MEPs visit Assad
Three members of the European Parliament paid a visit to Syrian President Baschar al-Assad on the weekend and apparently spoke in favour of lifting sanctions. Commentators are angry and ask whom the Estonian Yana Toom, the Spaniard Javier Couso Permuy and the Latvian Tatjana Ždanoka are actually representing.
Assad gleeful over dispute in EU parliament
The visit of the three members of the European parliament will help the Syrian regime to expose the divide in Europe, Õhtuleht fears: "For what other reason would the Syrian dictator show the Brussels MEPs such generous hospitality, if the whole thing seems fruitless from the beginning? Assad will hardly have dared hope that the visit by Toom, Permuy and Ždanoka would lead to sanctions being lifted, but the group photo already sends the signal that the European parliament does not have a united stance vis-à-vis his regime. After going to Syria without the backing of the EU parliament, the MEPs can now claim to their electorates that they are capable of forging a pact with the devil without having to make any concessions themselves. The indignation of other politicians is understandable, but it makes the visit seem more important than it really is."
The Kremlin was behind it
The Estonian MP and former foreign minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus accuses the MEPs of travelling to Syria at Russia's behest in the daily paper Eesti Päevaleht:
“Of course the comments by Yana Toom, who talks of the sanctions [against Syria] being lifted, won't change the policy of the European Union. But Toom and her friends have clearly done the Kremlin's propaganda service, which probably pays a bonus for every such comment, a big favour. Or is it perhaps not a favour at all, but a deal in which the Kremlin will lend its support in the next election campaign in exchange for their formulating the Kremlin's demands? The biggest impact of Yana Toom's visit should be that it becomes clear in whose interests these three MEPs are acting in Europe.”