The European Parliament's (EP) decision to close its doors to visitors, as well as its offices in member states, including in Tallinn, due to the threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus, has been an overreaction, says Member of European Parliament Marina Kaljurand (SDE/PES).
Kaljurand expressed her opinion on social media about the decision David Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament, had taken to close the doors of the European Parliament to all visitors. Currently, only ambassadors and staff are allowed in the parliament building.
"What does that really mean? Today, there was an announcement about the cancellation of events. Parliament will continue its normal work in political groups and committees, but no guests are allowed to enter. Visits from guest groups, all public events and MEP's visits abroad are also canceled," she wrote.
The Estonian MEP said the EP is overreacting to the risk of coronavirus by introducing these measures, although she added the risk of infection is certainly present in parliament, and probably higher than in any other institution.
She wrote: "After all, MEPs from all over Europe who travel between Brussels and their home country get together in the European Parliament and can spread the virus (faster, farther and in greater numbers). But the president sees no problem in traveling with about 3,000 people next week ( 705 MEPs + assistants, workers, staff) to Strasbourg, then traveling from home countries or Brussels: by plane, bus, car or train. Why is this needed?"
Kaljurand pointed out that if the EP President believes the potential for coronavirus is so great that he needs to close the doors of the parliament in Brussels, it should also be necessary to limit the travel of EP staff to and from Strasbourg. All the more so because France has decided to ban mass events, and even closed the doors of the Louvre museum.
Kaljurand also finds closing EP offices in the member states, including in Tallinn, incomprehensible.
"The risk should not be judged in Brussels, but in each individual country. That is the strange situation in Tallinn, where kindergartens, schools and other institutions are open, but the EP representation is closed. It is incomprehensible."
Kaljurand also wondered why some guests are still allowed to enter the EP, including environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who attended a meeting of the Environment Committee. If rules are laid down, they should apply equally to everyone, Kaljurand said.
Madison believes the measures are right
In contrast, another Estonian MEP, Jaak Madison (EKRE), said he supported Sassoli's decision to ban visitors to the Parliament indefinitely, stop holding events and not to hear from foreign guests on committees.
He said: "I am in favor of the decision - it is better to be more cautious because otherwise there are thousands of visitors from outside the Parliament every day."
Madison also wondered, however, why Greta Thunberg was exempted from the rules.
"Tomorrow was an otherwise-planned Committee on the Environment event, where none other than the climate girl, Greta Thunberg, was expected to be a guest. If not, there would have been mass emails about our parliamentary cancellation events; the committee sent a letter about an hour ago saying that tomorrow's event would take place. So if all events are canceled and foreign visitors to Parliament are banned, Greta is the exception. Why? I don't know. Double standards. But it caused a storm in the mailing list, with members of all political groups showing dissatisfaction over such a double standard."
Madison said he wrote a letter to Sassoli that this type of hypocrisy was unacceptable.
Editor: Helen Wright