Wednesday

29th Sep 2021

Far left and right MEPs less critical of China and Russia

  • MEPs from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Romania, and Bulgaria tend to be much more critical of Russia than others (Photo: Europeam Parliament)

MEPs have shown consistent support for action against authoritarian regimes - except for Russia or China, which tends to split the far left and right from the political mainstream, according to a recent study.

But unanimity requirements in the votes of the European Council are considered a clear impediment for a more effective EU foreign policy.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The two-year-long research led by the Hungarian think-tank Political Capital Institute is based on the results of over 90 votes cast in the European Parliament from July 2019 to May 2021.

The majority of MEPs supported action against the Belarus and Syrian regimes (over 80 percent) and authoritarian practices in Chad, Haiti or Pakistan (over 90 percent).

However, MEPs tend to be more divided when voting on resolutions on China and Russia.

The report confirms that the image of China is rather "negative" in the European Parliament, which is reflected, for example, in the almost unanimous vote in favour of freezing the ratification of the EU-China investment deal.

While all mainstream groups in the EU Parliament are highly critical of China, the only open supporters of Beijing appeared to be from the leftist group The Left (formerly known as the GUE/NGL Group).

Far-right national parties, such as Germany's AfD, tend to criticise Beijing's policies, although they generally abstain in resolutions that condemn China's actions.

But, overall, the Identity and Democracy (ID) group is seen "somewhat resilient to Chinese influence" because the group's largest national party, Italy's League, is strongly critical of Beijing.

The report also notes that the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) is considered among the most China-friendly of mainstream parties, as members of the national delegation apparently coordinated to be absent during the voting of two resolutions concerning the Uyghurs and Hong Kong.

Kremlin's appeal

By contrast, Russian interests are backed by both the far-left and the far-right in the EU Parliament.

Both ID and The Left can be considered "highly vulnerable to Russian influencing efforts," the report reads, pointing out that "they regularly recite pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives in plenaries".

Broadly, all mainstream groups in the EU Parliament are highly critical of the Kremlin - but there are a few exceptions among the national delegations, such as the Latvian Russian Union in the Greens or the Estonian Center Party in Renew.

Nevertheless, MEPs from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Romania, and Bulgaria tend to be much more critical of Russia than the average.

The report shows that the Kremlin's European alliances in the EU Parliament can be changing constantly.

It points out how Italy's League's voting behaviour on Russia changed in late 2020 to become more critical - or how MEPs from France's Les Républicains have gradually become more friendly towards Russia.

According to the researchers, Russia uses its financial and natural resources to undermine European resistance or disrupt EU unity, which has been the case in the Nord Stream 2 project. The plan is supported by often Kremlin-critical parties who back the EU's sanctions policy, such as the majority of the German CDU/CSU and Austria's ÖVP.

Additionally, the report concludes that both sides of the political spectrum, not only its extremes, seem to be more defensive to regimes close to them ideologically.

For example, resolutions on Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela were approved by a narrow margin due to left-wing groups' hesitancy to support the proposals.

The resolutions on Cuba and Bolivia were rejected by the majority of members from Socialists and Democrats and the Greens. Most socialist MEPs also abstained on the resolution slamming the 2020 Venezuelan parliamentary elections to be illegitimate.

Meanwhile, the right-oriented groups were more likely to abstain on or reject a text criticising the situation of Ethiopian migrants in detention centres in Saudi Arabia.

Opinion

Ukraine - Zelensky's authoritarian turn?

President Volodymyr Zelensky has begun his third year mired in mid-term unpopularity with a poll showing only 21.8 percent of Ukrainians would vote to re-elect him. More than half would prefer him not even to run for a second term.

Opinion

Stopping the authoritarian rot in Europe

A few weeks ago, the European Union underwent a fundamental change: it ceased being a bloc of exclusively democratic states. Even worse - leaders across Europe barely flinched.

Study shows how authoritarian regimes gain EU leverage

Currently, only 20 percent of MEPs show tendencies to support authoritarian powers - but that could change after the pandemic, a new study warns. It also calls for an improved vetting of MEPs, tougher lobbying rules, and better cybersecurity.

Opinion

Covid-19 is a gift for authoritarians and dictators

From Iran, to Egypt, to Saudi Arabia, to Algeria, to Turkey, to Thailand, and even within the EU bloc with Hungary, the coronavirus pandemic is providing cover for authoritarian leaders to dispense with democracy - and even eliminate opponents.

EU eyes four trends shaping next decades in new report

The green and digital transition, together with the pressure on democracy and the shift in the shares of the global population and GDP, will shape the geopolitical world order, according to a new report published by the European Commission.

Opinion

September's Russian election - a glimmer of hope?

The parliamentary elections set for 17-19 September could be an opportunity for democracy in Russia - amidst voter dissatisfaction over economic recession, growing inflation, environmental problems and an unfolding health crisis.

News in Brief

  1. Navalny to get EU human-rights prize
  2. Nato patrols Kosovo-Serbia border as tensions soar
  3. EU lorry drivers will not help UK
  4. Dutch PM gets extra security on bike commute to work
  5. Berliners vote to expropriate corporate landlord apartments
  6. Polish minister calls for border state-of-emergency extension
  7. More Polish regions bin anti-gay declarations
  8. Russia bypasses Ukraine to ship EU gas via Turkey

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. Panama to stay on EU tax-haven blacklist
  2. Moldova to EU: Help us go after fugitives
  3. Election means three-party German government likely
  4. Lagarde urges EU to use market power to fix gas price
  5. MEPs 'disappointed' at observer-status at new EU health body
  6. An economist on 'elephant-in-room' at German election
  7. Afghan withdrawal may spark ex-forces terrorism in Europe
  8. Book Club: The Last Bluff

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us