Tuesday

16th Apr 2024

Exclusive

Far-right MEP resigns from EU Endowment for Democracy

  • Vladimir Putin's Russia illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimea. MEP Thierry Mariani claims most in the region are pro-Russian anyway (Photo: kremlin.ru)

French far-right MEP Thierry Mariani has resigned from the governors' board of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED).

The organisation was set up in 2013 by the EU and offers grants to support media and civil society overseas.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

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

... or subscribe as a group

  • MEP Mariani (l) with Italy's hard-right leader Matteo Salvini (Photo: Thierry Mariani)

The endowment's main objective is "to foster and encourage 'deep and sustainable democracy' in transition countries and in societies struggling for democratisation."

But Mariani's pro-Kremlin views on Ukraine, and his support for Russia's annexation of Crimea, had riled his critics, who say he has no business being part of the endowment.

On Wednesday (9 September), Mariani said he had informed the president of the endowment's board, fellow MEP David McAllister, that he was stepping down.

"The letter will leave tomorrow. We didn't have time. I resigned effectively as I had announced to president McAllister. I prefer to resign," he told EUobserver.

He said he resigned because he did not want to be suspected of leaking documents to the Russians - and he blamed an article in French outlet Mediapart for stirring up criticism against him.

"This is a way to despise, and I repeat 'despise', all these intolerant people who exclude anyone who doesn't share their views," he said of his resignation.

Mariani was one of the nine MEPs nominated by the European Parliament to be a member of the EED board of governors.

The board provides overall guidance to the EED mandate, procedures and EED's overall development.

An EED spokesperson said Mariani had no influence over EED grant-making decisions.

"Since his nomination, Mr Mariani, has not participated in any board of governors meetings so far," said the spokesperson, in an email.

His critics have pointed out that Mariani visited Crimea over the summer to observe a constitutional referendum that took place in Russia.

Mykola Tochytskyi, Ukraine's ambassador to the EU, had condemned Mariani's visit and said it was illegal.

McAllister even issued a statement at the time, announcing any MEP who went on the trip did so on their own initiative, and not as a member of the European Parliament.

Mariani said he had gone to Crimea some 15 times over the years to observe the renovation of a French military cemetery in Sevastopol.

"I was following the restoration of the largest French military cemetery outside France, which is in Sevastopol. I followed this restoration from 2005 until around the beginning of 2013," he said.

As for Russia's annexation, deemed illegal by the European Union, Mariani claims most in the region are pro-Russian anyway.

His resignation is likely to be praised by rights groups.

Earlier this week, they had issued a statement demanding Mariani's removal.

They said no one at the Identity and Democracy group (I&D), the far-right faction at the European Parliament, should have a seat on the endowment.

"Their trip [to Crimea] was none other than further proof that the I&D group is fundamentally opposed to European values," they said.

However, EUobserver understand Mariani's replacement will be Jerome Riviere, another far-right French MEP from the I&D.

Feature

Crimeans seek stable life under Russian control

Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, there has been a somewhat mixed reaction to the increased Russian presence on the peninsula. Some welcome it, others reject it in hushed voices.

Opinion

Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea

Together with many other partners, including the United States, Canada and Norway, the European Union has implemented a policy of non-recognition and sanctions regimes, targeting people and entities that have promoted Russia's illegal annexation.

West told Ukraine to abandon Crimea, document says

US moved warships out of Russia's way. Germany urged Ukraine not to fight - newly-published minutes of a Kiev crisis meeting in 2014 show how the West let Putin seize Crimea out of "fear."

Kazakhstan lobbies MEPs ahead of human rights vote

Kazakhstan has been lobbying the European Parliament to scupper a vote on human rights, as it attempts to gain international standing. But most political groups will move ahead to pass a resolution naming victims of the regime.

Court verdict sees sun set on Greece's Golden Dawn

While the leaders of Greece's Golden Dawn facing lengthy jail terms, the atmosphere remains tense in Athens and some other parts of Greece. Depending on the exact sentencing, further clashes between anarchist-leftists and remnants of the extreme-right may ensue.

Opinion

How Hungary's teachers are taking on Viktor Orban

Orban and his administration are pursuing a strategy of running-down public education in Hungary. They have been explicit in their aims and how their assault on 'non-Christian' teachers is a small price to pay for the cultural shift they want.

Column

What do we actually mean by EU 'competitiveness'?

Enrico Letta and Mario Draghi are coming up with reports on the EU's single market and competitiveness — but although 'competitiveness' has become a buzzword, there's no consensus on a definition for what it actually means.

Latest News

  1. How Hungary's teachers are taking on Viktor Orban
  2. What do we actually mean by EU 'competitiveness'?
  3. New EU envoy Markus Pieper quits before taking up post
  4. EU puts Sudan war and famine-risk back in spotlight
  5. EU to blacklist Israeli settlers, after new sanctions on Hamas
  6. Private fears of fairtrade activist for EU election campaign
  7. Brussels venue ditches far-right conference after public pressure
  8. How German police pulled the plug on a Gaza conference

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us