Monday, April 23, 2007

Discussion of mandate of Polish MEP Bronisław Geremek

Before the voting session, Parliament discussed the situation of MEP Bronisław Geremek, who is facing a legal challenge to his mandate in Poland. Vice-President Pierre Moscovici (PES, FR), who was chairing the plenary at the time, told the session that Parliament had so far received no official communication on the issue from the Polish authorities.

The debate began when the leader of the ALDE group, Graham WATSON (ALDE, UK) made a point of order: "I rise because a member of my group, Mr Geremek, is to have his mandate as a Member of the European Parliament revoked by his own government with effect from 19 April. The powers under which the Polish Government is revoking Mr Geremek’s mandate are a ‘lustration’ or monitoring law adopted just a couple of months ago and currently under legal challenge in Poland’s constitutional court. This law requires all journalists, academics and elected MPs to sign a declaration stating that they have never collaborated with the Communist-era security services. Mr Geremek has signed such declarations in the past. His refusal to sign in this case is on moral rather than political grounds. He rightly objects to the witch-hunt which his government seeks."

After prolonged applause, Mr Watson continued, "I would ask three things, Mr President. I would ask first of all whether Mr Kaczyński, who met Mr Pöttering last week, raised this issue with him; secondly, whether it is right and indeed possible for a Member of this House to be stripped of their democratically-elected mandate in this way; and thirdly, whether you would give the House the assurance that this House will act to protect Mr Geremek’s right to exercise his democratically-elected mandate with all possible haste."

Other group leaders gave their views. For the Socialists, Martin SCHULZ (PES, DE) said: " I'd like to say to Mr Geremek we don't share all of your views but on this point you can count on unlimited solidarity from all of our group and I'm sure of Parliament when its a matter of resisting a government in the European Union prosecuting people who have stood up for democratic development and the freedom of Poland in their own country. It is a scandal that such a great country and the government of Poland is acting in this way.

I expect President of Parliament to tell the Kaczyński government tomorrow that we expect the Polish government to protect the Member of the European Parliament Mr Geremek and we shall measure everything Poland does in future by the way it deals with this colleague. I suggest Mr Pöttering say this tomorrow in these terms."

Co-President of the Greens/EFA group, Daniel COHN-BENDIT (Greens/EFA, DE) said: "Not only do we agree with Mr Geremek, over the years, we fought Stalinism with Mr Geremek. This Parliament has only one position to take: If a government uses Stalinist of fascist methods, we have a duty to protect our colleague without hesitation. We stand in solidarity. "

Francis WURTZ (GUE/NGL, FR) said: "It happens and it will still happen in the future that I disagree politically with Mr Geremek. Nevertheless, I want to express my deep respect for the political courage that he has shown, and I want to express in the name of my group, my total solidarity. "

Leader of the EPP-ED group Joseph DAUL (FR) said: "All of us here enjoy political immunity. This is a Parliament with rules by which we stand. To date there has been no application for waiver, we all, including the EPP, support Mr Geremek, we stand by the legal procedures for all members including Mr Geremek."

The Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee, Giuseppe GARGANI (EPP-ED, IT) said: "I would like to assure colleagues that when this matter comes before the committee, we will show great sensitivity as regards the independence of Parliament and we shall examine the correspondence and documents very carefully and we shall be able to stand up for the independence of Parliament and the possibility for members to be defended in their independence and freedom."

Vice-President Pierre MOSCOVICI (PES, FR), in the chair for the voting session, said "We have not been notified of any Polish government decision which is indeed very questionable. The role of this Parliament is to protect the mandate of all its members. I imagine that the legal affairs committee will be looking at the matter and will do what is necessary to guarantee the independence of Parliament."

With many more Members seeking the floor, Mr Moscovici called on the two political group leaders who had not yet spoken, Brian Crowley of the UEN group and Bruno Gollnisch of the ITS group.

Brian CROWLEY (UEN, IE) said: "It was unfair of you not to call on my vice-President Mr Kaminski who indicated he wished to speak on the issue. Whether you agree or disagree with the point he would have made is irrelevant - others were given the right to speak and he should have had that right too. Some people in this house have a different interpretation to that by previous speakers. We should have been given an opportunity to have that point heard when the others were heard too."

For Bruno GOLLNISCH (ITS, FR) "The heart of the matter is to find out to what extent, possibly, Mr Geremek, was an accomplice to Stalinist activities in this abominable totalitarianism. I note that in the defence of Members of parliament, which is of no less importance to us than to you - your point of view is often based on variable geometry," referring to cases where he and other members of his group had faced legal action and " you referred to national sovereignty".

Pierre MOSCOVICI (PES, FR) concluded the discussion by saying: "The Conference of Presidents will discuss this matter tomorrow. I am sure there will be a broad majority in the European Parliament in support of Mr Geremek and I intend to express my own solidarity with him now."