European Parliament remembers Paris terror victims

Members of the European Parliament on Monday paid tribute to the 17 victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, amid calls to award Charlie Hebdo an “exceptional” Sakharov Prize for freedom of expression. EURACTIV France reports

The first plenary session of 2015 opened in Strasbourg with a tribute to the victims of the attacks carried out in France between 7 and 9 January.

The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, ordered a minute’s silence in the hemicycle after reading out the names of all 17 victims, including those of the journalists and cartoonists from the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo.

Minute’s silence

“These are the names of the 17 victims of the attack against Charlie Hebdo, against the police and against the Jewish supermarket last week. On behalf of the European Parliament, I express our sincere condolences to their families,” Martin Schulz said, before asking the MEPs to observe a minute’s silence in memory of the victims.

The attack on Hebdo left 12 people dead on 7 January, including the cartoonists Cabu and Wolinski, considered among the leading lights of the French satirical press. A further five people lost their lives in two more terrorist attacks carried out over the next two days.

Political groups react

The leaders and spokespeople of the different delegations in the European Parliament expressed their sorrow at the attacks and called for a coordinated response to the threat posed by Islamic extremists.

Some MEPs also hailed the marches held in France and elsewhere across Europe as a “renaissance and reaffirmation of Europe’s core values”.

Alain Lamassoure, the leader of the French delegation within the centre-right EPP group, said that the response to the attacks was “a formidable cry of brotherhood,” and added that “the 11 January 2015 is the birthdate of a Europe of the people (…), united in its values and against hatred”.

Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberal ALDE group, said “for the first time another Europe has been born: a Europe of people, a Europe of citizens, a Europe of values”.

Helga Stevens from the Conservative ECR group said “no matter what happens, our values will not change, because we believe in freedom of expression, in freedom of religion”. She finished on an optimistic note, adding that “sorrow must strengthen our determination to challenge these attacks; it must bind us, because only if we work together will we prevail”. 

Sakharov Prize

The leader of the European Parliament’s French Socialist delegation, Pervenche Berès, said that the ideals defended by the paper “will live on,” and called on her colleagues to award “an exceptional Sakharov Prize” to Charlie Hebdo.

Every year since 1998, the European Parliament has bestowed the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on people or organisations that have made a great contribution to human rights or democracy.

Disrupted tribute

UKIP leader Nigel Farage concluded the tribute, calling for a defence of “Judeo-Christian” values, while National Front leader Marine Le Pen demanded that the EU allow member states to defend themselves.

Le Pen’s intervention was overshadowed by Polish extremist Janusz Korwin-Mikke, who showed his computer screen, displaying the statement “I am not Charlie, I am for death penalty.”

Regular session

Aside from this short ceremony of remembrance at the opening of the plenary session on Monday, the rest of the schedule should unfold as normal.

Martin Schulz chose not to dedicate an entire debate in the busy Strasbourg schedule to the fight against terrorism, and only the European PNR (passenger name record), a single register of information on air passengers within the EU, viewed by many as an indispensable tool for combatting terrorism, will be discussed in this regard. 

>> Read: Paris to hold emergency summit of European Ministers

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