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28th May 2022

War puts Russian ties with EU radical parties on the spot

  • MEPS have accused far-right populist parties of serving Putin's objectives to undermine EU democracy — either for money or political gains (Photo: European Parliament)
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The war in Ukraine has turned attention to the long-standing ties between some European political parties and the Russian government.

"This is the right time to reflect on whether we have not been too naive vis-à-vis [Russian president Vladimir] Putin and the Russian regime. I believe we have been naive," the EU commissioner for transparency and values Věra Jourová told MEPs on Wednesday (6 April) during the plenary debate.

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  • Matteo Salvini’s League party was also condemned by MEPs for openly promoting his ties with the Kremlin back in 2017 (Photo: Twitter)

The Kremlin, Jourová said, has been preparing the ground with disinformation campaigns since 2014 when Moscow annexed Crimea and recognised Russian-backed separatist-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Putin has supported extremist groups encouraging them with propaganda which leads to "polarisation" and "division in European societies," she added.

But Russian disinformation has been underestimated, Jourová said. "We didn't fight it, we didn't do anything."

EU lawmakers have accused far-right and populist political parties of serving Putin's objective to undermine EU democracy — either for money or political gains. These include Italy's League, Germany's Alternative for Germany, Austria's Freedom Party, Hungary's Fidesz and the French National Front party whose candidate, Marine Le Pen, is currently one of the frontrunners in the French presidential race.

"The European extreme right has found in Putin its leader and moral and financial support," French socialist MEP Raphaël Glucksmann said.

Echoing the same message, liberal French MEP Nathalie Loiseau accused the far-right of promoting Russian propaganda and endorsing it.

"The extreme right in Europe says it's patriotic but the problem is the nation that they are defending is the Russia of Putin," she said.

Loiseau slammed Le Pen for accepting loans worth €11m from Russian banks for its election campaign back in 2014 — and saying that Putin could become an "ally" of France again after the war in Ukraine.

Matteo Salvini's League party was also condemned by MEPs for openly promoting his ties with the Kremlin back in 2017 when he was wearing a T-shirt with Putin's face during a visit to Moscow.

But Italian MEP Marco Dreosto said the League party's position is clearly "in the West'' with the Trans-Atlantic Union.

Meanwhile, some MEPs argued that not only far-right political parties are friends with Putin.

"Who is doing more harm? Those who stupidly wear a T-shirt… or [those who make] investments in North Stream?" said conservative lawmaker Ryszard Czarnecki, referring to Germany.

In the wake of the war in Ukraine, Germany froze the certification of the controversial gas pipeline Nord Stream 2. Nevertheless, gas flows continue via Nord Stream 1, a pipeline running from Russia to Germany.

Germany has been leading the opposition against cutting gas supplies from Russia, arguing that such a measure could trigger significant disruptions for the largest economy of the EU.

Spanish MEP Javier Zarzalejos, for his part, warned that Putin has also found sympathy amongst European radical left and separatist movements.

Leftist Irish MEP Clare Daly said on Wednesday that EU attempts to replace Russian gas with "filthy fracked US gas" made her "sick".

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