Euro MPs have been condemned as “hypocrites” for their support of the inaugural European Games in the capital of Azerbaijan, despite the country’s record on human rights.
Political parties, including the group where the Liberal Democrat’s sole MEP sit, have urged colleagues to ‘save the date’ for the opening ceremony on Friday 12 June in Baku, despite international concerns over the treatment of political and religious freedoms in the country.
While athletes gather from around the continent and beyond, MEPs and staff have been invited to a reception with the Minister of Youth and Sport for Azerbaijan during working hours where free food and drink will be readily available.
The games are sponsored by companies including Coca Cola, McDonalds and Nestle who all make products frequently condemned by Euro politicians and bureaucrats. But Simon Clegg, the Chief Operating Officer of Baku 2015 said the confectionery company would be a “valuable supplier to the first ever European Games.”
Under the terms of the deal, Nestle will supply Kit Kats and Lion Bars which will be made available to all spectators at all European Games venues.
The games, which were voted for in 2012, are the latest in a series of initiatives to make the EU a cultural, as well as political, hub to rival other countries on the international stage as well as enticing non-European countries into its sphere of influence including those neighbouring Russia.
In Azerbaijan, the authorities use imprisonment as a tool for political opponents and ban peaceful demonstrations, arresting activists and passers by for objecting to the current regime. Their appalling treatment of journalists in particular has been the subject of a report by Human Rights Watch.
The country also imposes freedom of religion and the prosecution of unregistered political groups. As part of the urban renewal campaign in Baku, where the games are taking place, officials forcibly evicted thousands of families and illegally demolished homes.
Heading up the cheer leading in the European Parliament is the Bulgarian MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk, who sits in the same group as the only Liberal Democrat MEP left in Brussels, Catherine Bearder.
Fellow South East MEP Ray Finch told Breitbart London he was surprised Ms Bearder wanted to be involved in something which promoted a country which has raised concerns over the treatment of its own citizens.
“As the LibDems are so keen to promote human rights, will Catherine Bearder use this meeting that they are sponsoring to ask about Azerbaijan’s appalling treatment of political opponents and journalists?” he asked.
“It seems hypocritical of them to insist that the Human Rights Act is adhered to by the letter in the UK, even if it is to the detriment of UK citizens, but money can be thrown at a country which has so little regard for them.”
And the director of Amnesty International in the Netherlands repeated his concerns, saying the country needed to release all prisoners before the games commenced.
“The European Olympic Committees are in a unique position to raise these pressing human rights concerns with President Aliyev,” said Eduard Nazarski.
“By remaining silent, the European Olympic Committees risk sending a message that it is acceptable for the Azerbaijani government to silence critics while hosting an event that, according to the Olympic Charter, should stand for human dignity and sport at the heart of the harmonious development of society.”
A spokesman for Ms Bearder told Breitbart London, “Mrs Bearder won’t be attending the reception tomorrow with the Azerbaijan minister. She believes the EU must take a firm line with Azerbaijan’s government over its human rights record.
“If you have any more questions on the event I recommend you contact Ilhan Kyuchyuk’s office directly.”