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9th Aug 2020

EU calls George Floyd's death 'abuse of power'

  • 'This is an abuse of power, and this has to be renounced and has to be combat in the US and everywhere,' Josep Borrell said (Photo: European Commission)

The EU's foreign affairs chief on Tuesday (2 June) called the death of black American George Floyd by police in the US an "abuse of power" and urged a de-escalation of tensions.

"We are shocked and appalled by the death of George Floyd," Josep Borrell told reporters on Tuesday.

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"All societies must remain vigilant against the excessive use of force and ensure that all such incidents are addressed swiftly and effectively and in full respect of the rule of law and human rights," he added.

The EU's top diplomat said that, especially in societies based on rule of law, democratic representation and respect of freedom, people enforcing order must not used their powers as in the Floyd's case.

"This is an abuse of power, and this has to be renounced and has to be combat in the US and everywhere," Borrell said.

The arrest of Floyd in Minnesota was captured by a cellphone video that went viral and showed a police officer pressing his knee on Floyd's neck as he moaned: "Please, I can't breathe."

It ignited days of protests across the US against racism and police brutality.

US president Donald Trump threatened and later ordered to send military to quell the protests if local authorities fail to stop them.

"We support the right to peaceful protest," Borrell said, adding: "We condemn violence and racism of any kind, and call for a de-escalation of tensions".

He said the EU trusts the "the ability of Americans to come together, to heal as a nation, and to address this important issue".

Borrell echoed one of the key themes of the protests, when he added: "All lives matter, black lives also matter".

Asked if EU officials raised the specific issue with US counterparts, a commission spokesman told EUobserver : "We are in regular contact with our US counterparts at all levels on all issues of mutual interest and concern.

Over the weekend thousands of people marched in European capitals in support of the US protests.

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar on Tuesday tweeted that "racism is a virus that we have been fighting for millennia".

"Despite the progress we have made, it is no less virulent today and no less dangerous. We need to show solidarity as people of all races and backgrounds around the world come together to stop its spread and defeat it," he said.

Meanwhile, liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld argued in a note published on Monday that the response of the US government requires an official political answer by the EU.

She said the "blatant violations of freedom of assembly and freedom of the press" plus the "inflammatory" tweets of US president Donald Trump, put into doubt EU-US cooperation on data and justice.

"Sharing of personal data, of law enforcement information and intelligence, or US authorities even getting direct access to data bases in Europe without judicial intervention, require strong legal safeguards and a robust rule of law," the Dutch MEP wrote.

"Cooperation agreements can only work if both sides apply the same rule of law standards. The attitude of the White House puts this in doubt," she said.

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