30 Aug 2022

Comment on proposals for bans on EU visas for Russians

It is being reported that the EU foreign ministers are expected to reach a consensus today on restrictions on visas for Russian travellers within the Schengen area, supposedly as a rebuke for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Ministers are expected in most reports to make it more difficult for Russians travelling to the Schengen area to obtain visas, but to stop short of an outright visa ban, which some of the more extreme voices from Eastern and Central European and Baltic Member States have been demanding. Meanwhile, certain Irish MEPs have opportunistically sought publicity by joining the extremist chorus, calling for the Irish government to support an outright ban on visas for Russians.

Either decision - to restrict or ban Russian visas - is a mistake. As the Financial Times makes clear in a Sunday editorial, visa bans would target civilians and affect civilians, not Russian officials.

Though sanctions aimed at degrading Vladimir Putin’s ability to wage his war have inevitably affected ordinary Russian people, they have not targeted them directly. Even bans on Russian planes entering EU airspace and on supplying parts for its aircraft aimed to weaken its economy, not keep Russians out. A visa ban is different, because it specifically targets civilians... Even moderate Russians might turn against the EU.
It is unclear how visa restrictions are supposed to alter Russian government policy. The only arguments that are being made for doing this appeal to the idea that Russian civilians, having elected their government, bear collective responsibility for the invasion of Ukraine, and that they must therefore suffer for it. The Financial Times quotes an unnamed EU official that "[i]t is inappropriate for Russian tourists to stroll in our cities, on our marinas. We have to send a signal to the Russian population that this war is not OK, it is not acceptable."

While it is not made explicit, the idea being outlined here - and in the calls by Eastern and Central European and Baltic politicians - is the idea of collective punishment, something which is not only widely accepted to be morally abhorrent, but is prohibited under international law. It is also difficult to fathom how confining Russians to the Russian Federation, where they are far less likely to meet other Europeans or encounter open criticism of their government’s actions, “sends” any “signal” that the war in Ukraine is “not acceptable.”

In reality, any move to interfere with visas for Russian citizens will send a very different signal. By separating or making life more difficult for millions of binational families, this proposal will alienate Russians who are friendly to the West, and confirm for them that the EU is Russophobic. This is by no means a niche view. It is shared by the governments of France and Germany, and even by Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned pro-Western opposition campaigner, whose words are normally seized upon by EU leaders, but now fall on deaf ears.

The real motive for the calls for visa bans has nothing to do with stopping war in Ukraine, or trying to correct Russian policy. It is instead a transparently vindictive measure, driven by extremist political forces. It is a policy led by emotion, not by practicality or reason. It stands to entrench Russian public opinion behind the Kremlin's position, even as it feeds toxic nationalist fervour in Europe. It is vindictive, counterproductive and stupid. Irish politicians, knowing our own history, should be ashamed to support it.
24 Feb 2022

𝗢𝗳𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗶𝗮𝗹 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗯𝘆 𝗖𝗹𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗗𝗮𝗹𝘆 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗠𝗶𝗰𝗸 𝗪𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗶𝘁𝘂𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗶𝗻 𝗨𝗸𝗿𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗲

The attacks on Ukrainian targets and incursion of Russian forces into Ukraine are an act of aggression and a serious violation of the United Nations Charter. They have already resulted in loss of life. The pretexts President Vladimir Putin is using to justify his decision are contrary to international law and cannot be supported. Russian arguments about its security interests in the face of NATO expansion are valid and should be taken seriously, but they do not justify the decision Russia has now taken. We echo the call of the UN Secretary General António Guterres: the conflict must stop now.
 
The only legitimate forum for addressing Russia’s actions at an international level is the United Nations. Unilateral action from the United States, the European Union, or NATO, only risks further escalation and the further erosion of international law and norms. There is no military solution for what is now happening. We oppose any military response just as unequivocally as we oppose Russia's actions. Russia must withdraw its troops from Ukraine, immediately cease all military operations and resume diplomatic engagement. All parties must work to restore the Minsk process, as the only path to a peaceful resolution of conflict.
 
The responsibility for opening hostilities is solely with President Putin, but we do not withdraw a single of our longstanding criticisms of NATO brinkmanship and the recklessness of Western policy on Ukraine. Both Russia and the West bear responsibility for creating conditions of instability and confrontation in Ukraine in pursuit of their strategic and economic interests. Despite rhetoric, Europe has been no friend of Ukraine. The country has been used as a pawn, and Ukrainian lives have been treated as expendable. It is the first duty of the European anti-war movement to criticise the role of European and allied governments in fanning the flames of conflict, not governments over which it has little influence. In the months to come, it is all the more important that this duty is upheld.
 
Predictably, hawkish elements in government and in the press are now exploiting the crisis to attack the anti-war movement, to propagandise on behalf of NATO, and to undermine Ireland’s policy of neutrality. The Irish public should draw the opposite lesson from what is happening. Ukraine, like Ireland, was once a neutral country. Its loss of neutrality, and its gradual alignment with NATO, is one of the reasons for Russian hostility. Ireland’s strength on the international stage, as a neutral broker for peace in international institutions, is completely undermined by the Irish government aligning itself with belligerents in a geopolitical conflict. Ireland should learn the lesson of Ukraine and take immediate steps to restore its neutrality, by unilaterally withdrawing from EU common defence structures, putting an end to all NATO cooperation, and denying transit and use of its territory to all foreign militaries.
 
Clare Daly
Mick Wallace
01 Dec 2021

Press release: Binding the Guardian – study commissioned by MEP Clare Daly

On the 8th of November we released Binding the Guardian, a study commissioned by MEP Clare Daly, which provides a critical analysis of the European Commission’s annual rule of law reports (2020 & 2021). See press release here: https://claredaly.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Press-release-Binding-the-Guardian-08-11-2021.pdf

24 Nov 2021

6 years in Lithuanian prison for investigative journalism

(The following is a brief explainer and update on the case of Algirdas Paleckis, a Lithuanian journalist currently subject to prosecution on "espionage" charges. The case is an example - along with that of Julian Assange - of how espionage law is being misused in Europe and further abroad to stifle dissent, and how the space for challenging Europe's foreign policy orthodoxy is shrinking.

Photos from my recent visit to Lithuania along with MEPs Mick Wallace and Tatjana Ždanoka to support Paleckis can be found here:  https://www.facebook.com/judejimas.ausra/photos/pcb.139925711712862/139906478381452 )

Algirdas Paleckis (50) is a Lithuanian journalist and politician who was arrested on charges of “espionage for Russia” in 2018. He spent 17 months in the solitary confinement cell before any trial started and is under house arrest since 2020.

In July this year the district court sentenced him to 6 years in prison. A. Paleckis appealed. The district court completely ignored the lack of evidence (see below) and just copy-pasted into its verdict the final speech of the prosecutor. Many Lithuanian courts are known for their dependency on the Government, so A. Paleckis risks spending another 6 years in jail, as the final ruling of the Appeal court approaches (in January or February next year).

The journalist is accused of “gathering and passing to Russia” information about Lithuanian judges who investigated the events of 1991 in Vilnius, as Soviets troops clashed with civilians. However, no proof of it was presented in the court – no documents, or files, or any other type of information allegedly “gathered” by A. Paleckis. Moreover, no person has been identified as a foreign agent who “gave instructions” to him, so no link to foreign services was established.

The prosecutor claims that A. Paleckis contacted with “unidentified” foreign agent, but the whole accusation is based on the testimony of a witness who is a convicted pedophile (Deimantas Bertauskas). It is also based on the secret memos of Lithuanian secret services. Part of the court sittings were also held secret, although the prosecutor admitted that there are no state secrets in A. Paleckis case.

As a journalist and politician, A. Paleckis has been a long-time critic of the Government. His “guilt” was to make his journalistic investigation into the events of 1991 in Vilnius. The authorities feel quite uneasy about this topic, as they already fined him for such investigation in 2012. During its last sitting (on the 16th of November 2021 in Vilnius) Lithuania’s Court of Appeal decided:

  • to reject A. Paleckis’ request to make the psychological expertise of the sole witness in the case who is a convicted pedophile (D. Bertauskas) and on whose testimony the whole case is based. This person was acquitted as a reward for his “testimony”. A parallel exist here with J. Assange case, where a pedophile gave testimony against J. Assange.
  • to reject A. Paleckis’ request to interrogate Mr Butkevicius (a high-ranking official during the events of 1991).
  • to approve A. Paleckis request and ask the State Security Department to present to the court the protocols of secrete interrogations of the mentioned witness. These protocols are still secrete, which is a juridical nonsense because accusation against A. Paleckis are based on them.

The next court sitting is due on 12th of January 2022. If the court will not receive the mentioned secret protocols of secret interrogations (which is quite likely), then final speeches will be pronounced, and the court will convene for a verdict at some point in January or February 2022. The verdict will come into force immediately.

08 Nov 2021

“Binding the Guardian” study out now

Binding the Guardian, a study commissioned by MEP Clare Daly and written by an award winning academic Albena Azmanova, investigates the European Commission’s annual rule of law reports (2020 & 2021). The study questions the Commission’s willingness to protect the rule of law, with reference to its reports on France, Spain and Bulgaria. It investigates the Commission’s failure to properly address France’s increasing use of fast-tracked security laws and discriminatory legislation against Muslim civil society organisations, the assault on political freedoms in Spain, and how it turned a blind eye to the close links between the Bulgarian state and the oligarchic mafia.                 Study accessible here ->http://claredaly.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/BindingtheGuardian.pdf Having trouble with the link above? Download here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1G56dpjpoNvlREvUqBiy8PhZFhCyk0OcY/view?usp=sharing
07 Nov 2021

Bulgaria Rule of Law Booklet

BULGARIA –  A Call to Protect the Rights of Bulgarian Citizens from Systematic rule of Law Infringements under Article 2 of the TEU and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. The European Commission’s rule of law monitoring mechanism fails to review entrenched, systemic rule of law issues in Bulgaria, and is therefore glaringly ineffective at protecting Bulgarian citizens’ rights under Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. See full booklet here: http://claredaly.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/RuleofLawBookletEN.pdf
05 Nov 2021

България – Призив за защита правата на българските граждани от систематични нарушения на върховенството на закона, съгласно Европейското Законодателство

България: Призив за защита правата на българските граждани от систематични нарушения на върховенството на закона, съгласно Европейското Законодателство. Мониторинговият механизъм на Европейската комисия за върховенството на закона не отразява дълбоко вкоренените, системни проблеми на върховенството на закона в България и, поради това, страда от фрапираща липса на ефективност в защитата на правата на българските граждани, съгласно чл. 2 на Договора за Европейския съюз и Хартата на основните права на Европейския Съюз. Вижте повече тук: http://claredaly.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/RuleofLawBookletBG.pdf
12 Oct 2021

Elephant Collective on verdict of inquest into death of Nayyab Tariq

I'm republishing here the important response from Jo Murphy Lawless of the Elephant Collective to the inquest verdict of "medical misadventure" for Nayyab Tariq.

 

We fought long and hard in the Dáil to have the new coroner's bill implemented and to have mandatory inquests in cases of maternal death.

 

This recent tragedy shows just how important that was and continues to be.

 

20 Sep 2021

Protected: The Rule of Law in Bulgaria: letters addressed by Professor Evgenni Dainov to EU Justice Commissioners

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17 Aug 2021

On the developments in Afghanistan

While we watch the scenes from Afghanistan in horror, let's not forget that it was the invasion in 2001 that made all of this inevitable.
This poem from Kevin Higgins, which was written just before the US went into Afghanistan, remembers the dangerous stupidity that gripped the West.
It is important to learn from history. Never again.