Tuesday

23rd Jul 2019

MEPs commemorate victims of French attacks

  • Members of the European Parliament take a moment of silence to remember the victims of terror attacks in France (Photo: European Parliament)

Leaders of anti-establishment parties in the European Parliament have criticised the EU's immigration policies in the wake of the terrorist attacks in France, as protesters of the Pegida-movement in Germany took to the streets again on Monday (12 January).

The European Parliament opened its plenary session in Strasbourg this week with a minute of silence to commemorate the victims of terrorist attacks in France last week.

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It was the first plenary since France was shocked by an assaults on the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

Several MEPs had put up placards on their desks saying “Je suis Charlie” or wore T-shirts with the text, which has become a sign of solidarity with victims.

EP president Martin Schulz read aloud the names of the 17 victims who had been killed by gunmen in France, and on behalf of the parliament expressed condolences to their families.

“We must fight together not to be contaminated by the hatred of terrorists. We must defend freedom for everybody in Europe and throughout the world”, said Schulz.

During the statements by political group leaders that followed, British eurosceptic MEP Nigel Farage said immigration “made it frankly impossible for many new communities to integrate”.

“We're going to have to be a lot braver and a lot more courageous in standing up for our Judeo-Christian culture”, said Farage, who wants the UK to leave the EU and leads a eurosceptic group in the EP.

Far-right MEP Marine Le Pen, leader of France's National Front, connected the attacks to European immigration and security policies.

“Is the total opening of our national borders the real way to control fundamentalists who cross borders at will? Is it not the policies of austerity that have weakened our ability to respond? Or the disarming of our police and armies?”.

Shortly after the opening of the plenary, tens of thousands took to the streets in Germany, as the anti-islam movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) on Monday continued its weekly gatherings.

A record number of 25,000 anti-immigration protesters rallied in Dresden under the flag of Pegida, while around 100,000 anti-Pegida demonstrators showed up, mostly elsewhere in Germany.

Since October, Pegida has marched every Monday in Dresden, and later in other German cities, to protest against what they call the islamisation of Europe. Monday's was the first time they gathered since the terrorist attacks in France.

The German minister for justice, Heiko Maas, had asked the organisers to call off their planned protest for Monday, only three days after the French police ended a three-day security crisis.

“It is simply disgusting how the people behind these protests are trying to exploit the despicable crimes in Paris”, Maas told Bild.

However, the Pegida movement stated on its webpage that the events in France have confirmed their belief.

“The Islamists, which Pegida has been warning about for 12 weeks, showed France that they are not capable of democracy but rather look to violence and death as an answer”, it said.

For her part, German chancellor Angela Merkel and most of her cabinet are planning to attend a rally on Tuesday (13 January) organised by the country's muslim community. She said on Monday that Islam “belongs in Germany”.

Meanwhile, the surviving staff of the Charlie Hebdo magazine on Monday revealed that its next issue, to be published on Wednesday (14 January), will feature a cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammed, holding up a “Je suis Charlie”-sign, below the line “all is forgiven”.

In the US, a spokesperson for president Barack Obama said Washington “should have sent someone with a higher profile” to Sunday's solidarity march in Paris, which was attended by several dozens of government leaders.

The US was represented by its ambassador to France.

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