EU leaders must stand up to Trump, say MEPs
By Eszter Zalan
MEPs urged EU leaders to stand up to US president Donald Trump and defend European values on Wednesday (1 February) amid concerns over the travel ban to the US for refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Several MEPs also called for the EU council and commission to reject the favourite to become US ambassador to the bloc, Ted Malloch. He has said in recent interviews that the euro could collapse soon, and that the EU "needs a little taming", seemingly comparing it to the Soviet Union.
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MEPs stressed the importance of EU-US relations, and an openness to working with the new US administration, but also called on EU leaders meeting in Malta on Friday to unite against those who want to divide and weaken the EU.
"The US is our closest ally. But Donald Trump wants Europe to be split and weak. So does Russian President Vladimir Putin," Manfred Weber leader of the centre-right European People's Party group said in the European Parliament on Wednesday.
"This is why we need to show them that we are united and strong and that Europeans are standing up for their values."
Gianni Pittella, leader of the Socialist group, called the Trump's travel ban an attack on the rule of law.
He labelled claims that the policy was aimed at border management or fighting terrorism "a populist lie".
Both said they would object to a US ambassador who "wants to destroy" the bloc, although the EP does not have a role in accrediting ambassadors.
Let's not forget the voter
Syed Kamall, leader of the conservative group of MEPs, said the travel ban was arbitrary and played into the hands of extremists.
"Sending a message that there is some inherent contradiction between being a good Muslim and a good citizens of a Western democracy plays into the arms extremist groups like Daesh [ISIS], who make the exactly the same claim when they recruit disillusioned people as terrorists," he warned.
But he also warned his fellow MEPs not to overlook the causes of disillusionment with the status quo.
"Every time a mainstream politician dismisses those who disagree with the current direction of political travel, dismisses them as racist or populist, they simply display an inability to offer a credible alternative," he said.
'He's lying to you'
There was one voice of unequivocal support for Donald Trump and his travel ban - it came from former Ukip leader Nigel Farage.
He told MEPs they were only upset because in the US they see a real democracy in action.
"A genuinely elected democrat is doing what he was elected to do," Farage argued, saying that former US president Barack Obama has also banned Iraqis from entering the US for six months and nobody protested.
"Trump is motivated by protecting the US from Islamic terrorism, while you have welcomed these people into your own homes," Farage told MEPs amid shouts and boos.
Labour MEP Seb Dance, sitting behind Farage, held up a sign during the former UKIP leader's speech, saying "He is lying to you", until an usher asked him to put down the sign.
In a statement later, Dance said he held up the sign because that was the only way to protest against Farage's speech.
"Mainstream politics must be more willing to challenge the nationalists and the populists. They pretend to stand up for people who are suffering but their diet of hate, division and suspicion creates only misery and poverty," he said.
"It’s time to stop the nuanced language: They’re liars."
UKIP’s Bill Etheridge has filed a complaint to EP president Antonio Tajani over the incident.
According to the complaint seen by this website, Etheridge said Dance's sign was making a "defamatory personal remark".
“The officials failed to remove him until the end of the speech and when I raised the matter it was not treated with sufficient seriousness by the acting chair," he wrote.