By an overwhelming majority of 494 votes in favour, 58 against and 44 abstentions, the European Parliament has appointed this Wednesday Russia as State Promoter of Terrorismas the Ukrainian president has been demanding Volodimir Zelensky. The declaration does not have any immediate practical consequence due to the lack of powers of the European Parliament in foreign policy, but constitutes a strong political gesture of support for Ukraine in the Kremlin’s war of aggression.
The original resolution was presented by the European Conservatives and Reformists, the radical right-wing group led by the Polish government party Law and Justice (which defends a line of maximum hardness against the Kremlin), to which Vox also belongs. The text has also had the support from the European People’s Party and Renew liberals, as well as socialists and greens.
“The deliberate attacks and atrocities carried out by the Russian Federation against the Ukrainian civilian population, the destruction of civilian infrastructure and other serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law constitute acts of terror against the Ukrainian population and war crimes“, upholds the resolution.
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For all this, the European Parliament “recognizes Russia as a State promoter of terrorism and as a State that uses terrorist means”. In the debate prior to the vote, the head of community diplomacy, Josep Borrellsaid that he took note of the decision but reminded the parliamentarians that “the EU does not have a legal framework to designate a third country as a State promoter of terrorism”.
The European Parliament is the first EU institution to designate Russia as a terrorist state. Until now, the parliaments of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and the Czech Republic or the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe have already passed resolutions along the same lines. But European leaders are loath to take a similar step for fear of further escalating the conflict with Moscow.
In line with what Borrell denounced, the resolution of the European Parliament calls on the governments to develop a legal framework for the designation of States as promoters of terrorism, which should translate into a major sanctions package against those countries. Russia would have to be one of the first to appear on this new blacklist.
The United States does have a specific legal instrument to designate States that “have repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism”. In the current one, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria appear on the list. Inclusion means restrictions on foreign aid, a ban on exporting military material to these governments, controls on dual-use civilian and military technologies, and financial sanctions.
However, the American president, Joe Biden, has refused to name Russia as a state promoter of terrorism. His spokeswoman explains that this measure “is not the most effective or robust way” to “hold Russia to account.” The designation would hamper the delivery of aid to war-torn parts of Ukraine and jeopardize a United Nations-Turkish sponsored deal to allow grain to leave Ukrainian ports.
The resolution approved by the European Parliament asks the EU governments to approve a ninth package of sanctions against the Kremlin and that “take steps to start a complete international isolation of the Russian Federation”. The MEPs also demand to include the mercenary network of the Russian Wagner Group in the EU list of terrorist organizations.
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