28th Jan 2020

MEPs to ask Belgium for Hamas visas

The European Parliament is set to ask the Belgian authorities to grant entry visas to Hamas deputies invited for meetings at the EU assembly.

At a meeting in Strasbourg on Thursday (18 May), the parliament's political group leaders jointly decided to request "entry visas for all persons that it would invite for meetings and events, on the grounds that they would come to be present on EU territory, not in Belgium," according to parliamentary sources.

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  • Belgium did not allow deputies from Hamas to attend the last Euro-Mediterranean parliamentary assembly (Photo: European Commission)

The decision follows a letter by Cypriot MEP Adamous Adamou, from the leftist GUE/NGL group, who chairs the parliament's delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

In the letter, Mr Adamou asked what he should do about a joint meeting later this year for which MEPs would host their Palestinian counterparts in Brussels or Strasbourg.

He pointed out that both Belgium and France did not allow deputies from Hamas – which is listed by the EU as a terrorist organisation - to attend the March Euro-Mediterranean parliamentary assembly, saying "the weak reaction of the European Parliament administration contributed to this refusal."

Mr Adamou suggested that the parliament should "exercise pressure to the national governments and authorities to provide entry visas exceptionally to the elected members of the PLC including members of Hamas" for their future visits to any EU institutions.

We can't talk only with Abbas

Mr Adamou is convinced that the EU will not be able to avoid talking with Hamas officials.

"Without approving Hamas' statements or actions, we still know their members have been democratically elected in the poll which we could also observe so we must find a way to communicate with them," he told EUobserver.

He argued that through dialogue would it be possible for the group's representatives to realise that they have to fulfil some basic criteria for the peace process to move on.

"Something must change.. With whom will we be talking, only with president Abbas? That is not enough," Mr Adamou added.

In a bid to reinforce the MEPs' activities in the region, the parliament's political group presidents also decided on Thursday that they would organise extra meetings in both Ramallah and Jerusalem with Palestinian and Israeli MPs in the coming months.

Sweden in controversy over visa for Hamas

The move by the parliament's leaders comes in the wake of controversy over Sweden's decision to grant an entry visa to the Palestinian minister for refugees and radical islamist Hamas member, Atef Udwan.

Thanks to the visa enabling him to travel across the Schengen borderless zone, Mr Udwan later travelled to Germany and met two social democrat parliamentarians and one liberal in Berlin, according to German media.

German chancellor Angela Merkel characterised the visit as "annoying," while her spokesman said the Hamas member is an "unwanted person" in the country.

Israeli government spokesperson Gideon Meir said on Swedish public TV that the visa was "a big mistake" and a "trick" against the rest of the EU.

"Sweden did not notify EU member states that a visa was granted to the Hamas government, which is on the EU list of terrorist organisations."

"We have a feeling that in Sweden, more than in any European countries, people are more hostile to Israel than people in the rest of the world," Mr Meir said.

Swedish foreign minister Jan Eliasson called the Israeli reaction "exaggerated", saying Sweden has and will have good relations to Israel and that Sweden with "all force" supports the pressure on Hamas to accept the two-state solution and renounce violence.

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