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Parliament passes anti-racism charter despite Elam opposition

Parliament, House of Representatives, House Budget, House Plenum, Plenary
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Parliament on Thursday passed the Charter of European political parties for a non-racist and inclusive society, despite opposition from Elam.

The charter was drafted by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly in cooperation with the European Parliament’s Anti-racism and diversity intergroup (ARDI) and other groups in 2022 and has now won the endorsement of the Cypriot parliament, with 33 votes in favour and three against.

In its resolution to endorse the charter, parliament resolved that it “condemns the rise of racism, xenophobia, and any form of discrimination, hate speech, and the incitement and execution of criminal actions.”

The text of the resolution added that parliament also condemns “the existence and actions of political parties, organisations, and movements which either directly or covertly promote racism and intolerance and promote ideologies which undermine the key and fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law.”

House President Annita Demetriou temporarily vacated her chair, inviting the oldest sitting MP Charalambos Theopemptou to preside over proceedings, saying she felt “compelled to stand up and support Cyprus’ MPs” on the matter.

Elam leader Christos Christou said, “we have no legal obligation as a parliament to vote on the resolution,” and described it as “a manifesto of a fringe group of greens and communists”.

He added, “I wonder if those who are condemning hate speech also condemn it when it is directed at Greek Cypriots? What kind of democracy and laws are some of you who support terrorist organisations like Hamas and are nostalgic for Stalin and Ceausescu talking about?”

He then launched into a tirade about immigration, concluding by saying that “our country is threatened not by the rise of the extreme right, but by illegal immigration.”

“Every day, this place is becoming Islamised,” he added.

Additionally, he said his party “condemns the crimes of fascism and Nazism and all crimes by authoritarian regimes and will not tolerate lessons in democracy from anyone.”

Fellow Elam MP Linos Papagiannis also spoke about immigration.

In response, Annita Demetrou said “today, we are not discussing immigration.” She also picked up on Christou’s point regarding the fact that parliament has no obligation to endorse the charter, asking “don’t you understand the importance of international conventions?”

She went on to describe Christou’s reference to a “fringe group of greens and leftists” as “erroneous”, saying that those who have already endorsed the charter “are well within the democratic sphere of Europe”.

She concluded her speech by saying, “parliament is facing extremism, and some here want to lead democracy down dangerous paths.”

Disy MP and head of the Cypriot delegation to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly Nikos Tornaritis said his party “respects diversity, shows tolerance, and says no to hatred, hate speech, intolerance, and populism.”

He added that the issue of migration is being “widely exploited and used for racist purposes”, asking “I wonder what those of you who use this issue as a dog whistle to bring out voters have? Maybe we should suffocate them or send them to the gas chambers.”

Additionally, he said the issue of migration “will be resolved with serious proposals and not immaturity and racist approaches” and added that the text of the charter “is essentially the foundation of the European Union and the European ideal.”

Fellow Disy MP Rita Superman said, “the phenomena of intolerance and racism are alive and well in our country and we must take measures to achieve a non-racist society.”

Akel MP Giorgos Loukaides said “the revival of racism and hatred and the rise of the extreme right are ringing a bell in a continent which gave birth to racism and fascism, and these phenomena have unfortunately knocked on our door.”

He added that the far right in parliament “bears heavy responsibility for the recent pogroms in Limassol and Chlorakas” but expressed hope that “today’s historic debate could be the starting point for a new course in political affairs for the issues of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights.”

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