President David Sassoli’s decision to shut the doors of the European Parliament to most visitors except climate activist Greta Thunberg as it tries to limit the spread of the coronavirus has raised objections from MEPs.
Thunberg is scheduled to participate in a meeting of the environment committee on Wednesday, as the EU publishes its new climate law.
But emails seen by POLITICO show many MEPs are questioning why Thunberg is exempt from measures announced Monday night in response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in Europe, which ban entry to the Parliament for most non-staffers.
“External visitors coming from all around the world are not allowed to enter the building, but Ms Thunberg is. How should we explain this to our visitors and guests?” Hilde Vautmans, Belgian MEP from the liberal Renew Europe, wrote in an email to Sassoli.
According to the rules announced by Sassoli, Parliament’s governing bodies should continue to function “without attendance of interest representatives nor visitors other than those specifically invited by the respective Chair as a speaker.”
Nuno Melo, a Portuguese MEP from the conservative European People’s Party, first raised concerns in an email to Sassoli, asking him to explain “the considered reasons for the exception granted to the citizen Greta Thunberg.”
Several other emails followed. Estonian liberal MEP Yana Toom wrote that “there is no room in this House for double standards.”
Some populist MEPs — including those from parties that are skeptical of climate change and critical of Thunberg — were even more blunt.
The decision to maintain Thunberg’s participation “is absolutely UNACCEPTABLE!” wrote Roman Haider, from Austria’s far-right FPÖ, while referring to “a totally incomprehensible hysteria because of Coronavirus.”
“This shows that unfortunately this Parliament is neither the house of pluralism nor the freedom of the European citizens,” said Spanish MEP Jorge Buxadé Villalba from the far-right VOX.
The decision to close the Parliament to visitors prompted disruption and confusion in Brussels on Tuesday, as people arrived at the building to find they could not go in and the events they planned to attend had been called off.