'Oligarchs and authoritarianism are obsolete': EU president Tusk hits back at Putin's claim liberalism has had its day

Vladimir Putin had said liberalism and multiculturalism were no longer tenable as ideas

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Friday 28 June 2019 13:33 BST
Donald Tusk attends a press conference during the G20 Osaka Summit
Donald Tusk attends a press conference during the G20 Osaka Summit

The president of the European Council has hit back at Vladimir Putin's claim that liberalism is "obsolete" and has "outlived its purpose".

Speaking ahead of a G20 summit in Japan Donald Tusk said the Russian president's claim, made in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, was wrong.

"Thanks to my jet lag I was able to read the whole interview with President Putin in the Financial Times," he told reporters at the start of the summit..

"I have to say that I strongly disagree with the main argument that liberalism is obsolete.

"We are here as Europeans also to firmly and univocally defend and promote liberal democracy. Whoever claims that liberal democracy is obsolete, also claims that freedoms are obsolete, that the rule of law is obsolete and that human rights are obsolete.

"For us in Europe, these are and will remain essential and vibrant values. What I find really obsolete are: authoritarianism, personality cults, the rule of oligarchs. Even if sometimes they may seem effective."

Mr Tusk also warned that world politics must not "become an arena where the stronger will dictate their conditions to the weaker, where egoism will dominate over solidarity, and where nationalistic emotions will dominate over common sense".

The Russian president used his rare interview with a western newspaper to praise the rise of populism in Europe and America, and said ideas like multiculturalism were "no longer tenable".

"[Liberals] cannot simply dictate anything to anyone," said Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin is attending the summit

"This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected."

He said the political approach conflicted with "the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population".

In November last year Mr Tusk attacked Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, a notable ally of Mr Putin in the European Union. The Hungarian premier has criticised liberal democracy and said he instead favours "Christian democracy".

But Mr Tusk said at the time, in a speech to European People's Party colleagues: "If you are against the rule of law and independent judiciary, you are not a Christian Democrat. If you don't like the free press and the NGOs if you tolerate xenophobia, homophobia, nationalism and antisemitism, you are not a Christian Democrat."

Asked about Mr Putin's comments, Theresa May said: “No. Of course migration is an issue that we have addressed, we have addressed in G20s before, we address in the EU. Immigration is good in the UK, immigration has been good for the UK but of course we need to ensure that we have some control in that immigration."

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