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09/12/2016

Moscow’s blacklist divides French Parliament

Europe's East

Moscow’s blacklist divides French Parliament

Bruno Le Roux has been banned from entering Russia.

[Assemblée Nationale/Wikipedia]

Russia’s travel blacklist has sparked a dispute in the French Parliament. The right and left are divided over whether an official visit to Russia should go ahead in spite of the travel ban imposed on leading Socialist MP Bruno Le Roux. EurActiv France reports.

The travel blacklist drawn up by Moscow, which includes Bruno Le Roux, the President of the Socialist group in the French Parliament, was the subject of a spirited debate between France’s two main political parties on 2 June.

Christian Jacob, the leader of the right-wing opposition party Les Républicains (formerly the UMP), accused the Socialist President of the National Assembly, Claude Bartolone, of “playing up for the cameras” by threatening to boycott the parliamentary visit to Russia if Bruno Le Roux’s visa request is declined.

>> Read: EU criticizes ‘unjustified’ Russian travel blacklist

A delegation of French MPs is due to travel to Moscow from 17 to 19 June for a meeting of the Russian-French Grand Committee, a permanent organisation designed to encourage regular contact between members of the French National Assembly and the Russian Douma.

In defiance of the ban imposed on his colleague, the speaker of the French Parliament told party leaders that he wished to lead the delegation, and to cancel the visit if Bruno Le Roux was not allowed to travel.

Parliament divided

Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius told the French parliament that he “strongly condemned this ban for one simple reason: it is completely unjustified”.

He added that at a time when “we should be trying to soothe tensions in our bilateral relations, this kind of decision, which is unwarranted, escalates tensions instead of relieving them”.

But for the Républicains, the matter is not so simple. Christian Jacob agreed that it was “unacceptable that French MPs should not be able to participate” in the visit, but criticised the parliament president’s handling of the situation.

“This is not the right way to respond, by looking for fights in front of the cameras,” Jacob said. Instead, he suggested that the head of the French Parliament “make contact with the president of the Douma and tell him that the Russian government should not be the one to decide who joins a delegation led by the president of our institution”.

The opposition MP also said he would prefer to see the visit postponed until the subject is resolved.