Spanish MEP and member of The Left Miguel Urban was not allowed to speak in parliament due to an anti-racism t-shirt that went against “uniform guidelines”.
He was eventually allowed to take the podium after a number of MEPs refused to speak in protest of this archaic and seemingly undemocratic rule.
Maltese MEP Cyrus Engerer formed part of this band of parliamentary rebels.
During a debate on the European Asylum Support Office, Urban was not allowed to speak due to an anti racism-message plastered on his t-shirt that read “Madrid will be the grave of racism”.
The original Spanish phrase has a history of condemning fascism; “Madrid será la tumba del fascismo”, however Urban switched the last word with racism.
The mediator of the debate explained that he did not give Urban the floor because he wanted to sort out a matter regarding what the political activist was wearing.
His top allegedly went against the rules of procedure that prohibits banners or clothes with slogans; “this is why his right to speak was not respected”, the mediator explained
Urban was refused the floor a couple of speakers before Engerer was supposed to speak, and as you can see on the Labour MEP’s Facebook post, he decided not approach the podium when his name was first called.
He seemingly shook his head and pointed at Urban, signalling his disagreement with the bureau’s decision to prohibit him from speaking.
After Engerer was urged to take the floor for the second time, he did so with his first remarks demanding for Urban to be allowed to fulfill his right to speak.
“My colleague from the Left should be allowed to speak in this chamber notwithstanding the fact that he has a message on his t-shirt that fights against racism,” he said.
“This is antidemocratic in a democratic chamber which should allow the voice of everyone to be heard. We have been elected to hold our mandate, so we should be allowed to do so.”
Engerer reached out to Lovin Malta to tell us that this is not the first time that a similar incident has happened.
“In the plenary on Hungary before summer, there was a debate on whether I should be allowed to speak because I wore a t-shirt that looked like the rainbow colours under my blazer,” he explained.
After Engerer spoke, the mediator urged members to stick to the rules of procedure, while explaining that he believes that there is “an absolute need” to reconsider such regulations.
Urban was finally able to take the floor where he exposed the irony of the supposed democratic institution.
“We’re here promoting the union that protects undocumented people. In theory this is the home of European democracy. If anti-racism has no place in this house, there are some questions that need to be answered,” the Spanish activist passionately said.
The debate assessed the new EU Asylum Agency which will use additional resources and a wider mandate to allow the agency to better assist member states when confronted with crisis situations, on relocation and resettling of asylum-seekers and refugees, and to monitor respect for fundamental rights.
This is the second debate in that same week that sparked a debate in the parliamentary house.
The first one being during a Protection of Persons with Disabilities debate that revealed that the parliament itself is inaccessible to its own members with disabilities.
However, this particular situation raises the question of the extent to which MEPs can express their personal opinions through their clothing.
If this rule is changed, can members of parliament advertise any symbol and saying that they believe to be true?
This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
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