Eleni Zaroulia, a deputy from the Golden Dawn party in Greece and her Hungarian colleague Tamás Gaudi Nagy, from the far-right Jobbik party, could see their accreditation withdrawn under a challenge launched yesterday (21 January).
Introducing the challenge on procedural grounds, Italian MP Fiamma Nirenstein accused both members of belonging to political parties which were “racist and anti-semitic” and that the values of these parties were in conflict with the Council of Europe’s ideals and principles (see background).
Both challenges were supported by at least 10 members of the Assembly present in the Chamber, belonging to at least five different national delegations.
“Ms Zaroulia has said in her country’s Parliament that the immigrants were sub-humans who invaded her homeland and spread diseases, » said Nirenstein, as quoted by Reuters. « Mr Gaudi Nagy has told his Parliament that there was a list of Jews representing a threat to national security, and who were exploiting the Holocaust to dominate the world. ”
The Assembly’s Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs will now meet to consider both challenges.
The rulebook envisages three options. The committee may propose either to ratify the credentials – in which case, the President reads out the committee’s opinion without debate – or it may propose not to ratify them, or to ratify them but to deprive or suspend the members concerned of the exercise of some of their rights of participation or representation in the Assembly and its bodies. In the latter two cases, the committee’s report is placed on the Assembly’s agenda for debate later in the week.
Both members continue to sit provisionally in the Assembly until it has reached a decision.
The nomination of both members to the Assembly’s Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, as well as Gaudi Nagy’s membership of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, were also subsequently challenged, by Arlette Grosskost (France, European People’s Party). Under the rulebook, disputed committee nominations are forwarded by the President of the Assembly to the national delegation concerned. If confirmed proposals or new proposals are disputed, the Assembly votes on the matter.
However, the legal challenge is not supported by everyone in the the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE).
Jean-Claude Mignon (France, European People’s Party), the President of PACE, personally took position against challenging the credentials of the two parliamentarians, saying the pair had been elected following what has been considered democratic elections
“It is not the job of the Assembly [PACE] to tell the Hungarians or the Greeks ‘You voted correctly’, or ‘You didn’t vote correctly, ” he was quoted as saying.
This is not the first time that representatives of extremist parties have made it to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Andrew Cutting, the Council of Europe’s media officer in Brussels told EurActiv.
The most recent similar case was in 2004, when the entire delegation from the then ‘Serbia and Montenegro’was challenged because one of its members came from a party whose leader was facing trial at the International Crime Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
At that time, the Assembly decided today that it “cannot but ratify the credentials of the parliamentary delegation of Serbia and Montenegro”, because the failure to do so would would “punish the democratic forces in Serbia and Montenegro represented in its national delegation”.
After that case, the Council of Europe changed its rules to allow individual parliamentarians to be challenged, rather than the entire national delegation.