Sakharov Prize of the EU Parliament goes to the Ukrainian people this year

Strasbourg (dpa) – “This prize is for the Ukrainians who are fighting on the ground. For those who were forced to flee. For those who have lost loved ones and friends. For everyone who stands up and fights for what they believe in,” said EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola. The prize was intended to recognize the efforts of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, elected representatives and civil society, she said.

Since 1988, the Sakharov Prize has been awarded by the European Parliament to personalities or organizations working to defend human rights and freedom of expression. Last year, it went to imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and the Colombian Truth Commission were also nominated this year. The award is due to be presented in Strasbourg in December. (October 19)

Clash in Strasbourg over Berlusconi’s words about Putin

Brussels (ANSA) – In a matter of hours, Silvio Berlusconi’s words about Vladimir Putin have become an international affair. They arrived in the European Parliament just as the Socialists & Democrats (S&D group) were preparing a sortie against the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Renew group, accusing them of whitewashing the extreme right in Europe. The EPP, a group of which Forza Italia (FI) is part, are in the crosshairs. Their support for Forza Italia is seen as support for a right-wing government that – this is the accusation of a part of the plenary in Strasbourg – risks weakening European positions.

“FI has gone from a pillar of centrism to a crutch of post-fascism. Angela Merkel would never have accepted an alliance with the extreme right,” attacked S&D group leader Iratxe Garzia Perez. “The EPP condemns Berlusconi’s words or it will become an accomplice,” Renew’s liberals urged. Manfred Weber, group leader and president of the EPP, did not go into the matter, but reiterated that “Putin is a war criminal and support for Kiev unites us.”

The reality is that Berlusconi’s words created strong tensions within the group, where they were already regarding the real weight of FI in the government with extreme caution. A part of the EPP makes no secret of wishing for a timely retirement of the “Cavaliere” Berlusconi. Trying to distinguish the positions of Forza Italia from those of the former premier, group vice-president Paulo Rangel said, “Berlusconi’s words are sad, but we have faith in Tajani and Forza Italia.”

In the afternoon, the debate in Straßbourg turned to the ‘rehabilitation of the far right in the EU’. “The Italians are able to choose the government for themselves, get over it,” said the Identity and Democracy Group president Marco Zanni, European parliament member of the Northern League. “I have heard nonsense about Italy, our line on Ukraine will not change”, assured the head of the national delegation Fulvio Martusciello (FI). (October 19)

European Parliament gives thumbs down to Frontex budget

Strasbourg (Belga) – The European Parliament expressed its disapproval in Strasbourg on Tuesday about how the European border security agency Frontex managed its budget in 2020. Thus, the plenary wants to vent its dissatisfaction with the functioning of the agency.

By 345 votes to 284 (8 abstentions), the MEPs refused to grant Frontex the so-called discharge for the 2020 financial accounts, denouncing “the extent of serious misconduct” by former director Fabrice Leggeri and the failure of the agency in its mission to protect the fundamental rights of migrants and asylum seekers.

Frontex has been in the eye of the storm since journalists and NGOs denounced that agency employees were involved in hundreds of pushbacks of migrants from Greece to Turkey in 2020 and 2021. Leggeri resigned in April, following the publication of a report by European anti-fraud agency Olaf showing that executives had tried to cover up the pushbacks.

Founded in 2004, Frontex has grown into the European agency with the highest budget over the past decade, driven by successive migration crises. Currently, more than 2,300 Frontex border guards are already supporting national authorities at the EU’s external borders, and by 2027, the agency is intended to have a permanent corps of 10,000 troops. The budget is also increasing, from 118 million euros in 2011 to 364 million euros in 2020 to 754 million euros in 2022. Parliament’s refusal to grant discharge has no direct impact on these financial resources. (October 18)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Wednesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.