Small Unrest During EU Parliament President Metsola's Visit to Vienna

PeopleOther ♦ Published: March 20, 2024; 18:48 ♦ (Vindobona)

The Austrian capital was the scene of a heated appearance by EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola. During a public event at the Law Faculty of the University of Vienna, which was held under the motto "Ask President Metsola", there were loud protests and interruptions by demonstrators. The discussion, which was originally supposed to cover topics such as the future of the EU, the upcoming European elections, and international political affairs, lost focus when the Middle East conflict came up.

A public event with EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola at the Juridicum was disrupted by demonstrators in protest for Palestine. / Picture: © European Parliament, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

A young woman in the audience took the opportunity to sharply criticize EU policy. As reported by ORF, she accused the EU of financing and arming "an ongoing, relentless genocide against the Palestinian people". After President Roberta Metsola answered a number of the protestors' questions, including mentioning the European Parliament's early request for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, the program was disrupted by shouting and leaflet drops.

The protesters speech, which she read from her cell phone, ended with an emotional appeal for a "free Palestine". The incident led to loud chants and the distribution of flyers, which meant that the event had to be temporarily interrupted. The security forces intervened and led several demonstrators shouting "Free Palestine" out of the hall.

After the protesters departed the room, the discussion continued swiftly and remained vibrant and constructive until the finish, covering topics such as impending European elections, migration, AI, global issues, and climate legislation. Due of security concerns, webstreaming had to be paused and not resumed.

Metsola, who shortly before had shared her views on the importance of the EU elections and the role of Europe in a globalized world at a meeting with Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer, seemed visibly annoyed by the events. Despite the interruptions, she continued the event, although she declined to comment on later questions about the Middle East conflict.

The police reported six charges under the Assembly Act and six identifications in connection with the protests. The EU Parliament's liaison office in Vienna emphasized that it was proud of the right to freedom of expression and the right to protest, but warned that demonstrations must always respect public safety and not disrupt democratic debate.

The incident casts a shadow over the usual culture of political discourse and underlines the deep differences of opinion within the EU regarding its role and policy in the Middle East. Metsola's visit to Austria, which was part of her efforts to inspire young people to participate in EU politics, thus ended with an aftertaste of controversy and political dissent.

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