Friday, April 30, 2010

Draft election code, developed with OSCE support, presented in Ukraine's Parliament

A draft unified Election Code, developed with the support of the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine (PCU), was presented in the Parliament today by the Parliamentary Committee on State Building and Local Self-government.

The presentation of the Draft Election Code, developed by a special working group established in 2008, brought together key stakeholders and experts, including representatives of the parliamentary factions and domestic and international organizations. The participants discussed the draft and provided recommendations for the improvement of election processes in Ukraine.

"Introduction of a unified Election Code was a long-standing recommendation of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and domestic election observers. I am happy to see progress towards fulfilling this recommendation and hope that this work will continue. The OSCE PCU stands ready to provide further assistance for the development of the Election Code," said the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine, Ambassador Lubomir Kopaj.

The OSCE PCU supported the drafting process and facilitated communication between relevant actors, including parliamentarians, Central Election Commission members, and experts and representatives of Ukrainian non-governmental organizations.

The elaboration of the Election Code and its presentation was supported as part of the "Assistance in Further Strengthening of Election Processes in Ukraine" project funded by the European Union, the Canadian International Development Agency, the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency, Irish Aid and the Strategic Programme Fund of Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Press Release: OSCE. Published on 28 April 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Situation in Belarus: both the authorities and the opposition will participate in PACE’s debate

Both a representative of the opposition and a representative of the Belarusian authorities will take part in the urgent debate on the recent developpements in Belarus that the Assembly is to hold tomorrow morning. Alexander Yushkevich, Chairman of the Standing Committee on human rights, national relations and mass-media of the House of Representative of the National Assembly and Anatoly Lebedko, Co-Chairman of the National Committee of the United Democratic Forces (UDF), Chairman of the United Civic Party, will be invited to take the floor in the context of the debate. (PACE. 28/4/10)

Isolation versus engagement

In her report on the Situation in Belarus: Recent Developments, Mrs Sinikka Hurskainen says,

"In its relations with the Belarusian authorities, the Assembly has tried both the line of isolation and the line of dialogue. Neither has had any decisive impact in steering Belarus towards the path of democracy.

After a number of years in which a policy of isolation was applied, the Council of Europe relations with the Belarusian authorities became more dynamic in 2007, also thanks to the encouragement given by the Assembly, in particular by the former President René van der Linden and the former PACE Rapporteur on the situation in Belarus, Mr Andrea Rigoni.

This new dynamic has resulted in:

-increased contacts between the Assembly and the Belarusian parliament;

-numerous high level contacts between the Committee of Ministers and the Belarusian authorities;

-the establishment of an Infopoint on the Council of Europe in Minsk, in the premises of the State University, on the basis of a one-year renewable agreement.

Belarus has also expressed an interest in becoming a party to some Council of Europe bodies or conventions, in particular the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197). These requests are currently under examination.

Personally, I am convinced that nothing can be gained through a policy of isolation. The Assembly and the Council of Europe should pursue a strategy of engagement with the Belarusian authorities. However, the scope and extent of this engagement should depend on developments in Belarus.

In addition, it is unacceptable that Belarus refuses the imposition of ‘conditions’, in the context of a strategy of engagement. Conditionality is an intrinsic characteristic of the way in which the Council of Europe works. If the Belarusian authorities’ will to engage with the Council of Europe is genuine, they should accept the ‘rules of the game’, including conditionality.

Finally, in asking for the introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty as the only condition for restoration of special guest status, in my opinion, Resolution 1671 (2009) represented the lowest possible level of demands that can be made to the Belarusian authorities. The Assembly hoped to see concrete positive steps in response; the authorities replied with concrete steps backwards. In these circumstances, we cannot act as if it were business as usual."

Rapporteur Mrs Sinikka Hurskained concludes her report by outlining her opinion that:

"-the approach of dialogue and engagement should be pursued; the Council of Europe should not revert to a policy of isolation;

-there cannot be progress on dialogue without progress towards Council of Europe standards and a clear political commitment by the Belarusian authorities to embrace Council of Europe values, backed up by concrete actions;"

To read the whole report, `Situation in Belarus: Recent Developments`, log on

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

War between Georgia and Russia: ‘everyone has lost’, dialogue now the only way forward

“There are no winners and losers in this conflict: everyone has lost,” said Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, summarising her fact-finding report on the 2008 conflict in Georgia during a current affairs debate. “All parties to the conflict failed, there were terrible violations of humanitarian and human rights law, and both the threat and use of force have returned to European politics.” Dialogue at all levels was the only way forward, she said.

Co-rapporteur on the conflict Mátyás Eörsi (Hungary, ALDE) agreed that Georgia, Russia and the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were all losers from the conflict, but declared: “Europe can never approve a new Yalta.”

The other co-rapporteur on the conflict David Wilshire (United Kingdom, EDG) said Europe risked finding itself with yet another frozen conflict. “PACE can only offer one thing: dialogue – dialogue to start confidence-building, dialogue to build trust,” he said.

Press Release: PACE. Published on 28 April 2010

Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia

Volume I

The Conflict in Georgia in August 2008
List of the Mission’s Main Visits and Meetings

Volume II

Chapter 1: Historical Background and International Environment
Chapter 2: Conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia: Peace Efforts 1991 – 2008
Chapter 3: Related Legal Issues
Chapter 4: The Conflict: Views of the Sides
Chapter 5: Military Events of 2008
Chapter 6: Use of Force
Chapter 7: International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law
Chapter 8: Back to Diplomacy

Volume III

Material received from the sides to the conflict and other sources

Download from

Yanukovych: Ukraine to ‘fully comply’ with Council of Europe commitments by May 2011

Ukraine will fully comply with its Council of Europe commitments before it begins its Chairmanship of the organisation in May 2011, President Viktor Yanukovych pledged, speaking before PACE in his first address to an international body since being elected. Developing Ukraine’s democracy was an “undisputed priority”, said Mr Yanukovich, who also promised to guarantee a free media, work to eradicate corruption and carry out judicial reform. His aim was to restore Ukraine as a reliable and predictable partner, committed to European values: "I have been elected President to act, and not to dream – and I will act," he said.

PACE President calls for frank dialogue with Russia, support for reforms in Ukraine and an increased presence in Belarus

Looking ahead to this week's visit by President Yanukovich, the PACE President, in his opening speech at the spring session, said that the Assembly should give its assistance and support to the Ukrainian authorities right now, as the new government faced urgent and important issues which were crucial for the future of the country.

On the subject of the visit this week by Sergey Lavrov, "one of the most respected and experienced Foreign Ministers in Europe", the PACE President pointed out that there was one condition to be met in order for the dialogue between the Council of Europe and Russia to bring results: it needed to be "frank on both sides and without prejudices and double standards".

The President also announced that he would, during his meetings with President Yanukovich and Mr Lavrov, be raising the question of the strategy to be followed for dealing with Belarus. He said that the Assembly's efforts had produced "no real results". Belarus was "the only country on our continent with which the Assembly has no formal relations. The only country in Europe still executing people [...]. We should ask ourselves a question - how can we influence a regime on which we have no leverage? In my opinion, we have a moral obligation towards the people of Belarus to be more present and engaged in the country."

Source:PACE. Published on 27 April 2010.

President Yanukovych's address to participanst PACE session

Dear Mr. President!

Dear Mr. Secretary General!

Dear Members of the Assembly!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have a really great honor to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the second time. Three years have passed since I first visited Strasbourg.

Over the years a lot has changed in Ukraine, Europe and the world. However, European values, which the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly - the political conscience of Europe - profess and defend, remain unchanged. As you know, communicating with consciences is not always easy and pleasant, but always very necessary and useful.

It would not be exaggeration to say that it is impossible to fully feel the modern spirit high humanistic traditions of Europe without visiting the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Soon we will celebrate 65 years since the end of World War II. The Council of Europe from the beginning its existence has been the institution aimed at overcoming the consequences of - without exaggeration - the worst crisis of civilization in human history. The development of modern system of international human rights protection was the reaction to the unprecedented violence of that war. Democracy and rule of law, human rights and suppression of hostility between peoples and nations have become reliable foundation for building a new Europe largely due to efforts of the Council of Europe.

Achieving greater unity among countries of the continent and counteraction to the emergence of new dividing lines remain relevant tasks today. Common goals, common values and generally accepted standards are the main prerequisite for ensuring stability on the continent. In this context it is difficult to overestimate the role of the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly in shaping common European humanitarian space and creating coherent set of standards in protection of human rights.

Thus, the first 60 years of your institutions are the indisputable history of success. Will we be able to maintain and develop this success in the future? To defend the unique European identity in the globalized world?

I personally believe in the ability of the Council of Europe to utilize its successful experience in finding effective ways to respond not only to the existing problems, but also to new challenges and threats.

I am convinced that preventing violation of human rights has become one of the key strategic priorities of the XXI century at national, regional and global level.

These and other issues were covered in detail in the interesting and informative report on the future of the Council of Europe, prepared by the Political Committee connection with the 60th anniversary of the organization. I like to briefly focus your attention on the 63rd paragraph of the report, which warns against attempts to use the high authority of the Assembly in attempts to achieve narrow party or national political purposes, pressure on a state, government, parliament or political party.

In general, it is very important that high and justified ambitions regarding the role and place of the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly in the future architecture of Europe were properly backed up by political will of the member states and appropriate financial resources.

Let us be honest – it is far easier to participate in the general discussion of problems. Yet, it is much harder to stand up for high European ideals and fulfill obligations on the daily basis.

As for Ukraine, I would like to emphasize from this high rostrum that we will finally fulfill our obligations before the Council of Europe before the beginning of our presidency over the organization in May 2011. The new political team will be personally taking part in the activities of the Council of Europe and bear personal responsibility for the implementation of scheduled activities.

In general, there is a consensus between Ukrainian political parties regarding the need for fruitful interaction with the Council of Europe - something extremely rare and therefore very valuable.

It is a significant result of our collaboration that presidential election of 2010 was recognized democratic and fair by the international community.

The main question, I am sure all are interested in learning the answer to – has Ukraine entered a new phase or will the political deja-vu, we are all tired of, continue.

When much was said about strengthening the rights, but responsibility was forgotten.

When significant progress in strengthening freedoms was made, but nobody thought of the liabilities.

As the result we could see a unique Ukrainian political phenomenon: the authorities were in opposition to themselves.

Similar processes were going on in the Verkhovna Rada, where the vast majority of effective voting was possible only with participation of the real opposition, i.e. the Party of Regions.

I am telling you this not to criticize my predecessors, but for you to have the opportunity to better understand the point where we have started.

How to correct this situation and what has been done? First, we must further strengthen the democracy. This will be my absolute priority.

There is no doubt that pluralistic democracy has already established in Ukraine. This, in particular, is evidenced by the fact that in the last three election campaigns the opposition won. I would like to add with pleasure that it was the political force led by me.

Whoever wins in the following elections, either the government or the opposition, it is important that the victory was won in a fair and open competition, based on the power of ideas and cogency of the results, rather than on the administrative pressure or questionable machinations.

I very much hope for the media assistance. It is free, independent media, who must ensure unimpeded access of the society to information, promote genuine discussion on the development of the country and carefully supervise actions of the government.

Unfortunately, obstruction of journalists, attempts of their intimidation and physical pressure on them still happen in our country. This is absolutely unacceptable. As President, I will guarantee freedom of the media and appropriate investigation of any facts of their oppression. More specifically, I have already given appropriate strict instructions to law enforcement officers regarding the investigation of each of the unfortunate situations that had occurred.

Strict observance of fundamental rights and freedoms will remains constantly under my personal supervision, in order to ensure equal opportunities for all. Regardless of gender, nationality or religion. There can be no compromise. We must self-critically acknowledge that we yet have things to work on. We cannot stay satisfied, in particular, with the representation of women on leading positions in the state.

Personally, I am surprised with this situation. In key areas of activity of my administration we have slightly corrected this situation and women are working on these responsible positions. They are competent professionals, experienced managers and real personalities. I am confident that this positive tendency will soon spread. I will be promoting this.

I hope for fruitful cooperation and your support in these and other issues. Specifically, in the issue of Ukrainian citizens’ free travel in Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Implementation of major reforms and further strengthening of democracy in Ukraine is impossible without political stability. Finally, after all the years of independence we have managed for a short time to build a responsible and controllable chain of executive power. I can confidently say that current government team in Ukraine - the President, the Government and the Parliamentary Coalition – work consistently and effectively. Thus, we have created basic preconditions necessary for conducting domestic reforms aimed at reaching European standards in all areas of life.

First of all, it is guaranteeing the rule of law. That is not possible without eradicating corruption or implementing a comprehensive judicial reform.

The situation sometimes reaches absurd. I recently cited a flashy example, when one of the judges has held her birthday party with expensive fireworks and inviting foreign rock stars, easily spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for that.

Therefore, our ambitious goal is to elevate the justice system in Ukraine to the norms and standards of the Council of Europe. Both in terms of form and content. Important beacons here are the conclusions of the Venice Commission, in particular, on strengthening the judicial self-government.

We will positively eliminate the practice of pressure upon judicial institutions and interference into their work by all branches of government. To this end, I soon will use my right for legislative initiative and submit to the Parliament as urgent, the corresponding package of bills.

Another important step is to intensify the fight against corruption. The National Anti-Corruption Committee under my chairmanship has worked out a package of anticorruption bills that will be made active immediately upon receiving the conclusions of the Venice Commission and GRECO experts.

Establishment of the rule of law in Ukraine will undoubtedly be reinforced by improvement of the electoral legislation, which we will be doing not in the middle of an election campaign, but already now, when the election is over.

Finally, we are now at the final stage of developing program documents on reforming public administration and increasing the role of local governments.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is possible that some in this hall and probably in Ukraine are not sure whether I am really committed to major reforms, or just saying "the right" things to win people.

I would like to say the following. I was elected President to act, not to dream. So I certainly will act. I carefully think through everything that I promise, and if promise something, I always do it.

And another fundamentally important thing. I have already spoken on this subject and would like to repeat: I resist double standards. There is no position for export, and another for domestic consumption. There is only one truth, just like there is only one language that we speak in capitals of the world – the language of Ukrainian national interests.

How I see these national interests in foreign policy?

First of all, it is pragmatic understanding of the existing realities; abandoning the ideological and reality-irrelevant schemes and unnecessary confrontation; focusing to the maximum on practical results.

Finally, restoring the reputation of Ukraine as a reliable and predictable partner.

Therefore, while maintaining the value orientations, we will make certain adjustments to our foreign policy.

Association Agreement with the EU, free trade area and visa-free travel of Ukrainian citizens to Europe, which we are currently working on, clearly define our European future.

At the same time, in the area of security, we proceed from the notion that the non-aligned policy meets both our national interests and strengthens international confidence the best.

As to relations with Russia. I am often asked this question.

Are the distrust and suspicion that occasionally arise within the country and abroad about n Russian-Ukrainian relations justified? In particular, the heat of emotions about the signing of Kharkiv agreements on April 21?

You know that today the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has ratified this agreement and there are no tensions about this in Ukraine; there have never been any in the society. They are warmed up by some political forces. These are implications of the five-year political war in Ukraine. But I am sure that pragmatism will win. And it won today. Meanwhile, the budget was adopted and Ukraine.

So I would like to emphasize: the relations with Russia we see as new opportunities, rather than old risks. They have value for us in themselves, but cannot determine the nature and depth of our relationship with others.

My principled stance is well known. I stand for comprehensive strategic development of mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia in all areas. The cooperation, from which will benefit the peoples of Ukraine and Russia, but also both Europe and the world. And this cooperation by definition cannot be directed against others.

This is the idea we were guided by when looking for complicated compromises on the most pressing issues for both sides.

I will not make extensive comments on the gas situation. I would just like to say one thing: the price, which had been negotiated by the Tymoshenko’s Cabinet to be active for next 10 years, was unacceptable for Ukraine. It meant death to Ukrainian companies, and they were becoming uncompetitive. This price was the highest in Europe. So we just wanted to renegotiate fair, I would say, correct prices for Ukraine. And we found this opportunity in our joint decision with Russia.

We are now at the final stage of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, and hope that in May, the new 2-2,5-year agreement will be signed. This will of course be no easy period for us, because Ukraine inherited the ruined economy from the past government. The GDP has fallen 15%, the industrial production decreased 22%. And the budget deficit in Ukraine is no less than that in Greece.

So we certainly must look for different solutions, and I well understand that these decisions should be looked for, above all, inside Ukraine itself. But our search for partners and their support is always transparent and so it will be in the future.

If our relations with strategic partners continue to follow the scenario that we have identified during our first talks in Brussels, Moscow, and Washington, I believe we will achieve that balance of relations Ukraine is searching for in this triangle.

At the end of my speech I would like to repeat that my firm intention is to ensure the continued, strong partnership with the European Union, Russia and the United States. We will broaden the scope of democracy in Ukraine in all areas of cooperation in various fields.

By reforming the economy, judicial system and the Constitution we will prove our commitment to European values, favor investment and establishment of mutually beneficial cooperation with European partners. We will be doing this simultaneously with restoring our relations with other countries.

These objectives do not contradict each other. Strong Ukraine is beneficial for all: Europe, Russia, and the world. Democratic Ukraine means good for the world. And most importantly, it will serve the welfare of the people of Ukraine.

I believe that when working with us, you will see that I always do what I promise. You will understand that you can confidently rely on my word and commitments.

Dear Mr. President, all present!

I hope that trying to talk out, I did not run out of your patience. I thank you and am ready to answer your questions.

Source: Press Office of President Victor Yanukovych

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

OSCE media freedom watchdog welcomes Ukrainian President's pledge to support media pluralism, warns of negative developments

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, welcomedthe pledge by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to uphold media pluralism and honour OSCE media freedom commitments.

"I trust that your Administration will uphold and further develop Ukraine's great achievements in the field of media freedom and pluralism. Ukraine should persevere in its efforts toward achieving genuine media pluralism by, among other things, granting the opposition full and unhindered access to the media," wrote Mijatovic in a letter sent to President Yanukovich on 22 April.

The Representative also commended the new Administration's pledge to combat violence against the media as timely and expressed hope that it would translate into vigorous and resolute action to conclude the investigations into old and new cases of violence against media workers, including the murder of Ukrainska Pravda journalist Georgiy Gongadze in 2000.

Mijatovic also highlighted negative developments that could threaten media pluralism. They included Yanukovich's decision to dissolve the national free speech commission, which was part of the presidential administration, on 2 April, and a change to the legal status of the new head of the state television.

"I would like to ask for your personal support in ensuring that this important advisory body, consisting of highly respected lawyers and media professionals who actively drafted liberal legislation and defended journalists, continues to operate. I also hope that the change of the legal status of the new head of the state television will not affect its independence and editorial policy," she said.

Mijatovic said her office would continue to follow developments in Ukraine, and offered support for reform of the media law. She added that Ukraine should complete the adoption of laws on public service broadcasting, access to information, privatization of media and ownership transparency.

"In order to achieve all this, it is of great importance that the Head of the Parliament's Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information is a representative of the parliamentary opposition. This long-established democratic tradition in the Verkhovna Rada has always been a guarantee for the adoption of advanced media legislation," said Mijatovic.

Press Release: OSCE. Published in Vienna on 23 April 2010.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Interview: Georgia's 'Little War' Raises Big Questions

Was the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia a fight over small separatist provinces? Or did it represent something larger?

The latter, says Ronald Asmus, executive director of the Brussels-based Transatlantic Center of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and author of the recently released "A Little War That Shook The World: Georgia, Russia and the Future of the West."

Asmus tells RFE/RL's James Kirchick that leaders in Europe and the United States have yet to grasp the war's full meaning.

RFE/RL: Why does this tiny country in the Caucasus have implications for the United States?

Ronald Asmus:
This war is all about the rules of the game in European security. And I think most Americans, perhaps even including people like me, thought five years ago that we had successfully all but completed a post-Cold War European security architecture that had rendered war in Europe impossible and had allowed the United States to shift its strategic focus away from Europe to new hotspots in the wider Middle East.

And the key moment in that was the [2002 NATO] Prague Summit where we completed the so-called "big bang" enlargement of NATO [to] Central and East Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

I think what this war showed was that Russia no longer believes in those rules of the game, because those rules of the game were based, among other things, on the rights of countries to choose their own path and their own alliances.

And as I argued in the book, the fundamental cause of the war was not ethnicity, was not Abkhazia or South Ossetia. This was a war that was fought over Georgia's desire to go West and Russia's determination to stop it from going West.

RFE/RL: If Georgia had a different leader at the time, someone no less oriented toward the West but less of a "hothead," would this have played out differently?

I think that people are too focused on the personality and figure of [Georgian President] Mikheil Saakashvili. The Russians hated [former Georgian President Eduard] Shevardnadze as much if not more than they hated Saakashvili. Shevardnadze is still the darling of the West for many people given his role in German unification. Five years ago, Misha [Saakashvili] was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and was the hero. Now many people consider him the goat.

He wasn't the problem. Had he not been there but had you had another Georgian leader who was just as determined to go West, we would have had the same conflict. This was not a conflict of personalities. This was a conflict of aspirations, geopolitical interests, and then maybe the personalities of [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin and Saakashvili added an additional 10, 15, or 20 percent of drama to it.

But that's not what it's all about. And that's why even if Saakashvili wasn't there, and 80, 75 percent of Georgians still want to go West, the underlying conflict remains unresolved.

U.S.-Europe Differences

RFE/RL: What do you say to critics who allege that Georgia would pull NATO and the United States into a war with Russia, and that the risks of bringing Georgia into NATO simply outweigh the benefits?

That's the same argument they used for the Baltic states, for West Berlin, for West Germany. It's an argument that's been used for 40 or 50 years.

The big debate, and the difference that we've had with some of our European allies in this period, was over the following issue: should you embrace the Georgians to give them confidence and security to make them more relaxed, secure, and predictable actors, or by embracing them, were we emboldening them to do things we didn't want them to do.

I am firmly in the first category and I don't think we embraced them enough. But other people including many European foreign ministers and leaders were in the second category. And that's one of several reasons why we never had a common Western approach to Georgia and Russia.

Let's remember: The Georgians may have fired the first shot in response to what they thought was a Russian invasion that was coming. But this conflict was fought on Georgian soil.

RFE/RL: You argue that there was less interest in the Caucasus on behalf of Europeans and Americans than there was in the Balkans. What do you think accounts for that?

In the early '90s we pushed very hard -- we the United States with the Swedes -- to get the Russian troops out of the Baltic states. Had we not done that, the Baltic states would never have been able to join NATO 10 years later.

We did not push hard to get Russian troops out of Georgia. Because we didn't care as much, to be quite honest. When it came to resolving the frozen conflicts, we had weak missions that were largely emasculated and largely powerless by the OSCE and UN in the Southern Caucasus.

We built stronger missions, cared more, we had our best diplomats, negotiators, and advisers in the Balkans because that was a strategic priority in the West to prevent wars from happening, to stop them and to try to build peace."

Russia Returns To Near Abroad

RFE/RL: Clearly there's a discrepancy between certain European powers and the United States in their commitment to have Georgia be a part of NATO, a part of the European community. How bridgeable is that gap?

Today, you don't have to go very far to find people who are willing to concede that they're willing to live with some version, a modern-day version, of a sphere of influence for Russia in the Southern Caucasus. Well now we're down to the basics of what are the foundations of a new European security order and did all those wonderful principles of the [1990] Charter [of Paris] that apply to Central and Eastern Europe, apply to the Balkans, but don't apply to the Southern Caucasus, or do we mean it for the entire OSCE area?

In which case, should we remain true to those principles, what does that mean in terms of our policies for that region today? Because they don't have a right to join NATO, but we believe that they have a right to be free, independent, and sovereign and not be in a sphere of influence.

And I always remind people that the reason we wrote the Charter of Paris [one of the key documents setting out the terms for post-Cold War European security] the way we did, is because we had concluded at the end of the Cold War, with the Russia of that day, that spheres of influence do not produce stability but instability.

RFE/RL: Try to connect this to Kyrgyzstan, where there was a "colored" revolution five years ago, which turned sour, and the Russians are now coming off looking very good in that country. What do you think the implications are for that event in terms of Russia in its "near abroad" and is the image of Russia changing in the former Soviet space?

I think Russia has a clear sense of its vision, a clear sense of its strategy, and it's playing offense and we're playing defense. And I think you see this in Ukraine, I think you see this in Georgia, I think you see this in Kyrgyzstan.

And I think we need to regroup, debate what we really want, what we really think of the principles we've tried to articulate over the last 20 years. Leave EU and NATO enlargement aside as the next set of issues, It's really now about the independence and sovereignty of these countries and whether they really have any of these rights to align themselves with the West. And there's a debate about whether they're ready and whether we want to embrace them.

We're back to some basic issues. The closer you get to Russia's borders, the more sensitive it is for Russia. But it tests our commitment to the universality of these values and principles."

By Ronald Asmus. Published on 24 April 2010
Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of S & D.

Friday, April 23, 2010

OSCE media freedom representative calls on Azerbaijani authorities to comply with European court ruling, release journalist Fatullayev

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, called upon Azerbaijani authorities today to comply with a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling and immediately release journalist Eynulla Fatullayev from custody.

"My Office has always demanded that Fatullayev's case be handled with two dimensions in mind - freedom of the media and due legal process. Now that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled in favour of the jailed journalist, there can be only one outcome - his immediate release," Mijatovic said.

The ECtHR today said Fatullayev had been wrongfully sentenced and asked Azerbaijan to immediately release him from custody. The Court said it had found Azerbaijan in violation of Article 10 and Article 6, paragraphs 1 and 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Azerbaijan ratified the Convention in 2002.

The editor-in-chief of the now-closed independent Russian-language weekly Realny Azerbaijan and Azeri-language daily Gündalik Azarbaycan, Fatullayev was sentenced in 2007 to a cumulative eight-and-a-half years in prison on charges on defamation, incitement of ethnic hatred, terrorism and tax evasion.

On 24 November 2009, the Committee to Protect Journalists honoured Fatullayev with its annual International Press Freedom Award.

Press Release: OSCE. Published in Vienna on 22 April 2010

PACE rapporteur joins Strasbourg Court’s call to free Fatullayev

Christoph Strässer (Germany, SOC), rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on political prisoners in Azerbaijan, has welcomed today’s judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, which held that the prison sentence against opposition journalist Eynulla Fatullayev violates, among other things, the freedom of expression and of information protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"As the Court rightly recalled, this violation must be ended without delay, by releasing Mr Fatullayev. I call on the authorities of Azerbaijan to put an end to the injustice done to this journalist, who has already spent far too much time in prison," said Mr Strässer.

He is due to visit Azerbaijan later in 2010 in an effort to help clarify the situation of a number of other alleged political prisoners in the country.

Press Release: PACE. Published in Strasbourg on 22 April 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Excluding Azerbaijan Can't Bring Stability To The South Caucasus

The United States has recently stepped up efforts to repair relations between Turkey and Armenia. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in response to the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azerbaijani territories by Armenian forces. Lately, U.S. officials have been urging Turkey to ignore Armenia's continuing occupation and reopen the border. While Washington says that its aim is to improve stability and development throughout the region, in reality U.S. policies have become increasingly pro-Armenian -- and exclusive of Azerbaijan.

Washington believes that a Turkish-Armenian rapprochement could kill two birds with one stone. First, it might smooth over -- at least temporarily -- one of the major trouble spots in U.S.-Turkish relations: the issue of Armenian genocide claims. Second, some U.S. officials argue that improving ties between Armenia and Turkey will ultimately contribute to a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They appear to believe improved relations will lead to a moderation of Armenian policies and open the way to new initiatives on Karabakh.

However, we must disagree. Armenia continues to occupy almost 20 percent of Azerbaijan's internationally recognized territory. It is ironic that while claiming to be the first victim of genocide in the 20th century, Armenia itself carried out one of the century's major ethnic-cleansing campaigns in Europe -- a campaign that resulted in thousands of deaths and the displacement of nearly 1 million Azerbaijanis. Many members of the Armenian political elite -- including President Serge Sarkisian -- rose through the ranks because of their personal involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. They have used the war as a pretext for strengthening their own hold over Armenian politics, so it is not surprising that they have not been constructive in settlement talks.

Pretext For Occupation

Azerbaijan has proposed granting the highest form of autonomy to Nagorno-Karabakh and is prepared to invest heavily in the region's development once a peace deal is reached. Baku has been cooperating closely with the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to resolve the conflict peacefully.

However, Armenia remains intransient, and this creates the suspicion that Yerevan wants to keep the conflict unresolved as an excuse for indefinite occupation.

In this context, Armenia's closed borders are the main form of leverage that might compel Yerevan to engage seriously in the resolution of the conflict. There is no reason to believe that opening the borders will make Armenia more willing to compromise; on the contrary, removing this sole punishment will only increase Armenia's interest in further entrenching the status quo.

We understand that Armenia has a powerful diaspora and that justice does not necessarily always prevail. Over the last 15 years, despite maintaining the occupation of part of a neighboring country, Armenia has received preferential treatment from the West, which has actually punished Azerbaijan. The infamous Section 907 of the U.S. Freedom Support Act, which banned direct U.S. aid to Azerbaijan, is a clear example of this. Western governments and media have largely been silent on the plight of the nearly 1 million Azerbaijanis who were displaced by Armenian aggression. This has naturally led the Azerbaijani public to think that the West's talk of democracy and human rights is nothing more than a selectively applied method of promoting its own interests.

In Defense Of Justice

It is high time for the United States and Europe to adopt a fair position and to prevent the narrow interests of their Armenian lobbies from prevailing over justice and their own national interests.

In any event, attempts to pressure Ankara to abandon Azerbaijan are shortsighted and likely to backfire. Azerbaijan and Turkey are strategic allies with deep historical ties. Turkey has played an important role in Azerbaijan's partnership with the West on key security and energy projects. Azerbaijan spearheaded the opening of Caspian energy resources to the West and insisted that major oil and gas pipelines be routed through Georgia and Turkey.

Baku has also wholeheartedly supported U.S. security initiatives by sending troops to Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Azerbaijan also provides supply-transit support for the NATO effort in Afghanistan. Those who know the region understand the significant risks Azerbaijan took and the pressure it overcame in order to pursue close cooperation with the West on energy and security issues.

Long-term peace and normalization of relations in the South Caucasus cannot be achieved by rewarding aggression and by excluding the region's strategically most important country. By pushing Turkey to abandon Azerbaijan, the United States risks alienating one of its most important and reliable partners in a critical region of the world.

By Novruz Mammadov. Last Updated on 21 April 2010
Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of S & D.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lukashenko: Belarus' participation in Euronest is possible only on equal terms

“We welcome the Eastern Partnership initiative bound to enlarge many countries, among them Belarus, in European processes. However, our relationship cannot be other than equal. There must be no pushing of a particular cooperation format or model.” Belarus President Lukashenko said this during his annual address to the nation and National Assembly on Tuesday 20 April.

Any demands for "an alternative opposition parliament to sit together with parliamentarians" will never be accepted,Lukashenko stressed. "Why should such demands be made only of us?" he added. "There're other states there [represented in the EURONEST PA], and they have the same problems." "If we don’t suit the Eastern Partnership, tell us so, we'll do without it, especially considering that we haven't received anything and will hardly receive. We were invited and told: 'Come, we'll talk and cooperate.' Okay, why should we refuse?"

“I guarantee that no topics will be avoided. We, however, expect that the talk will be objective, mutually respecting, sincere, without double standards,” stressed the head of state.

“In recent years we have managed to advance relations with the European Union to a quality new level. Our productive and consistent approach has received a response: Europe has understood the hopelessness of old approaches to Belarus. Dictate and pressure are replaced with an open and objective dialogue. We are pleased that such powerful European countries as Germany, France, Italy and others pioneer this sound approach”.

“I am glad that the European elite is rejecting the false stereotypes about the situation in Belarus. I am glad that Europe understands that Belarus is an island of stability and security,” said the President.

Euronest Parliamentary Assembly was expected to be launched on 24 March in the European Parliament but this date had to be postponed because no agreement could be reached on the participation of Belarus.

The European Popular Party in the European Parliament tuned down the participation of Belarus on equal basis in the Euronest Parliamentary Assebly bringing this project to a stall. This decision was taken despite the call from the other 5 Eastern countries, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, to invite Belarus as an equal partner in this Assembly.

In a press conference on 24 march in the European Parliament, EP Chairman for Euronest Parliamentary Assembly Kristian Vigenin expressed his regrets concerning the unsuccessful attempts to reach an agreement with the Eastern countries to launch the Euronest Constitutive Assembly today but remains very optimistic that this assembly will kick-off later this year.

In an attempt to find a compromise solution on the participation of Belarus in Euronest, an EP delegation went to Minsk earlier this year to discuss this issue with the opposition, civil society and the government of Belarus.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Table of Contents

PART I An Overview of the Eastern Partnership

1. Introduction
2. What will be financed?
3. Who will benefit?
4. Who will implement?
5. Timing

PART II Frequently asked questions

6.1 How will the EaP funding be allocated to the six eastern countries?
6.2 How will the Commission programme these funds?
6.3 How will the Commission define in details the specific measures that will be financed each year?
6.4 How will EaP funds be implemented?
6.5 How can beneficiaries access funding under the Eastern Partnership?
6.6 How can prospective recipients apply for funding under EaP?
6.7 Where can I find information on Call for proposals & Procurement notices?
6.8 Can other donors co-finance Eastern Partnership activities?
6.9 How can MS and other donors contribute to the implementation of the Comprehensive Institution Building programmes?
6.10 How can MS and other donors contribute to the implementation of the Flagship
6.11 Where can more details on the Flagship Initiatives be found?
6.12 Can new initiatives be proposed in the context of the work of the Platforms?
6.13 Can partner countries co-finance the Eastern Partnership?
6.14 How are the EIB and EBRD involved?
6.15 Does the Commission envisage creating a fast-track procedure for Flagship
6.16 When will draft project fiches be available?
6.17 When can draft projects be sent to the Commission for review and possible approval?
6.18 Will any additional funds be available for the Eastern Partnership from the
European Investment Bank or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development ? If so, how will they be allocated?
6.19 Will the funds dedicated to the EaP benefit only the Flagship Initiatives?
6.20 When will the rules guiding the implementation of projects under the EaP be known?
6.21 Are TAIEX and Twinning / Twinning Light the only tools to implement project under the Eastern Partnership?
6.22 Can the Partners countries’ regions and local authorities participate in projects implemented under the EaP?
6.23 How can I obtain further information?

Source: European Commission.
To read this document log on

Monday, April 19, 2010

OSCE Office holds seminar on government-media relations in democratic society

A two-day seminar by the OSCE Office in Baku and the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media on government-media relations in a democratic society started today.

The seminar will look into the domestic and international legal aspects of freedom of information and freedom of expression, including best practices in successfully managing government-media relations.

"During OSCE workshop held in December 2009 there was great interest from the press officers and spokespersons in elements of the media law, including the 2005 law on information and defamation. In addition, both journalists and press officers said that it would be ideal to convene a seminar for them together, which is why we have organized this seminar today," said Ambassador Bilge Cankorel, the Head of the OSCE Office in Baku.

Sixteen heads of press and information offices of the ministries and government agencies, and sixteen editors-in-chief of various media outlets, are attending the seminar.

Local and international experts will brief participants on domestic and international laws relevant to the government-media relations; management of successful government-media operations; access to information by the media in the OSCE region; and on practical recommendations for improved press relations and communication strategies. Participants will also discuss the state of media relations in Azerbaijan and ways to improve co-operation between the government agencies and journalists.

This seminar is a follow-up to workshops held in December 2009 for spokespersons and journalists, which focused on the rights and responsibilities of both the media and government press offices under the 2005 Law on the Right to Obtain Information.

Source: OSCE. Published on 19 April 2010 in Baku.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ukraine's Fractured Opposition

During the four years between the unveiling of secret tapes made by a presidential guard in November 2000 that implicated President Leonid Kuchma, the speaker of parliament, and the security forces in the abduction and murder of an opposition journalist and the 17-day Orange Revolution four years later, the Ukrainian opposition mobilized, increased in strength, and improved its tactics to go on and defeat the authorities' presidential candidate, then-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

International monitoring organizations and Western governments had cried foul and refused to accept the legitimacy of Yanukovych's "win" in the second-round runoff. The Supreme Court annulled the results on December 3, 2004, and called for a rerun later that month, which opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko won.

Fast-tracking the clock forward five years after Yushchenko's largely wasted presidency, and the discredited candidate of 2004, Party of Regions leader Yanukovych, is elected in what international organizations describe as a free election. Yushchenko, the hero of the Orange Revolution, comes in fifth with just 5 percent of the vote, far less than the 44 percent received by incumbent President Leonid Kravchuk in 1994. Both Yushchenko and Kravchuk served only one term.

Kuchma, although severely weakened by the 2000 revelations about his role in Heorhiy Gongadze's murder, went on to serve a second term. Concerns about his slide into authoritarianism only surfaced during that second term (1999-2004). In that respect, Kuchma's presidency differed from that of Yanukovych, who in his first two months in office has already raised concerns about his consolidation of power and his willingness to attempt a second time to impose on Ukraine the "Donetsk model," one that closely resembles Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's nexus of business-politics-government.

Within a month after Yanukovych's election as president in February, the new administration was again accused of backsliding on democracy, and the opposition has branded the April 8 Constitutional Court ruling endorsing the manner in which his coalition was formed by factions and individual defectors a "coup d'etat."

Disunited Opposition

Is the opposition capable of again successfully reversing today's drift to authoritarianism, as it did in the Kuchma era?

Probably not, because today it is more divided and weakened than in the first half of the decade. Ukraine's slide into authoritarianism in the Kuchma era, and Yanukovych's attempt to win power through a rigged election in 2004 were both blocked by a strong and largely united opposition that closed ranks behind Yushchenko.

During Kuchma's second term, the opposition was stronger than today, but nevertheless still split. Ukraine's center-right national democrats have collectively never been able to make up their minds whether they wanted to be in opposition or statists (derzhavnyky). Yushchenko himself always wavered between a grand coalition with the Party of Regions or an "Orange" alliance with Yulia Tymoshenko. This indecisiveness led in the 1990s to a weak opposition that was unable to impede the rise of an oligarchic class.

From 2001 to 2003, Yushchenko never felt comfortable in opposition, and if his government had not been removed in April 2001 by a parliamentary vote of no confidence, he would have loyally served Kuchma until the end of his term, perhaps even becoming his chosen successor. It was only after the failed attempt to poison him in September 2004 that Yushchenko and his Our Ukraine party unequivocally embraced a radical opposition stance, vowing to take to the streets if there was election fraud.

Fraying To Right And Left

Key pro-business leaders in Yushchenko's team, nicknamed the "Dear Friends," preferred a grand coalition with the oligarchs and the Kuchma camp to unity with other opposition forces.

Petro Poroshenko, head of Our Ukraine's 2002 election campaign, defected to Yushchenko only after losing the contest for leadership of the newly formed Party of Regions to Mykola Azarov, then head of the Tax Administration and now prime minister. Poroshenko's Solidarity Party was one of five that had merged to form the Party of Regions in 2001.

Another was Kyiv Mayor Leonid Chernovetskyy's Beautiful Ukraine party; Chernovetskyy supported Yanukovych in the 2010 presidential election. Another member of this group is Yuriy Yekhanurov -- Ukraine's answer to Russia's Boris Nemtsov -- who as head of the State Property Fund managed the privatization process that created the oligarchs who emerged in the late 1990s.

Like Poroshenko and former Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Yekhanurov has always been a staunch opponent of Tymoshenko. After the 2006 elections, Yekhanurov was tasked by Yushchenko with negotiating a grand coalition of Our Ukraine-Party of Regions that was ready to be signed in early June 2006, but fell through.

Ivan Plyushch, although elected in September 2007 as a deputy in Our Ukraine-People's Self Defense (NU-NSO), always refused to join the democratic (Orange) coalition. Plyushch continues to defend the scandalous February 2001 letter (released in the same month that Tymoshenko was arrested on trumped up corruption charges) that he co-signed as parliament speaker with President Kuchma and Prime Minister Yushchenko denouncing the opposition as "fascists."

Yushchenko never defended Tymoshenko while she was in prison, and the Yushchenko national democrats never supported Kuchma's impeachment, unlike Tymoshenko and the Socialists.

Yatsenyuk, leader of the Front for Change party, another virtual center-right party established from the top down in 2008, will unite the so-called Dear Friends in the 2012 parliamentary elections. Yatsenyuk placed fourth in the 2010 election with 7 percent of the vote but, unlike Serhiy Tihipko (who came third with 13 percent), he refused to join the Stability and Reforms coalition and the Azarov government.

Like Our Ukraine, the left were never fully committed to the opposition. The Communist Party (KPU) had joined with oligarchic parliamentary factions to vote no confidence in the Yushchenko government in April 2001. After 2004, the KPU continued its alliance with the oligarchs, joining the 2006-07 Yanukovych and 2010 Azarov coalitions and governments.

In 2003-04, the Socialist Party (SPU) and KPU cooperated with presidential-administration head Viktor Medvedchuk in preparing the constitutional reforms that parliament failed to approve in spring 2004. These were eventually adopted by parliament in December 2004, with only the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) voting against them.

SPU leader Oleksandr Moroz and KPU leader Petro Symonenko did not support a united opposition candidate in the 2004 presidential elections, but instead put forward their own candidates. But Moroz backed Yushchenko in the two second rounds (in exchange for his support for constitutional reforms), while KPU voters backed Yanukovych.

What The Opposition Must Do

Comparing the Kuchma era and the situation today, five conclusions can be drawn.

First, the opposition is weaker today than it was in the four years prior to the Orange Revolution. At the same time, Yanukovych's team is stronger than that of Kuchma.

Kuchma's personal authority and standing were irreparably damaged both at home, as reflected in the defeat of his For a United Ukraine bloc in the 2002 elections, and in the West, where he was shunned because of the Gongadze murder, a scandal over the illicit sale of four Kolchuga radar systems to Iraq, and other evidence the tapes made by presidential guard Mykola Melnychenko yielded of his abuse of office. In 2004, the opposition had just two presidential candidates (Yushchenko and Moroz), while in 2010 the former Orange camp had three times as many.

Second, Tymoshenko is the strongest component of the weaker opposition. But, unlike in the Kuchma era, Tymoshenko is not a parliament deputy, which undercuts her ability to function as opposition leader. She maybe also be less able to unite the opposition than was Yushchenko in 2004.

Third, Yushchenko remains unwaveringly obsessed with, and hostile to, Tymoshenko, unlike in 2001-04 when they joined forces and cooperated. The NU-NSO bloc is more divided today than Our Ukraine was under Kuchma. Meanwhile, the NU-NSO bloc's initial nine parties in 2007 have grown to 13, fracturing the center-right, which fielded multiple Orange candidates in 2010.

Fourth, the lack of a center-left component to the opposition makes it weaker. In 2000-03, the SPU, which then had approximately the same electoral support as the BYuT, was a strong supporter of the opposition.

It was SPU leader Moroz who made public to a shocked parliament in November 2000 the clandestine tape recordings that documented Kuchma's involvement in the murder of Gongadze. The SPU had earlier helped Melnychenko to flee from Ukraine to Prague.

Since 2006-07, the SPU has lost support because Moroz failed to step down as its leader after voters deserted the SPU following its July 2006 defection from the Orange coalition to the Party of Regions. Moroz finished third in the preceding three presidential elections, but only 11th in 2010.

That self-destruction of the SPU permitted the ideologically vacuous Volodymyr Lytvyn bloc to be elected to parliament in 2007 in its place. Following Yanukovych's election as president, the Lytvyn bloc deserted the democratic coalition and joined the pro-Yanukovych Stability and Reforms coalition, a U-turn that resembles the SPU's 2006 defection. The consequences for the Lytvyn bloc will be as defeating in the 2012 elections as for the SPU in 2007.

Fifth, in 2000-03 young people did not identify overwhelmingly with one single opposition force. It was only in 2004 that they became a crucial component of the Yushchenko campaign through the "yellow" and "black" wings of "Pora" (It's Time) and other youth NGOs. In other words, the generation born between when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985 and the disintegration of the USSR six years later emerged as "Generation Orange."

Today the situation is different. Disillusioned by five years of Yushchenko's presidency and infighting among the former Orange Revolution allies, many young Ukrainians have withdrawn from politics, while a minority have been attracted by the extreme right Svoboda (Freedom) Party led by Oleh Tyahnybok. The "Yellow" Pora wing evolved into another virtual center-right political party. It failed to enter parliament in 2006, but succeeded in 2007 as one of nine parties in NU-NSO.

The Constitutional Court's recent ruling legalizing the new coalition effectively precludes early elections in the fall. The opposition therefore has two years to plan, mobilize, and develop new tactics and strategies before the next parliamentary elections in September 2012.

The 2012 parliament will be very different from the two parliaments elected after the Orange Revolution in 2006 and 2007. In 2012, gone will be the KPU, the Lytvyn bloc, and mega-center-right blocs such as NU-NSO. In will be the Party of Regions and BYuT, competing again for first and second places, followed in third and fourth places by new liberal political forces (Yatsenyuk, Tihipko), with the nationalists (Yushchenko, Tyahnybok) possibly entering parliament in last place.

By Taraa Kuzio. Published on 16 April 2010
Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of S & D.

Friday, April 16, 2010

OSCE Office supports study on religious tolerance in Armenia

An OSCE-supported study on religious tolerance in Armenia was presented at a discussion forum in Yerevan Wednesday.

Representatives of state bodies, the Ombudsman institution, religious and national minority communities and non-governmental organizations discussed the study, the state of religious tolerance and freedom of religion or belief in Armenia and the challenges to be addressed. The event also focused on legislation and practice in the area of freedom of religion or belief and proposed legislative changes in this sphere.

The study on "Religious Tolerance in Armenia" was conducted in 2009 by the Collaboration for Democracy Centre non-governmental organization, with the support of the OSCE Office in Yerevan. The report includes interviews, secondary analysis of relevant press, reports and studies, analysis of legislation and recommendations to the authorities.

"These discussions are a good opportunity to strengthen dialogue and promote co-operation between different cultural and faith-based communities as well as authorities to jointly address issues of freedom of religion or belief and human rights protection. We will continue to promote tolerance and trust, which are also among Kazakhstan's 2010 Chairmanship priorities," said Carel Hofstra, the Acting Head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan.

Stepan Danielyan, the Chairman of the Collaboration for Democracy Centre NGO, added: "We hope that the monitoring results contained in the report on cases of intolerance and discrimination, as well as the situational and legislation analysis, will be useful and that our recommendations will be helpful in bringing the law in line with international standards and promoting freedom of religion or belief in Armenia."

Press Release: OSCE. Publihed in Yerevan on 14 April 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Free and fair elections ‘the best way’ for Azerbaijan to mark ten years in the Council of Europe

Mevlüt Çavusoglu, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has said that holding free and fair parliamentary elections in November would be “the best way” for Azerbaijan to celebrate its tenth anniversary as a member of the Council of Europe next year.

The President, speaking mid-way through a four-day official visit to Azerbaijan (13-16 April), said the aim of his visit was to express support for the continuation of democratic reforms in the country: “Through our monitoring procedure, the Venice Commission’s advice and input from other Council of Europe programmes, we are trying to help the authorities create the best possible conditions for these elections.”

“I am persuaded that these conditions can only be put in place through the joint efforts of all political forces, both the majority party and opposition parties, and I am here to facilitate this dialogue. The Council of Europe can help in this process, but the job itself must be done by the politicians and people of Azerbaijan.”

Mr Çavusoglu also stressed the urgency of solving the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. “The Assembly has already clearly stated its position on this matter in Resolution 1416, adopted in 2005. We hope to contribute to finding a solution by reconstituting the ad hoc Bureau committee on the conflict, where MPs from both Azerbaijan and Armenia can meet, together with other Assembly members, to move forward on this difficult question.”

The President added that he intended to do his best to avoid “double standards” in the way member states were treated: “We have common standards that apply equally to everyone: we are in favour of democracy and human rights.”

During his visit, Mr Çavusoglu met the President of the Republic, the Speaker of Parliament, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and representatives of political parties in Parliament, as well as representatives of parties not in Parliament and NGOs.

Press Release: PACE. Published in Strasbourg on 14 April 2010.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

S&D Delegation in Ukraine

An S&D delegation, led by vice-President Adrian Severin was in Kiev end of March to analyse the current political situation in Ukraine. During this mission, the delegation exchanged views with President Victor Yanukovych, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Volodymyr Handogii and Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Lytvyv amongst others. Marek Siwiec and Kristian Vigenin were part of this delegation.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eastern Partnership Glossary - An A to Z of 27 commonly used terms

A glossary comprising 27 terms commonly used in the framework of the EU’s Eastern Partnership has been produced by the ENPI Info Centre, with the support of DG RELEX and EuropeAid. The six-page ‘Eastern Partnership glossary’ is available in English and Russian, as well as in the official languages of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. All the translations have been approved by the European Commission.

The aim of this unique publication - handbook is to assist people understand the terms and expressions used when referring to the Eastern Partnership, a policy that seeks to bring closer the EU and its six neighbours in the East, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

The publication, laid out in A to Z format and easy to print, covers a variety of terms and expressions, ranging from “approximation to the EU acquis” and “bilateral track” to “conditionality”, “enhanced cooperation”, “flagship initiatives” and “panels to support the work of thematic platforms”. It also explains numerous policies, like the Black Sea Synergy, cooperation programmes like TRACECA and INOGATE, and includes some of the financial instruments available to the partner states such as SIGMA and TAIEX.

The ‘Eastern Partnership Glossary’ is available in electronic version and can be found on the ENPI Info Centre’s website, at:

It comes to supplement another glossary covering general terms related to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and its financial mechanism, the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), also prepared by the ENPI Info Centre and available from: Furthermore, a number of thematic glossaries, jargon guides and acronyms have been collected by the Info Centre and can be found under the “Resources” section of its website:

Since the EU’s enlargement in 2004 an ever deeper relationship is being built between the Union and the countries on its eastern borders. One of the EU’s newest external relations policies, the Eastern Partnership, seeks to bring them closer, support their efforts for economic, social and political reform and facilitate their approximation and convergence towards the EU. The Eastern Partnership is explained on the ENPI Info Centre website and the “EU and Eastern Neighbours” section on:

Press Release: European Commission. Published on 8 April 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

OSCE Office organizes discussions on ODIHR election recommendations

The OSCE Office in Baku is launched a series of roundtable discussions with political parties and civil society to follow-up the recommendations by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Election Observation Mission in 2008.

The discussion aims to increase confidence in the election process and to promote the interaction between different political parties. The agenda includes issues regarding the election campaign, in particular the implementation of the Law on Freedom of Assembly and illegal interference in the election process.

Representatives from Azerbaijani sixteen political parties, civil society and the international community have been invited to the discussion, which will start with a presentation of the ODIHR Election Observation Mission's recommendations.

"The OSCE Office in Baku is ready to assist the government, political parties, and civil society in Azerbaijan in their work toward improving the electoral process and bringing the conduct of elections in line with the country's OSCE commitments and international standards for democratic elections," said Ambassador Bilge Cankorel, the Head of the OSCE Office in Baku, in his opening speech.

"Given Azerbaijan's previous track record and remaining challenges in the election environment, we intend to focus our support in 2010 on such areas as political pluralism, election administration and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms." concluded Ambassador Cankorel.

The OSCE Office in Baku is planning to hold two more roundtable discussions to discuss election administration, particularly the composition of election commissions and their leadership, registration of candidates, handling of election complaints and the role of media in elections.

Source: OSCE. Published on 8 April 2010 in Baku.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Štefan Füle: Human rights dimension increasingly important in the European Neighbourhood Policy

On 6 April, 2010, Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, addressed delegates of the 37th International Federation of Human Rights Congress, which took place in Erevan (Armenia).

According to the Commissioner, human rights and rule of law become increasingly important for EU’s foreign policy, including for the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy and Eastern Partnership.

“First respect for human rights, democratic values and the rule of law is and will remain a crucial element of stability within the EU and our neighbourhood”, the Commissioner says.

“Over the past 20 years, the importance the EU attaches to these values in its external policies has gradually increased. This in part reflects the process whereby our relations with third countries have gradually widened beyond economic issues”. “Consequently since 1995 the European Community has inserted a human rights clause in all agreements, concluded with developing countries, and has defined respect for human rights and democracy as an essential element underlying the bilateral relations”, Füle reminds.

“The Lisbon treaty has now given the EU an even stronger mandate to advance these values in the wider world”, he says, adding that the treaty “clearly states that the Union’s actions on the international scene ‘shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms’ ”.

“Secondly respect for these principles is increasingly a decisive factor in determining the level of interaction between the EU and partner countries”, the Commissioner stressed.

“For our partners, coming closer to the EU depends on the commitment to reform at home, including in particular as regards respect for human rights and the rule of law”.

“But ultimately the reason for promoting human rights, democratic values and the rule of law should not be because the EU or the Council of Europe or the OSCE says that this is important”, the Commissioner argued. He added that “the case for reform lies in pure self-interest” of the partner states, as every society “faces the challenge of how it can make itself competitive, dynamic and innovative”. “Every society must seek to ensure its stability and prosperity”, and it can only do so “by realising the full potential of all its citizens”, the Commissioner believes.

“Thirdly the EU’s support for these principles in wide-ranging and determined”,Füle says, recalling the fact that “the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), with an annual budget of more than 100 Mio Euro, is specifically aimed at promoting the protection of Human rights and democracy worldwide mainly through civil society projects”.

Source: Delegation of the EU to Ukraine Website

Thursday, April 8, 2010

South Caucasus - The need to promote stability and cooperation

The main progressive group in the European Parliament reaffirmed today the need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus, given the importance of this region and the potential role that EU has in fostering further the development of South Caucasus and in the solution of its conflicts.

The EP foreign affairs committee today approved the report "The need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus."

Said Evgeni Kirilov, S&D rapporteur: "The aim of this document is to show the need for a bigger strategic role of the EU in the region and to devise an EU strategy towards it.

"The 2008 war in Georgia reminded Europe how volatile and dangerous ' frozen conflicts' can be, as well as the human and political costs of resolving them by force.
It also showed the vulnerability of investments and projects in the region aimed at diversifying Europe's energy supplies.

"The report's main focus is to suggest efficient and constructive ways of EU involvement in the resolution on the Nagorno-Karabakh and the Georgian-Russian conflicts, as well as in the post-conflict rehabilitation of the region.

"The today approved document also recognizes the efforts of the three countries on their way to democratization, approximation with EU values, social and economic reforms.
It makes concrete recommendations for achieving further progress in these fields with the support of EU policies and institutions.

"The importance of the regional cooperation, the energy security issues and the development of a trade free area are also outlined in the report", Mr. Kirilov concluded.

Press release: S&D. Published on 7 April 2010

Commissioner Štefan Füle on official visit to South Caucasus

Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle is visiting Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia on 6-9 April.

"Each and every of our partner countries is the master of its own success in getting closer to the EU'' stated Commissioner Füle prior to the visit. The EU is offering through the Eastern Partnership closer economic integration, deeper political cooperation through the proposal to engage in negotiations of Association Agreements with the partner countries. This important visit will provide one more opportunity to stress the EU intention to take forward the broad agenda we have developed with the three countries in the context of the Eastern Partnership.


The EaP concentrates on four policy dimensions: bi- and multilateral relations, governance and financial assistance. In terms of bilateral relations, the Eastern Partnership foresees Association Agreements including strengthened trade relations and enhanced political dialogue, whereas multilateral relations focus on energy projects. The EaP also aims at facilitating social development and creating stability, improving administrative capacities, enhancing regional cooperation by engaging with a wide range of international top and mid-level actors. The key objectives include the creation of a free trade area and gradual visa liberalization. The initiative also foresees meetings of Heads of State or Government of the EaP countries to be held every two years and yearly meetings of Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia each have an action plan under the ENP, designed to help, inter alia, their closer trade and economic integration with the EU, in particular through gradual regulatory alignment. The implementation of the action plans should also enable the countries to progressively become ready to negotiate, implement and sustain a deep and comprehensive free trade area with the EU.

The new EU Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative launched in May 2009 builds upon the ENP and aims at overall enhancing the EU relations with the Eastern ENP countries. The EaP has brought in particular a perspective of new enhanced bilateral framework agreements – Association Agreements - between the EU and its Eastern Neighbours, and firmly embedded possible future bilateral deep and comprehensive free trade areas in this framework. A future Association Agreement would include either establishment of a deep and comprehensive free trade area or at least an objective of establishing such a free trade area in the future once the partner country has become ready for it. In long-term, the partner countries are also encouraged to establish deep and comprehensive free trade areas among themselves.

Through the ENPI (European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instruments), the EU provides financial and technical assistance to support the regulatory alignment of the partners' trade and investment related laws and practices.

Press release: European Commission. Published on 6 April 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton on the normalisation of relations between Turkey and Armenia

Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission made the following statement:

"The European Union encourages Armenia and Turkey to remain committed to the process of normalisation and calls on both countries to ratify and implement the bilateral protocols without preconditions and in a reasonable timeframe. In this context, the EU welcomes the decision of the Armenian President to submit both protocols to the parliament as well as the recent declaration by the President of Turkey to remain committed to the normalisation of relations with Armenia.

The European Union believes that the full normalisation of bilateral relations between Armenia and Turkey would be an important contribution to security, stability and cooperation in the Southern Caucasus. The EU will continue to provide its political and technical support to this process and stands ready to help implementing the steps agreed between the two countries."

Press Release: Council of the EU. Published on 6 April 2010

OSCE, Council of Europe and European Union present assistance plans to Azerbaijan parliamentary elections

Representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe and the European Union today jointly presented their plans for assisting the Republic of Azerbaijan to prepare for the parliamentary elections to be held in November.

"The electoral process is a key priority for the work of our organizations in Azerbaijan, as well as for the country itself as a member of the international community," said the organizations' representatives, Bilge Cankorel (OSCE), Veronika Kotek (CoE) and Roland Kobia (European Union), in a joint statement.

"We encourage the country to continue addressing the shortcomings identified by international observers in previous elections. For this, an effort is needed by all the actors concerned and we stand ready to support this effort.".

The assistance of these three organizations will concentrate on: strengthening the capacities and independence of the electoral administration and other relevant actors; supporting a media environment that would ensure independent, unbiased and pluralistic coverage of the electoral campaigns of all candidates; encouraging the appropriate exercise of freedom of assembly; and stimulating public interest and participation in the electoral process, including by women.

The three organizations will work with public authorities as well as civil society and will develop their plans in a concerted and coherent manner to ensure that their assistance best contributes to the efforts of Azerbaijan to hold free and fair parliamentary elections.

Press Release: OSCE. Published in Baku on 7 April 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

OSCE Chairperson meets Moldovan government, Transdniestrian leadership, praises constructive efforts towards settlement process

The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Kazakhstan's Secretary of State and Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev, in meetings with the Moldovan government in Chisinau and the Transdniestrian leadership in Tiraspol, urged the sides to continue their dialogue and work towards renewing official talks on a comprehensive political solution to the Transdniestrian conflict .

"Kazakhstan's 2010 OSCE Chairmanship is committed to building on the efforts of previous Chairmanships to address protracted conflicts in the OSCE area. We have seen positive developments in the Transdniestrian settlement process in recent months, including the consistent promotion of direct contacts and the resumption of the Expert Working Groups on Confidence-Building Measures," said Saudabayev.

"My meetings here have been encouraging and productive, and I urged the sides to continue their constructive dialogue. The 5+2 will meet in Astana in May on my invitation, and I am confident that we will be able to further build on the positive dynamic developed through the efforts of all involved in the process for the benefit of ordinary people."

The "5+2" Transdniestria settlement process includes representatives of the Sides, Mediators - the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the OSCE - and Observers - the United States and the European Union.

In Chisinau, Saudabayev met Acting President and Parliamentary Speaker Mihai Ghimpu, Prime Minister Vlad Filat, Deputy Prime Minister Victor Osipov, the Moldovan chief negotiator for Transdniestrian conflict resolution, and Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Iurie Leanca. He also met representatives of the opposition Party of Communists.In Tiraspol, he met Transdniestrian leader Igor Smirnov.

In his meeting with Leanca, Saudabayev extended to his counterpart an invitation to the informal Ministerial Meeting in Almaty in July.

The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office praised the constructive role played by the OSCE Mission to Moldova in the Transdniestrian settlement process. He emphasized that the OSCE, through the Mission and its Institutions, including the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, remained an important resource at the disposal of the country to support its democratic development.

Press Release: OSCE. Published on 1 April 2010 in Chisinau.