Tuesday, 15 Jun 2021

Grow a backbone! Fury as Ryanair hijack chaos exposes ‘weak’ Brussels – MEPs turn on bloc

Belarus: Polish MEP quizzed on ‘mixed messages’ after interception

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Eurosceptic MEPs and even a Remain-backing former Labour Party politician have questioned Brussels’ clout on the world stage as a result of the incident. They suggested that member states must show more backbone in challenging Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, who was said to have ordered the hijacking to arrest a blogger. It was suggested that EU capitals should be left alone to deal with the fallout of the bizarre event instead of eurocrats in the Belgian capital.

Romanian MEP Cristian Terhes told Express.co.uk: “The Belarus scandal proves that when the national states are strong the EU is strong, and when they are weak the EU is weak.

“For decades, we were told that the European Commission needs more power in order to do things, but this is an example which proves that the strength of the EU comes from national states, not the European bureaucracy.

“The only ones that have the power to protect the rights and liberties of the citizens are national leaders.

“They have to be strong, and, with one voice, condemn the terrorist act of Lukashenko and demand the release of those that he took hostage.”

German MEP Gunnar Beck added: “As usual the EU’s response to this type of international issue will be slow and half-hearted.

“Whenever the EU tries to take action on the international stage it always ends up as a disappointing response and in many cases makes the situation worse.

“Foreign policy, according to the EU treaties, is a matter for member states.

“Ursula von der Leyen is trying to divert attention away from her recent failures, notably over vaccinations by looking to score points on rule of law issues.”

EU leaders are set to discuss their response to the crisis, with fresh sanctions against Belarus one of the options currently on the table.

It comes after President Lukashenko ordered fighter jets to intercept a Ryanair plane from Greece to Lithuania.

As the airliner neared the end of its journey, its crew was warned by Belarusian air traffic control that there had been a report of a bomb on board and was told to land at Minsk airport.

When it touched down, political activist Roman Protasevich, 26, was arrested by state security officers.

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Brussels is understood to be pondering whether it can bar planes from Belarusian airspace and stop its national carrier from landing at the bloc’s airports.

Ahead of a summit of European leaders, Council President Charles Michel said: “What happened is an international scandal, the lives of European civilians were at risk. This not acceptable and is why we put the sanctions debate on the table of the European Council.

“We are preparing options and different measures and I hope that tonight we can take decisions.”

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Dominic Raab tells UK airlines to avoid Belarus airspace

But Dennis MacShane, a former Europe minister in Tony Blair’s Government, suggested that it was member states that had to take responsibility for the EU’s response.

The ex-Labour MP said: “It’s getting surreal to keep reading EU must act, EU must do.

“It’s national governments that determine EU foreign policy. Can we start saying Merkel, Macron, Draghi must act and give up pretence Brussels for now is a serious foreign policy player. It can talk, not walk.”

Ahead of the talks, the UK already moved to recommend that our airlines should avoid Belarusian airspace as a result of the hijacking. 

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