‘Took us three months!’ MEP slams EUs delay in Russian sanctions – ‘not fit for purpose

Russia: Guy Verhofstadt slams EU slowness on sanctions

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In a speech to the European Parliament yesterday, MEP Guy Verhofstadt has criticised the EU for its delay in sanctioning Vladimir Putin’s Russia for waging a cruel war in Ukraine – and failing to deliver while other countries like the US have imposed stringent measures. MEP Verhofstadt has pulled his whole weight behind a resolution to reform the EU treaties and allow for more flexibilities in EU rules. In his plan, he called for the Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs to amend the veto right, which allowed Hungary’s Viktor Orban last month to block a full EU embargo on Russian oil imports.

In a rant to the European Parliament, Mr Verhofstadt said: “For those who are still doubting if they’re going to vote this resolution, let me maybe recall what happened in the last few weeks in Europe concerning the sanctions.

“The Americans when the war started on 24 February were capable immediately three weeks after that to launch by executive order of Joe Biden an embargo on oil on coal and gas.

“And they did that on 8 March. So, the war starts on 24 February and the 8 March with an executive order, the Americans are ready to stop the funding of the war machine of Putin.

“And you have to compare that with the way we, in Europe, have handled that same issue. For us, it has taken us three months to come to a conclusion.”

Mr Verhofstadt said: “It was on the 4 May that Ms Von der Leyen said: I have a proposal. 2 months after the Americans. And then it has taken three weeks, nearly a month, to decide it and it will be implemented by the end of the year.

“And there will be an exemption for a number of member states, especially for Hungary because of unanimity and the veto right. That’s the reality of today.

“Europe is not fit for the world of tomorrow. The world o tomorrow is not a world of nations states, dear colleagues. The world of tomorrow is a world of empires. If you want it or not, China is an empire, India is an empire, the US are an empire. Russia wants to be an empire.

“And in such a world, only a European union that is not based on unanimity, not based on veto right, not based on such an instrument can survive?”

“Therefore, I think we did a good thing to ask for a convention article 48 and to concentrate us on the main issue blocks the Union for the moment.

“And that is this unanimity rule, this veto right that exists today in our treaties. I think the two articles that we have mentioned are not only articles. I hope that we as Parliament, we want to reform but we will have the chance to discuss that in the Constitutional Affairs Committee.

“But at least, giving up on the veto right on sanctions creating a passerelle clause that was never used. That was created in the treaty. It has never been used since the moment that it was in the treaties. By launching the possibility of having by a qualified majority the launch of the passerelle, I think that is absolutely needed to survive with the European Union in this 21st century.

“So, I hope for a massive yes for the call for this convention to make that a reality.”

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After months of wrangling and hours of intense negotiations, the EU member states reached an agreement on the sixth package of sanctions on Russia, including a ban on Russian oil imports. In a sign of the EU’s division, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, a friend of Putin’s, got an exemption that many EU officials and observers describe as blackmail by holding the EU hostage.

Mr Orban then gloated in a Facebook post: “An agreement was reached. Hungary is exempt from the oil embargo!”

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