Sassoli to EUCO: Events in Minsk are of unprecedented gravity. We demand an immediate international investigation and the release of those detained 


Extracts of the speech by the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, to the European Council

During the opening speech at the European Council, the European Parliament President stressed the need for a strong and unified response to the events in Belarus yesterday, he said:

“Yesterday’s events regarding the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, en route from Athens to Vilnius, are of unprecedented gravity. President Lukashenko's regime has deprived Roman Protasevich and his companion of their liberty. We demand their immediate and unconditional release and the possibility for them to leave the country.

“An international investigation is undoubtedly needed to verify whether air transport and passenger safety was jeopardised by a sovereign state and if there has been a violation of the Chicago Convention.

“Our response must be strong, immediate and unified. The European Union must act without hesitation and punish those responsible. Tonight you have a great responsibility to show that the Union is not a paper tiger.”

On Russian sanctions, he added:

It is evident that the latest sanctions from Russia were not directed only against Vice President Jourova and myself but also against our respective institutions. Instead of intimating us, this only encourages us not to stop. Russia must release Alexei Navalny.

The President’s speech also focused the need for a European migration system, outlining three areas where the EU needs to act:

“First, save human lives. This is a legal and moral obligation and we cannot leave this responsibility only to the NGOs that carry out a supporting function in the Mediterranean. We must return to the idea of a large-scale common operation of the EU in the Mediterranean that saves lives and disrupts traffickers. A European search and rescue mechanism is needed at sea, using the competences of all the actors involved, from Member States to civil society to European agencies.

“Second, those in need of protection must be able to arrive in the European Union safely, without needing to risk their lives. We need humanitarian channels to be defined together with the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees and a European resettlement system based on our shared responsibility. We are talking about people who can make an important contribution to the recovery of our societies affected by the pandemic and demographic decline, thanks to their work and their skills.

“Finally, therefore, we need a true European migration reception policy. The European Parliament adopted its resolution on the subject last week.”

President Sassoli also welcomed the recent agreement on the COVID-19 certificate, he stated:

“We are particularly satisfied with the work carried out together with the Council on the COVID-19 certificate to avoid a patchwork of national solutions that would have had harmful effects for citizens, for tourism and for our economic recovery.

“For Parliament, the certificate cannot be a condition for free movement. We also clearly indicated that no one must be discriminated against due to health conditions or health choices and we want only necessary data to be included in the certificate.

“The real turning point [in the fight against the pandemic] is the rapidity of the vaccination campaign in the European Union. Given the current health situation in many countries of the world, it is essential to think and act beyond our borders. For this reason, as I told the G20 Global Health Forum, you should all follow the example of the European Union by exporting vaccines and providing doses to low and medium income countries.

“However, this alone is not enough. It is necessary to enhance production in these countries and, in the medium term, allow mandatory sharing of licenses for this purpose - using the flexibility already allowed within the TRIPS agreements at the WTO.”

The full speech is available here