While the European Parliament passed on Wednesday (23 November) a resolution to recognise Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, all five members of the group of Bulgarian socialists voted against it.
The resolution comes as a response to developments in Russia’s war in Ukraine, noting deliberate attacks and atrocities committed by Russian forces and their proxies against civilians in Ukraine. It also mentions the destruction of civilian infrastructure and other serious violations of international and humanitarian law that amount to acts of terror and war crimes.
In light of this, they recognised Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and as a state that “uses means of terrorism”, and the resolution was adopted by 494 votes in favour, 58 against, with 44 abstentions.
However, the votes of the Bulgarian socialists were not among those in favour.
A total of 12 MEPs from S&D voted against, including all five MEPs from Bulgaria: Ivo Hristov, Tsvetelina Penkova, Elena Yoncheva, the group leader Petar Vitanov and the former chief of the Party of European Socialists Sergei Stanishev,
All pro-European groups voted overwhelmingly in favour of the resolution. There were no negative votes from the centre-right EPP group from the centrist Renew Europe group. Or from the Greens.
Asked by EURACTIV to comment, Vitanov lamented that there was “not a single word for peace, for negotiations” in the resolution.
Such an attitude, in his words, amounted to closing the doors for a diplomatic solution, especially given the calls to keep contact with Russian representatives to an absolute minimum.
Vitanov also stressed that there was no legal framework for designating states as terrorists or sponsors of terrorism and said it was hardly productive to label states first and try to put together a legal framework later.
EU legal framework needed
As the EU currently cannot officially designate states as sponsors of terrorism, MEPs call on the EU and its member states to put in place a proper legal framework and consider adding Russia to such a list.
This would trigger several significant restrictive measures against Moscow and have profound implications for EU relations.
In the meantime, MEPs call on the Council to include the Russian paramilitary organisation ‘the Wagner Group’, the 141st Special Motorised Regiment, also known as the “Kadyrovites”, and other Russian-funded armed groups, militias and proxies on the EU’s terrorist list.
Isolate Russia more
The outcome of the vote amounts to a call on the European Union to further isolate Russia internationally, including when it comes to its membership in international organisations and bodies such as the United Nations Security Council.
MEPs also want diplomatic ties with Russia to be reduced, EU contacts with official Russian representatives to be kept to the absolute minimum and Russian state-affiliated institutions in the EU spreading propaganda worldwide to be closed and banned.
Against the backdrop of the Kremlin’s escalating acts of terror against Ukrainian civilians, the resolution further calls on EU member states in the Council to swiftly complete its work on a ninth sanctions package against Moscow.
MEPs also want EU countries to actively prevent, investigate and prosecute any circumvention of current sanctions and, together with the European Commission, consider possible measures against countries trying to help Russia circumvent restrictive measures already put in place.
Vitanov, however, said the resolution goes “too far” as if the next step would be “to declare war”.
“I am frightened”, he added.
Other concerns regarding the resolution relating to the embargo on Russian fuel for nuclear centrals.
Bulgaria has a USSR-built nuclear central at the Danube city of Kozlodui, which uses Russian nuclear fuel. The idea of replacing the fuel with a US alternative is facing resistance from experts and politicians.
The other socialist MEPs who voted against the resolution are Italy’s Pitro Bartolo, Andrea Cozzolino and Massimiliano Smeriglio, Slovakia’s Monika Beňová and Róbert Hajšel, Germany’s Dietmar Köster and Joachim Schuster.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged the United States and other countries to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, accusing its forces of targeting civilians, which Moscow denies.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has so far refused to list Russia despite resolutions in both chambers of Congress urging him to do so.
The US State Department currently names four countries – Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria – as state sponsors of terrorism, meaning they are subject to a defence export ban and financial restrictions.
In the EU, the parliaments of four countries have so far designated Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, according to the European Parliamentary Research Service: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]
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