It calls for the replacement of Russian with American oil, extracted through fracking.

“We sought to remove these elements from the resolution, but the majority in the European Parliament has voted to keep them. We are now asked to vote on the text as a whole, which includes these provisions. We are opposed to war, and we are opposed to this resolution.”

Wallace wasn’t alone in opposing the resolution on Tuesday, six others from the parliament’s Left group also voted no: Clare Daly, Özlem Demirel, Sandra Pereira, João Pimenta Lopes, Martin Schirdewan, Miguel Urban Crespo.

But equally, it was not a party platform, French MEP Manon Aubry, and co-chair of the Left, was one of the sponsors of the bill.

Aubry told Euronews that six amendments to the bill that "significantly improved the text", including adding the call for an immediate ceasefire, greater involvement for the United Nations and OSCE and calling for refugees to be welcomed, were added after an intervention from the Left.

"I co-signed the initial text and voted the final text as co-chair of the group because I wanted to send a clear political message denouncing Putin's irresponsible aggression and supporting the Ukrainian people," she said.

"Other delegations decided to abstain or vote against the text because they wanted to insist on the risk of a global war on the continent if the EU enters the vicious circle of military escalation."

Irish MEP Daly said she voted against the resolution because it calls for increasing weapons supply to Ukraine, something that will “only make the situation worse”.

"The only way in which the conflict can be ended is through peace talks and negotiation. Throwing in more weapons into the situation simply puts petrol on the fire,” Daly told Euronews.

“It is really regrettable that NATO and the US and the EU are not supporting the idea of an internationally brokered peace agreement. This is the only solution. Ironically it is only the Chinese putting this forward now, but this is the only way.”

German MEP Demirel also told Euronews that the resolution would only “pour oil on the fire” of the conflict, and accused European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen of using the situation - including Zelenskyy’s speech - of an excuse to push forward a wider agenda: transforming the EU “into a tangible and powerful military union,” she said.

Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
European Council President Charles Michel listens to an address via remote link by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during an extraordinary plenary session on Ukraine.Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

“I think it is cynical to abuse the suffering of the Ukrainians for something like this. The peoples in Ukraine, of Europe and the world want to live in peace and social security.”

Spanish MEP Crespo said that while he “totally condemned Putin’s invasion of Ukraine”, the resolution would only escalate the situation. “Faced with two giants putting on the table more and more weapons, more missiles and beginning to threaten with nuclear weapons, the only way out is to demand to go all the ways to peace. Otherwise, it will only lead to death and destruction,” he said.

Schirdewan responded through a spokesperson with a statement by the German Die Linke delegation, which said that although it condemned Russia's invasions as a "blatant breach of international law", it was against sending arms to Ukraine.

"The intended delivery of lethal equipment to the Ukrainian army worth 450 million euros ultimately means the final departure from the common position of the EU arms export directives, which prohibit arms exports to war and crisis zones. These arms exports are a breach of taboo in European foreign policy," it said.

'An imperialist war'

Some who were against the resolution, however, went further.

In a statement, two of the non-aligned members of the parliament who voted no, Kostas Papadakis and Lefteris Nikolaou-Alavanos said that the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) condemned "the imperialist war, which is the result of the imperialist competition for spheres of influence and wealth-producing resources that the resolution enhances, as it is moving in the dangerous direction of escalating the imperialist competition with EU-NATO military equipment and sanctions. 

"Condemning capitalist Russia's invasion of Ukraine is combined with condemning the US-NATO-EU war crimes against the peoples of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. Peoples should not choose an imperialist."

Lopes and Pereira, who responded to Euronews through a spokesperson, echoed that view.

In their statement, the Portuguese Communist Party members accused the European Union and NATO of supporting a coup d'etat in Ukraine in 2014, described the Russian invasion as a “military intervention” and echoed the Kremlin’s line that Ukraine was controlled by fascist forces. It accused NATO and the EU - although, notably, not Moscow - of “war-mongering”.

Wallace, meanwhile, told Euronews that his voting record on the issue to be misrepresented, and while he voted against the resolution, he and fellow Irish MEP Daly had consistently condemned war, wherever it was.

"We will continue to oppose both Russian aggression and the militarisation of Europe, which are not in the interests of Ukrainians, Russians, Europeans, or anyone else," he said.