Three French MEPs to stay on election-observation blacklist
Three far-right French MEPs are to stay on a European Parliament blacklist after losing a legal challenge.
The French politicians — Hervé Juvin, Jean-Lin Lacapelle, and Thierry Mariani — have been banned from doing official election-observation missions until 2024, hanging a political albatross around their necks in the run-up to EU elections next year.
The parliament imposed the sanction after the trio of MEPs went to Russia in autumn 2021, in the run-up to the war, to praise Russian-parliament elections on unofficial trips.
Their lawyers told the EU Court of First Instance in Luxembourg the ban harmed their ability to represent their voters and amounted to "sanctions" that went beyond the parliament’s internal competences.
But the court said this was "manifestly inadmissible" in a ruling last week (14 March), which was not previously reported.
"It cannot ... be held that exclusion from participation in those [official election-observation] delegations significantly affects the proper performance of the duties of a member of the parliament," the court said.
"The contested decision constitutes exclusively a measure of internal organisation of the parliament," it said.
Adding injury to insult, the court verdict (which can be appealed) also ordered the French MEPs to pay parliament’s legal costs.
Juvin and Lacapelle didn’t reply to EUobserver’s questions. Mariani’s aide said he was too busy to reply.
The parliament blacklist also currently includes French far-right MEP Nicolas Bay, German far-right MEP Gunnar Beck, and Slovak nationalist MEP Miroslav Radačovský.
It is run by the Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group (DEG), an internal parliament office, which also organises normal election observation trips.
It is not meant to be public, but is lately being leaked to media to give it extra force.
And last week’s court verdict meant the DEG could flex its muscle even more, a parliament source said.
"It means no other MEPs can legally challenge DEG decisions in future because the court said they’re an ‘exclusively internal’ matter," the source said.
"It’s an important principle also in terms of what we’re trying to do after Qatargate," the parliament contact added, referring to a bribery scandal last year, which saw the parliament promise to crack down on shady behaviour across the board.
All of those on the current DEG blacklist have strong pro-Russian sympathies, but Juvin, Lacapelle, and Mariani have toned down their support for Moscow since the Ukraine invasion in February 2022.
Other MEPs who were previously listed or received official DEG warnings were leftwing French, Irish, and Spanish politicians who went on freelance trips to South America and a centre-right Italian who went to Kazakhstan.
"This court ruling represents a big success for the European Parliament," German centre-right MEP David McAllister, who co-chairs DEG, told EUobserver.
"The procedure according to which the DEG can and will exclude members is part of a broader reform process, which was launched following the eruption of the corruption scandal including Qatar and which intends to counter foreign interference," he added.
"The European Parliament has been a pioneer in setting up this exclusion procedure and we remain optimistic that national parliaments will follow our example," he said.
McAllister’s quotes were added shortly after publication.