Thursday

29th Sep 2022

European Parliament puts off Israel trip over far-right MEP

A European Parliament delegation to the Middle East, including Israel, has been thrown into disarray by the presence of far-right politician Marine Le Pen on the 16-strong list of MEPs.

Scheduled to begin next 28 October and run to 4 November, the trip has now been postponed because the group ran into problems with the Israeli authorities over National Front member Mrs Le Pen, daughter of party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

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"The composition of the delegation which includes a person coming from a party whose ranks are linked to anti-semitism and holocaust deniers made it very, very difficult for us," an Israeli diplomat told EUobserver.

The diplomat added that it is now up to the European Parliament to contact the Israelis about a new date and trip.

The decision to postpone the date – officially for "technical reasons" - was taken at Thursday's (26 October) weekly meeting of the political group leaders in the parliament and came after several days diplomatic to-ing and fro-ing to try and find an acceptable solution for all sides.

The draft agenda had included meetings in Israel with prime minister Ehud Olmert, foreign minister Tzipi Livni and defence minister Amir Peretz.

But with the Israelis refusing to schedule high-level meetings with a delegation including Mrs Le Pen, the MEPs risked going to Israel and being ignored by all politicians of consequence making it "rather pointless" as one parliament official said.

On the other hand, according to the official, there was concern on the parliament's side that a national government should not be allowed to dictate the composition of the group.

MEPs are usually quite adamant about this principle, cancelling a delegation to Turkey recently because the Turkish authorities were objecting to the presence of a Cypriot MEP in the delegation.

Division

The official noted that it is likely to be quite difficult to find a solution on the Israeli delegation in the near future as the participation list has been set, indicating that a lot of negotiation with the non-attached MEPs, to whom Mrs Le Pen belongs, is in the offing.

Prior to the postponement decision, members of the delegation were themselves divided on the issue with some wanting to cancel because the trip would be meaningless and others fearing that cancelling the trip would give a platform to the National Front.

Speaking before Thursday's decision was announced, Irish centre-right MEP Simon Coveney, on the delegation list, told EUobserver that he believed the trip should go ahead.

"I don't think we should be cancelling the event … personally I am going because I am interested [in the issue]."

He added that any members of a parliament delegation have to remember that they are representing the views of the EU assembly and not their own personal view points.

Meanwhile, National Front deputy Bruno Gollnisch in plenary on Thursday praised the parliament for taking the decision to postpone the delegation rather than let a government dictate its makeup.

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