Dec 23, 2021

Members of European Parliament submit written question related to threats suffered by activists on EU soil by external state actors.


18 Members of the European Parliament have submitted a formal written question to the European Commission on the question of foreign state reprisals occurring in Europe by countries such as China, Russia, Iran and Turkey. Through our Compromised Spaces campaign, the UNPO has been documenting the extent of this activity since 2016, starting with a project analysing reprisals against those seeking to engage with United Nations human rights mechanisms, and including an April 2021 report on the extent to which European Union mechanisms could be used in response.

This written question, which cites a UNPO report on the issue, is potentially a watershed moment in efforts to create a Europe-wide response to the endemic problem. Empshasing the importance of the issue, the question was submitted by, amongst others, the two Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament with human rights mandates, Heidi Hautala and Fabio Maassimo Castaldo, the Chair of the Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union, Raphaël Glucksmann, and members from across the European political spectrum. The signatories are members of a variety of both foreign affairs and internal affairs committees of the European Parliament, a unique moment in the recognition of the problem as both a foreign affairs and domestic security one. And the question itself included both an affirmation of the crimes that are being committed by China, Russia, Iran and Turkey within the European Union and a request for analysis of ther extent to which European Union law is being used to combat those crimes and protect human rights defenders living in the EU.

The European Commission now has six weeks in which to respond. The UNPO urges the European Commission to respond in detail and to take concerte measures to combat a problem that our analysis indicates is only growing but has been operating under the radar of European politics for too long. 

Below is the text of the written question

Question for written answer E-005697/2021

to the Commission

Rule 138

Fabio Massimo Castaldo (NI), Heidi Hautala (Verts/ALE), David Lega (PPE), Ignazio Corrao (Verts/ALE), Fulvio Martusciello (PPE), Javier Nart (Renew), Francisco Guerreiro (Verts/ALE), Tiziana Beghin (NI), Ivan Štefanec (PPE), Eva Kaili (S&D), Salima Yenbou (Verts/ALE), Aurore Lalucq (S&D), Mario Furore (NI), Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou (PPE), Liudas Mažylis (PPE), Olivier Chastel (Renew), Raphaël Glucksmann (S&D), Hannah Neumann (Verts/ALE)

Subject: Third country reprisals against human rights defenders in Europe

Recent reports show that third country actors such as China, Iran, Russia and Turkey, either directly or through proxies, regularly engage in criminal activity in the EU, including unlawful surveillance, intimidation, threats, attacks and murders1. This poses a serious threat to those who have sought refuge in Europe and to the EU’s fundamental values and internal security.

Coordinated efforts are needed to investigate and prosecute these crimes and support the victims. The EU has a range of tools at its disposal and its role is of particular importance as the nature of these threats are such that no Member State, acting alone, can respond effectively.

1. Is the Commission aware of the extent of this criminal activity and if so, what practical steps have been taken in response?

2. Has the Commission studied the extent to which EU legislation is being implemented by Member States in response to this criminal activity and any legislative gaps that could be filled to respond better? If not, is it willing to initiate such a study as a matter of urgency?

------------------------------

1 See Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Compromised Space: Foreign State Reprisals against Unrepresented Diplomats in Europe, April 2021 (https://unpo.org/downloads/2701.pdf) and ‘The Long Arm of Transnational Repression in Europe’, Green European Journal, 29 November 2021 (https://www.greeneuropeanjournal.eu/the-long-arm-of-transnational-repression-in-europe/).