MEPs have expressed their “deepest sympathy” and called for a response to the MH17 plane crash in which 298 people died in Ukraine.
The incident, involving a Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines plane travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was carrying passengers from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France and the UK.
Reports are showing the increasing likelihood that the tragedy was the result of military action, with Ukraine’s foreign minister already pointing the finger at Russia.
Gianni Pittella, S&D group president, has responded, saying, “Our sorrow has to turn into action for peace.”
“Europe wake up,” he urged, “We have to all stand together against war and take Russia and Ukraine to a peaceful roundtable.
“This is our natural mission as the European Union. This is our role as a political family,” he explained.
“The consequences of any further silence from us would be more killings, desperation and innocent victims.
“Europe is not just a common union of goods and interests. The European Union is first of all a political community and as such we have to act now,” he rallied.
“We have to immediately clarify what led to this tragic plane crash, as justice has to be guaranteed for all victims.
“The first and most important task for Europe is to ensure that firing stops and that diplomacy and politics take over,” Pitella continued.
“We can no longer close our eyes pretending nothing is going on. There is a war beyond our Eastern borders.
“As members of the EU we have to live up to our responsibilities. Europe is, and has to remain, a space for peace and dialogue,” insisted the Italian deputy.
Dutch MEP Hans van Baalen suggested that the incident could be an act of “terrorism”, saying, “Our immediate thoughts and sympathies must go to the bereaved relatives of the passengers killed in this terrible and tragic incident.
“Given the location and the kind of weapons suspected of being in the possession of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, we cannot rule out that this was a despicable and callous act of terrorism,” he explained.
“It is vital that there is an internationally supervised investigation into the accident immediately before the wreckage is tampered with and Russia must cooperate fully with it,” the ALDE deputy concluded.
ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstadt, also expressed the “utmost importance” of confirming the “circumstances of this tragedy”.
“If it is confirmed that Russian backed separatists are responsible, an emergency summit of EU leaders and foreign ministers must be convened to discuss the new and deadly escalation of the security situation affecting also international civil aviation,” he argued.
A joint statement by several members of the ECR group were also suspicious of the nature of the crash, saying, “It seems increasingly likely that this was a criminal act.”
The statement, by Syed Kamall, Peter van Dalen, Anna Fotyga and Charles Tannock also went on to say, “Whoever was responsible, and those assisting them, must understand that the west will not allow civilian aircraft to be attacked without serious consequences.
“Facts must be established first, but consequences must follow from this likely act of aggression against Europe and her allies,” urged the deputies.
European parliament president Martin Schulz has also offered his condolences, saying, “I was shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic crash of the Malaysian airliner which led to the death of so many people.”
The German MEP stressed that “the circumstances which led to the crash must be thoroughly investigated and responsibility of the tragedy established.” He called on the EU and member states to offer the Ukrainian authorities the “necessary expertise” to assist in carrying out the investigation.
The crash occurred just after a debate in parliament’s Strasbourg plenary session where deputies agreed a resolution calling on Russia to cooperate with Ukraine on a peace settlement. MEPs also wanted to see Russia withdraw military assistance to separatist groups and for EU members to stop selling arms to Russia.
The parliamentarians also requested that the EU help Ukraine secure alternative gas supplies, and formally backed the signing of an association and free trade agreement between Kyiv and the EU.
The resolution was passed by 497 votes, with 121 against and 21 abstentions. As part of the resolution, MEPs also called on the EU council and member states to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian gas and impose further sanctions, including economic restrictions and actions in the financial and energy sectors. Deputies also called for better unity among national governments when dealing with Russia.
Earlier this week stronger sanctions had been announced at the extraordinary European council meeting, but Greens/EFA group co-president Rebecca Harms complained that, “The latest EU sanctions against Russia, fall short of what was is needed in response to the crisis in Ukraine.”
She called on member states to be more resolute in dealing with Russia, saying, “EU governments must also end their double speak. As long as individual countries continue to train the Russian military, supply weapons…conclude agreements for energy supplies, EU foreign policy towards Russia cannot succeed.”
Written by Kayleigh Lewis and Rajnish Singh for theparliamentmagazine.eu