Monday, May 31, 2010

OSCE hosts forum on women's participation in political life in Ukraine

A forum on promoting the participation and representation of women in the political life of Ukraine was organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine.

The meeting, which is part of a joint ODIHR-European Commission project, brought together members of parliament, political party representatives, district and local councilors, civil society activists and representatives of international organizations as well as academia.

"This forum was part of a series of meetings aimed at sharing experiences and identifying ways forward for increasing the participation of women in politics, and in particular the representation of women in parliaments at all levels," said Marcin Walecki, Chief of the ODIHR's Democratic Governance and Participation Unit.

Participants discussed the development of effective gender equality and anti-discrimination laws and the introduction of electoral legislation that ensures that men and women enjoy equal rights and opportunities to participate in political life and run for elected offices. Discussions also focused on developing policies aimed at mobilizing broader public support and political will crucial for reforms in this area.

"It is high time that political leaders, women and men, join forces with other public stakeholders and pass legislation that will allow for greater opportunities for women to pursue political careers and address gender-based stereotypes that keep women away from leadership positions," said Olexandra Kuzhel, an experienced politician who is a senior official in the political party Strong Ukraine.

Members of parliament and representatives of political parties and women's rights organizations from several OSCE participating States shared their experiences in promoting gender-sensitive policies.

An earlier forum held in 2008 in Ukraine focused on raising the awareness of gender-equality issues in local policy making processes.

Source: OSCE. Published in Kiev on 28 May 2010.

Friday, May 28, 2010

OSCE assists in strengthening role of Azerbaijan's Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) to prevent torture

A series of events to strengthen the role of Azerbaijan's Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) in the prevention of torture and ill treatment began Monday with a conference organized by the OSCE Office in Baku and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Commissioner's Office and the Parliament of Azerbaijan.

According to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, each State Party is responsible for developing a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to regularly monitor places where people are deprived of liberty, such as prisons, detention centres and psychiatric facilities, to ensure reasonable conditions and treatment. Following the ratification of the Optional Protocol by Azerbaijan in January 2009, President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree assigning the responsibility for Azerbaijan's NPM to the Commissioner for Human Rights.

"We believe that an independent and strong National Preventive Mechanism can serve as an effective domestic tool to ensure the prevention of torture and ill-treatment in places of detention. Azerbaijan is to be applauded for ratifying the Optional Protocol and designating the Commissioner for Human Rights as the National Preventive Mechanism," said Ambassador Bilge Cankorel, the Head of the OSCE Office in Baku.

Liane Adler, ODIHR's representative at the conference, stressed the importance of strengthening the legislative framework for the National Preventive Mechanism and securing sufficient financial and human resources for its activities.

The conference brings together representatives of the Commissioner's Office, state justice and law enforcement authorities, international organizations and civil society to discuss ways to strengthen the Commissioner's capacity to assume its NPM role. Representatives of the UN Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the Association for the Prevention of Torture, as well as an expert from the Human Rights Implementation Centre at Bristol University are also taking part.

Following the conference, the OSCE Office in Baku and ODIHR will hold two additional events - the launch of the new Azerbaijani translation of the Guide on Monitoring Places of Detention prepared by the Geneva-based Association for the Prevention of Torture, and a workshop to strengthen the operational capacity of the Commissioner's staff and other stakeholders to perform their respective functions as part of the National Preventive Mechanism.

Source: OSCE. Published in Baku on 24 May 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Štefan Füle Opening address to the Plenary Session Eastern Partnership Informal Foreign Ministers Meeting Sopot (Poland), 24 May 2010

Dear Ministers,

Thank you for inviting me to this informal Foreign Ministers meeting here in Sopot. I am sure that the beauty of this seaside resort will inspire us. I would like to thank in particular Minister Sikorski and Minister Moratinos for their unwavering support for the Eastern Partnership.

I am glad that we have this opportunity - one year on from the Prague summit - informally to discuss what we have achieved and where we want to go with the Eastern Partnership. I am convinced the ambitious agenda we agreed in Prague remains the right one: by seeking the political association and economic integration of our six partner countries with the EU, we will strengthen the capacity of our partner countries to make their own sovereign choices about the political and economic challenges that confront them. The development of vibrant democracies and economies able to compete in a globalised marketplace is in all our interests. Let me underline the staunch commitment of the Commission to support our partners in this process.

Mr Chairman,

Let me briefly make a few comments on what we have achieved over the past year and outline a few pointers for the future.

I believe we have got off to a flying start over the past year. I know that some of you have wanted us to go faster and further. But, if I can be frank, I know that others have been surprised at what we have achieved in such a short time.

We have made good on our offer of new contractual relations. Negotiations with Ukraine are well advanced. The negotiations of an Association Agreement with Moldova have been launched. And negotiations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia will start soon. We are engaging with Belarus on the path of an open and constructive dialogue on all fronts but, if we are to go as far as we would wish, we will need to see further progress in the field of democracy and respect for human rights. The ball is now in Minsk’s court.

We have also established the multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership. The four Platforms and the panels they have created are now starting to implement their 2 year work programmes. More than 70 activities are already planned for the next twelve months. Their importance should not be underestimated: they allow for sharing experiences and best practices in order to accelerate progress towards the overall objectives of political association and economic integration. The flagship initiatives which have now been launched have the same goal and are focusing on such crucial fields as border management, development of small and medium sized enterprises, and energy market integration.

Now, with the Lisbon Treaty in force and the External Action Service in sight, offering us the prospect of more joined-up EU foreign policy-making, the Eastern Partnership can give us the possibility to discuss issues of security and stability.

So what are the challenges for the future as we move towards the second Eastern Partnership Summit in the first half of next year during the Hungarian Presidency of the EU?

First, we must redouble our efforts to advance towards two of our most ambitious objectives – visa liberalisation and free trade areas. This is not easy and requires considerable homework on all sides. Let us intensify our dialogue so that we are absolutely clear about the steps that each of us needs to take to move forward. Let us also look for short term steps which can bring immediate, tangible benefits. One such could be the swift and effective implementation of the new EU visa code in all six partner countries in order to ensure uniform and decent treatment.

Let me stress in this context the importance of the Comprehensive Institution Building Programmes in the Eastern Partnership. Once in place – which should be the case next year - these programmes will provide tangible support to partner countries towards achieving the goals of new contractual relations, deep and comprehensive free trade agreements and visa liberalisation.

My second point is to ensure we make the best use of our scarce financial resources. We welcome the considerable interest shown in the Eastern Partnership from the numerous project proposals that have been presented. However, all of us must bear in mind that the bulk of EU financial support to the partner countries is devoted to bilateral programmes. This is, after all, as it should be given the bilateral focus of our policy objectives under the European Neighbourhood Policy and Eastern Partnership. And not all of the additional EaP funding has come on stream yet in 2010. Nevertheless from 2011, the annual EU resources designed to support reform in the 6 Eastern Partnership countries and regional co-operation will increase on average by more than half compared with the period 2007-10 . I will therefore redouble my efforts to ensure that our resources are targeted on achieving our key policy objectives and to look for new ways to improve donor coordination.

In this regard, I believe we should seek to enhance cooperation with the International Financial Institutions, notably the EIB and EBRD, to support more visible investment projects. Already we are doing a lot in this respect. The projects which have been developed under the Neighbourhood Investment Facility amount to €4 billion and are in such crucial areas as electricity networks, energy efficiency, SME financing, airport modernisation or road rehabilitation.

Increased funding, effectively used, as well as progress in the fields of mobility and trade will certainly improve the visibility of the Eastern Partnership. But I believe there is more we can do. I hope that we can start holding Eastern Partnership events in partner countries. I will make sure that the recently increased EU delegations take a leading role in projecting the Partnership in our partner countries. I believe the work of the Civil Society Forum can also play a role here.

Finally I believe third countries outside our circle of 33 can also make valuable contributions to the implementation of Eastern Partnership objectives. We should therefore consider carefully the idea of setting up a “Group of Friends” – something originally proposed by Minister Sikorski in Madrid.

Mr Chairman,

I believe we have made a good start but that we now must keep up the momentum as the Eastern Partnership moves into its second year. For this, I believe we will need robust administrative structures within the External Action Service - something I am discussing with the High Representative.

Let us ensure we all now play our part in moving forward our ambitious agenda – we will be judged by our record on implementing our commitments. Let us give greater visibility to what we have already achieved and to our ongoing activities. And let us work to make the best possible use of the financial resources we are dedicating to this enterprise.

As Commissioner for the whole of the EU’s Neighbourhood, I will continue to strive to advance our relations with all our neighbours East and South. Based on the stock-taking in the Commission’s recent Communication, I hope all of us in the coming months can reflect on how to develop our policy further.

Beyond our immediate priorities for the year ahead, we must also keep in mind the longer term horizon. Making political association and economic integration a reality, will bring our partner countries into an ever closer relationship with the EU: a community of shared values; a network of free trade areas which could in the long run lead to a Neighbourhood Economic Community; a liberalized visa area. I believe it is not too early to start reflecting on what such a relationship will mean for all of us and how we could, in due course, cement it further.

You can rest assured that, working in close coordination with Cathy Ashton and my fellow Commissioners, I will remain firmly committed to advancing the Partnership.

Thank you

Source: European Commission

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton on Nagorno Karabakh

Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has made the following statement:

"I would like to recall that the European Union does not recognise the constitutional and legal framework within which the "parliamentary elections" in Nagorno Karabakh will be held this Sunday. This event should not prejudice the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

I reiterate our firm support to the OSCE Minsk-Group, and the work of the three Co-chairs and their efforts towards a settlement of the conflict, and call on the parties to redouble their efforts to find a negotiated solution to the conflict. I recall the EU's readiness to offer further support to this
end. "

Published in Brussels on 21 May 2010.

Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton, on Moldova/Transnistria

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

"I very much welcome the aide memoire presented by the Moldovan Government, in which it confirms its readiness to further engage with all its partners in order to find a viable and sustainable solution to the Transnistrian issue, including with the help of the EU.

We will consider this constructive proposal with due attention and in close consultation with our partners in the 5+2 format.

We remain fully committed to the resumption of negotiations in the 5+2 format, without any preconditions or delay, and in full respect of the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova.

We invite all sides to support the efforts of the Republic of Moldova in implementing confidence building measures, for the benefit of the people living in the Transnistrian region."

Published in Brussels on 17 May 2010.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

OSCE Chairperson calls for restart of official 5+2 talks on Transdniestrian conflict

A "5 + 2" meeting on the Transdniestrian settlement process was held in Astana at the invitation of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Kazakhstan's Secretary of State and Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev.

The meeting brought together the 5+2, which includes the sides, the Republic of Moldova and Transdniestria, the mediators - Russian Federation, Ukraine and the OSCE - and the United States and the European Union as observers. The meeting was agreed in April during Saudabayev's visit to Chisinau and Tiraspol.

"The settlement of protracted conflicts, including the conflict in Transdniestria, is an important priority of the Kazakh OSCE Chairmanship. We believe that a real settlement of the conflict in Transdniestria can only be reached through peaceful and political means, taking into consideration the interests of all parties," said Saudabayev at the start of the talks.

"For Kazakhstan, a settlement formula relies on the principle of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova, while granting Transdniestria a proper status, as well as respect for the political, economic and humanitarian rights of the region's residents."

The meeting participants noted that there had been elements of progress in solving practical matters between Chisinau and Tiraspol. Meetings between political representatives of the parties are now conducted on a regular basis. Joint Expert Groups on Confidence Building Measures are working and there are already concrete results, in particular in the field of public health.

Among the topics discussed in Astana were proposals made by the two parties to establish guarantees in the conflict settlement process, as well as freedom of movement. The 5+2 agreed to meet informally in Vienna in July.

Since 2006, the conflict settlement process has been taking place in an informal format, and Saudabayev emphasized that it was critical to restart formal 5+2 talks and address the political aspects of the settlement process.

"We believe it is important that informal meetings become formal talks," he said.

Saudabayev said that the Kazakh Chairmanship welcomed the recent joint declaration issued by the Presidents of the Russian Federation and Ukraine on the Transdniestria settlement process. He also noted the key importance of the co-operation with observers, the United States and the European Union, in the settlement process.

"We are in full agreement with calls to Moldova and Transdniestria to refrain from unilateral actions which could complicate the situation in the region and the prospects for a settlement," said Saudabayev. "The settlement process is a key factor for the development of democracy and prosperity in the region."

Source: OSCE. Published in Astana on 24 May 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

OSCE media freedom representative meets Armenian President, encourages public discussion and transparency in broadcast reform

Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, discussed Armenia's ongoing media reforms, including a transformation from an analogue to a digital broadcasting system in a meeting with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.

"It is essential that the digital switchover is carried out in a transparent manner and that the tendering procedures are made public well in advance to ensure broadcast pluralism," Mijatovic said. She asked the authorities to guarantee that the broadcast reform is carried out with the active involvement of the public.

"The digital strategy of Armenia will define the broadcasting landscape for many years to come. It is essential that the legislation to be adopted grants access to diverse information and high quality programmes," she said.

"I am pleased by the readiness of the authorities to consider the OSCE's assessment of the recently introduced amendments to the draft Law on TV and Radio Broadcasting before its final adoption. I encourage all stakeholders to use this opportunity to present their views and recommendations," she added.

Mijatovic also met National Assembly Deputy Chairman Samvel Nikoyan, Economy Minister Nerses Yeritsyan, Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosyan and the President of the National Commission for TV and Radio, Grigor Amalyan.

During the two-day visit, Mijatovic participated in a public discussion on Armenia's digital switchover, chaired by the Head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, Ambassador Sergey Kapinos. The event brought together government officials, parliamentarians, as well as broadcasters, non-governmental organizations and international human rights organizations.

"Digital convergence is a major technological development that has a strong impact on the media in the country," Kapinos said. "Thus it is very important that the digital switchover policies to be adopted by the Government will promote and safeguard media pluralism in Armenia."

Regarding further media legislation developments, the Representative commended the Armenian authorities on their steps to decriminalize defamation, and expressed hope that the OSCE's recommendations will be reflected in the relevant legislation, to be adopted in the near future.

Mijatovic concluded her visit by offering her Office's assistance in providing further expertise on Armenia's legislation covering all areas of media reform, to bring it in line with international standards and good practices.

Source: OSCE. Published in Yerevan on 18 May 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

OSCE Office hosts meeting on election administration in Azerbaijan

Representatives from Azerbaijan's 17 political parties and other stakeholders discussed election administration matters during a meeting organized and chaired by the OSCE Office in Baku as a follow-up to recommendations from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The meeting, the second of its kind, focuses on election administration issues, including the composition of election commissions, fair registration of candidates and effective processing of election complaints. Azerbaijan will hold parliamentary elections in November.

"The OSCE supports Azerbaijan's efforts to improve the electoral framework in the run-up to the November elections," said Ambassador Bilge Cankorel, the Head of the OSCE Office in Baku.

He stressed that an inclusive candidate registration process is a precondition for a broad participation of all political parties in the elections.

Cankorel also recalled that ODIHR in its final report on the 2008 presidential election recommended that election commissions be reconfigured in a manner that would ensure public confidence, including confidence of those running for office.

Representatives from the Presidential Administration, the Central Election Commission, civil society and the international community also took part in the roundtable discussion.

The previous election meeting organized by the OSCE Office focused on matters related to the election campaign, in particular the implementation of the Law on Freedom of Assembly and illegal interference in the election process. A third meeting, scheduled for June 2010, will be dedicated to the role of media in elections.

Source: OSCE. Published in Baku on 18 May 2010.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

OSCE media freedom representative criticizes pressure against independent media in Belarus, offers to support discussion of new Internet legislation

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, today expressed concern about recent reports of pressure against independent media in Belarus. She also expressed disappointment that Internet legislation was adopted without public consultation, and offered the assistance of her Office to review the new bylaws.

In a letter to the Foreign Minister of Belarus, Sergey Martynov, Mijatovic said: "Intimidation of journalists exerts a 'chilling' effect on already weakened investigative journalism in Belarus. The authorities should vigorously investigate cases of harassment and honour their OSCE commitments to protect the media."

Most recently, journalists who had reported on the so-called "hunters' case" were persecuted by law enforcement agencies. In March Natalia Radina, the editor of the Charter97 website, Irina Khalip, Minsk correspondent of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and Svetlana Kalinkina and Marina Koktysh of daily Narodnaya Volya were interrogated, their apartments and offices raided and their equipment and materials confiscated, with Natalia Radina assaulted during the search. On 28 April, investigators informed the journalists that their computers would be examined further to obtain access to their e-mail and Skype accounts.

"I already brought the attention of the Belarusian authorities to these cases in March. I am concerned that the pressure on them has recently increased, even though the four media workers are not suspects but merely witnesses in the ongoing investigation," said Mijatovic.

In the letter to Minister Martynov, Mijatovic also criticized the recently launched criminal defamation investigation against the Charter97 website based on its users' comments to an article published last year in Sovetskaya Byelorussiya.

Regarding recently adopted bylaws on the implementation of the Presidential decree "On Measures to Improve the Use of the National Segment of the Internet", which her Office reviewed earlier this year, the Representative expressed disappointment that they had been adopted without public consultation.

Mijatovic also requested the texts of the bylaws. "I look forward to receiving the texts of the bylaws and hope that our recommendations were taken into account," she wrote in the letter.

The OSCE Representative offered to organize a roundtable meeting with the participation of governmental representatives, civil society and international experts to discuss the implementation of the newly adopted Internet legislation.

Source: OSCE. Published in Vienna on 10 May 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton on Moldova/Transnistria

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

"I very much welcome the aide memoire presented by the Moldovan Government, in which it confirms its readiness to further engage with all its partners in order to find a viable and sustainable solution to the Transnistrian issue, including with the help of the EU.

We will consider this constructive proposal with due attention and in close consultation with our partners in the 5+2 format.

We remain fully committed to the resumption of negotiations in the 5+2 format, without any preconditions or delay, and in full respect of the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova.

We invite all sides to support the efforts of the Republic of Moldova in implementing confidence building measures, for the benefit of the people living in the Transnistrian region."

Published in Brussels on 17 May 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

Five years of European Neighbourhood Policy: more trade, more aid, more people-to-people contacts

The annual European Neighbourhood Policy reports once again demonstrate the clear benefits that the European Union brings to its neighbours. For five years, the European Union has been delivering more trade, more aid, more people-to-people contacts and far deeper co-operation between the EU and its neighbours on the whole range of their economic, political and sectoral reforms. Our partnership has significantly developed in areas like transport, energy, environment and climate change, research, health and education. This has been backed up with an increase in the current Financial Framework by 32% and will reach over EUR 2 billion annually in 2013.

"The European Neighbourhood Policy is a success story with many examples of concrete achievements on the ground,” commented Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. "But there is a lot more we can and should do to make our part of the world more secure, more stable and more prosperous. In a globalised world, as European and Mediterranean countries, we need to help each other face the economic crisis. We need to work together to confront the new threats and challenges of our time, such as international terrorism, human trafficking and cross-border organised crime. We need to co-operate to solve the disputes and conflicts that still hold parts of our region back, and deny many ordinary people the benefits of globalisation. We want our neighbours to join our efforts to bring peace and security to other parts of the world who are less fortunate than we are. And as a Union built on shared values, we want our neighbours to benefit from the stability and prosperity that come with open and democratic society and the rule of law. This ambitious agenda is a key priority for me as we press ahead with the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty and the establishment of the External Action Service. Our friends in our European and Mediterranean neighbourhood will be among the first to benefit from a more active, more coherent and more effective European foreign policy."

Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, added: “Further strengthening the ENP is no less than an investment in the EU’s own stability and prosperity — and this must be reflected in our offer to our partners. The ENP is a win-win game: the higher our partners’ reform ambitions, the stronger our response. Economic reforms have progressed remarkably across our neighbourhood, both East and South. What is essential for the future is to go up a gear on democratic and political reforms, where progress has been real but generally slower.”

Achievements of the European Neighbourhood Policy 2004-2009

Bilateral Association Agreements were concluded by 2004 with most Southern ENP partners, while enhancement of the relations with most advanced partners is currently ongoing (for example, the advanced status - statut avancé – has been implemented with Morocco since 2008). In the East, in line with objectives of the Eastern Partnership, current Partnership and Cooperation Agreements are being replaced by far-reaching Association Agreements.

The ENP aims also at improving governance. The recent presidential elections in Ukraine, the second round of parliamentary elections in Moldova, as well as improvements in quality of elections in Morocco or Lebanon show some progress in democratic process. On freedom of association, death penalty, media freedom, minority rights and other human rights and fundamental freedoms, there have been improvements in several ENP countries but progress has generally not matched the ambitions expressed jointly in the ENP and in the Action Plans. Much remains to be done too in terms of judicial and public administration reforms and effectively tackling corruption.

Regarding mobility more than 2 million EU Schengen visas were issued in our neighbourhood in 2008. Visa facilitation and readmission agreements are in place with Ukraine and Moldova and negotiations have been concluded with Georgia. Mobility Partnerships to promote legal migration have been agreed with Moldova and Georgia. Nevertheless more needs to be done to use the full potential of the ENP, including road-maps to a visa-free regime for short stays with Ukraine and Moldova.

EU’s trade with the ENP region grew during 2004-2008, with EU’s exports rising by 63% and imports by 91% (2009 brought some slowdown, due to the global economic and financial crisis). The EU is ready to negotiate Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with all its neighbours as soon as they are ready and prepared for them. Other steps towards deeper economic integration have also been taken, including negotiation of a number of sectoral agreements from agricultural and fishery products to common aviation area.

Energy cooperation was strengthened with Memoranda of Understanding or Declarations with Azerbaijan, Belarus, Ukraine, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco. In 2009 Ukraine and Moldova were admitted, subject to conditions, to accede the Energy Community Treaty,and Georgia became an observer.

The EU has provided nearly EUR 12 billion in 2007-2013 for the implementation of its ENP policy. In addition, the EU’s Neighbourhood Investment Facility, supported by EU budget and those of Member States, provides grant support to leverage loans (over EUR 4,7 billion in 2007-2009) for concrete investments in transport, environment, energy, private and social sectors.


The European Neighbourhood Policy aims at increasing common stability, prosperity and security. On the basis of a joint Action Plan, the EU supports partner countries in implementing their reforms to improve their standards of democracy and human rights, to increase their access to the EU's single market, to improve the environment and to step up their co-operation with the EU on issues like climate change, energy, transport or migration.

Today, the Commission has published its annual “ENP Package”, consisting of: a Communication taking stock of the policy achievements since its launch in 2004, 12 reports on progress achieved in 2009 by the 12 countries who have agreed ENP Action Plans with the EU, as well as a sectoral progress report.

The documents available include:

The Communication “Taking stock of the European Neighbourhood Policy” (Brussels 12 May 2010),

Individual country reports for 2009 for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Republic of Moldova, the occupied Palestinian territory, Tunisia and Ukraine

Sectoral report:

For more on the ENP:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Armenia needs a clear roadmap of reforms in order to consolidate democracy

PACE President Mevlüt Çavusoglu has visited Armenia on 12-13 May and has met the President of the Republic Serzh Sargsyan, the Speaker of Parliament Hovik Abrahamyan, most political forces represented in Parliament, the PACE delegation, the Human Rights Defender, the National Commission for Radio and Television, NGOs and the extra-parliamentary opposition. He also met relatives of victims of the events of 1-2 March 2008.

Developing and strengthening the fundamental principles and values that unite the Council of Europe member states -democracy, human rights and the rule of law-, he said, was not only important for Armenia and for its citizens, but also for the peace and stability of the region and the whole of Europe.

The discussions with all Armenian interlocutors have concentrated on the most important reforms that are needed in the country and PACE President has called on the Armenian authorities to establish a roadmap for the implementation of the reforms recommended by the Assembly: electoral reform, reform of the police and in the justice sector, improvements in the field of freedom of assembly and freedom of the media, fight against corruption.

Another part of the discussions focused on the role that the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly can play in preventing and overcoming conflicts within and between member states. Regarding the Nagorno Karabakh issue, President Çavusoglu said that both Armenia and Azerbaijan have a duty to comply with the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Assembly and to report to it on the progress made.

PACE President also insisted on two outstanding issues that have not yet received a satisfactory solution: individual justice being made for those held responsible for the March 2008 events and the issue of persons detained in relation to those events.

Finally, President Çavusoglu did congratulate Armenia for hosting this year's Forum for the Future of Democracy hoping to take part in the Forum in October 2010.

Source: PACE. Published on 14 May 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton on the adoption of negotiating directives for Association Agreements

Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton on the adoption of negotiating directives for Association Agreements between the EU and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia

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

“I welcome the adoption by the General Affairs Council on 10 May of the negotiating directives for the future Association Agreements between the EU and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

The adoption of these negotiating directives is a clear sign of our strong commitment to further deepen the relationship between the EU and the countries of the South Caucasus, on the basis of shared values and principles, including democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The Eastern Partnership, launched at the Prague Summit on 7 May 2009, provides an ambitious framework for taking the relationship with the countries of the South Caucasus to a new level. In this context, Association Agreements are an important instrument to upgrade our relations beyond existing commitments with a view of political association and gradual economic integration with the EU.

The negotiation process will be guided by the principles of inclusiveness and differentiation, as well as joint ownership. Successful implementation of the Eastern Partnership with the active engagement of the partner countries both in its multilateral and bilateral track will strengthen relations on the basis of shared values and will help advancing political and economic reforms, consolidate governance and foster regional stability, prosperity and confidence building.

I look forward to the launch of negotiations on these ambitious and comprehensive agreements with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia."

Published on 11 May 2010.

Statement on the case of Awtukhowich, Asipenka and Kazlow in the Republic of Belarus

As acting local presidency of the EU in Minsk, the British Embassy is issuing the following Presidency statement.

On 6 May, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus delivered its verdict and sentenced Mikalay Awtukhowich and Uladzimir Asipenka (former prisoners of conscience) and Mikhail Kazlow to prison for the illegal handling of weapons, receiving sentences of five, three and two years respectively. Based on the observations of EU diplomats and local human rights defenders, the local Presidency is deeply concerned about the serious procedural flaws evident throughout the conduct of this trial. Of particular concern are the claims made in court by prosecution witnesses that their testimonies had been forced out of them through physical and psychological pressure.

Taking into account Mr Awtukhowich´s previous activism in promoting the rights of entrepreneurs and of Afghan war veterans, and for speaking publicly about alleged corruption, the trial can be seen as politically motivated.

The EU will further study the case and could consider further action.

Published on 12 May 2010.

Paleckis: There is no future for Belarus outside Europe

The discussions reviewed the post election situation and the European roadmap for Belarus.

Said Justas Paleckis, rapporteur on Belarus, vice-chair of the Delegation for Relations with Belarus and organiser of the seminar:

"We encourage Belarus to take further and bolder steps towards democracy, respect for human rights and rule of law, with a view of normalisation of relations between the EU and this country.

"Polls show that the majority of Belarusians favour integration into the EU rather than into the East. The European Union should welcome the strengthening of Belorusian relations towards both West and East. It is because of such connections to both sides that this country, situated in the centre of Europe, could become even more valuable to the EU.

"Concerning Belarus's direction and place in Europe: there is no future for Belarus outside Europe".

Kristian Vigenin, S&D Foreign Affairs Committee's coordinator, reminded that last year, the European Union approved the Eastern Partnership initiative, extending it to Belarus.

This has been one of Europe's gestures towards the country, reacting to a series of signals hinting at a possible readjustment in the Belarusian foreign policy.

Said Mr. Vigenin, who is also EURONEST chair:

" Further development in the EU- Belarus relations must be subject to a strict conditionality.

The EU should organise a conference with the participation of both the Belarusian authorities and the opposition to discuss the possibilities of creating a new legal basis on which EU-Belarusian relations can be based.

"The aim of our fact-finding mission to Minsk, last February, was to discuss the possibility of Belarus's participation in the EURONEST parliamentary assembly. The delegation looked also inter alia at human rights and ethnic minorities' issues in Belarus in the light of the EP debate".

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

U.S. Hopes To Keep Armenia-Turkey Reconciliation Process Alive

The latest U.S. call for continued progress in Turkish-Armenian normalization -- in this case by Washington's ambassador to Armenia, Marie Yovanovitch, in an RFE/RL interview -- comes at a difficult time.

Government opponents in both countries are becoming increasingly hostile to the Turkish-Armenian protocols, signed in October.

Moreover, the Turkish government is gearing up for a major challenge in national elections due to take place next year. The popularity of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) is declining and there's no sure sign that his majority in the parliament will survive another national poll.

In fact, there are some troubling signs pointing in the opposite direction. On May 4, Erdogan suffered one of his biggest defeats in a parliamentary vote on proposed amendments to the constitution. Some members reportedly broke party ranks to oppose one of the key articles in Erdogan's constitutional package, highlighting his inability to maintain party discipline when it comes to the nationalist agenda.

Speaking after Sweden's vote to recognize the Armenian genocide, Erdogan vowed that the Turkish parliament would reject the protocols if they went to the floor for a vote.

Rocky Road

It has been a bumpy ride since the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministers committed their countries to the process of diplomatic normalization in October.

The United States, Russia, and the European Union hailed the deal as a possible new beginning in those two countries' histories, but such euphoria was short-lived.

Renewed skepticism arose alongside rising bilateral tensions, driving home the reality that century-old animosity could not be transformed into normalcy in a matter of months, or even years.

Then, as the anniversary of the Ottoman-era mass killings of Armenians approached, the Armenian diaspora in the United States and elsewhere mobilized in an effort to push for resolutions recognizing the massacre as genocide.

Turkey angrily denounced resolutions in both the United States (specifically the House Foreign Relations Committee) and Sweden, withdrawing its ambassadors from both countries. Erdogan angrily hinted at the possible deportation of thousands of "illegal Armenian workers."

There's another irritant for Turkey, too. There is ample speculation that its closest regional ally, Azerbaijan, has opposed the protocols since they were conceived. Baku, that argument runs, believes that by opening its border with Armenia, Turkey would lose leverage that it might otherwise apply to force Yerevan into concessions over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Indeed, Turkish leaders have repeatedly suggested that the country's border with Armenia will not be opened in the absence of a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. For his part, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has suspended the parliamentary ratification process of the protocols.

Eyes On The Prize

From the early days of his presidency, Barack Obama has made it clear that a top priority in the region is to help Armenia and Turkey normalize their relations. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has brought an unprecedented level of intensity to the resulting diplomatic effort, and remains in constant contact with the Armenian and Turkish leaders.

Shortly before the ratification process was halted, Obama and Clinton each held lengthy talks with senior Armenian and Turkish officials. They knew that the Armenian president was prepared to halt the ratification process, but they were also assured that the protocols would remain intact.

"President Sarkisian's announcement makes clear that Armenia has not ended the process but has suspended it until the Turkish side is ready to move forward," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon said in a statement.

Ambassador Yovanovitch expressed similar optimism in her RFE/RL interview, noting that there were three, not one, ceremonies in Turkey to mark Armenian Remembrance Day.

U.S. officials suggest there are encouraging signs that the reconciliation process is taking hold within civil society in both countries.

Armenia's leading business association and three local civic groups last month vowed that they would work together to deepen contacts between Armenians and Turks.

Yovanovitch went on to note that closed borders in 21st-century Europe are "not a phenomenon that can continue to exist."

So what can we expect next? Will the Armenian and Turkish leaders restart the process soon or wait until after Turkey's national elections? Will talks again take the form of the quiet diplomacy mediated by the Swiss?

"I'm not a fortune teller so I can't tell exactly what the future is going to bring. But I think that at the end of the day it's up to both sides to figure out how they want to move forward and when they want to move," Yovanovitch said.

But one thing's for sure. The Obama administration has not signaled any willingness to give up on the process, and some level of active engagement by U.S. officials is likely to continue.

By Harry Tamrazian. Published on 7 May 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.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Interview: After Just One Year, Are The Wheels Coming Off The EU's Eastern Partnership?

A year after its celebrated inception, the European Union's Eastern Partnership for Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan has sunk into the kind of obscurity that tends to envelop unloved EU projects.

The inaugural summit was held in Prague on May 7, 2009, amid fanfare, promises, and high expectations. A follow-up meeting of EU and partner-country foreign ministers was held in December.

But since then, the bloc's deepening economic malaise now appears to have suffocated whatever impetus the process had left. Intended to provide a regional, multilateral dimension to the longer-established European Neighborhood Policy, the Eastern Partnership has not delivered any visible added value for either the EU or the countries themselves.

The main avenue for contacts and cooperation is still provided via another channel -- association agreement talks between each of the countries and the EU. The association agreement sets the bar at nothing more than "political association," while it does hold out the long-term prospects of visa-free travel and free trade.

Meanwhile, the wheels have literally starting to come off the EU's entire approach to the western post-Soviet neighborhood, with even favorites like Ukraine and Georgia becoming increasingly wayward in their respective courses. The long-held silent assumption that most, if not all, countries in the region want to eventually join the EU can no longer be taken for granted.

Under its new president, Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine is forging links with Russia that appear to preclude a further rapprochement with the West. In Tbilisi, President Mikheil Saakashvili seems to be calculating that he no longer has anything useful to gain from subjecting himself to EU tutelage -- with senior Georgian officials telling their EU counterparts at a recent meeting that Georgia is a "value-based state, but not necessarily an EU state."

Taking a look at the prospects of the Eastern Partnership, RFE/RL Brussels correspondent Ahto Lobjakas spoke with Andrew Wilson, senior policy fellow in London at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

RFE/RL: One year on, has the Eastern Partnership achieved anything of note?

Andrew Wilson: Well, in itself it was a worthwhile policy, and it was having some marginal impact. But it has been kind of overtaken by events. You have the global economic crisis, which has hit the region particularly hard. Russia is perceived to be providing some financial help. The EU provides some help, but there the Eastern Partnership is kind of invisible. I mean [the EU's] bigger role is in leveraging IMF [International Monetary Fund] funds to the region, where that was also pretty invisible to the local publics.

America has, if not completely withdrawn from the region, [then] certainly de-prioritized it. China is a major player in the region there. So, within that kind of changed environment, the partnership isn't having the kind of impact its founders had hoped it would have back in 2009.

RFE/RL: Can we expect a revival of the Eastern Partnership in the foreseeable future?

Wilson: None is planned, but I certainly think it's necessary. Some kind of "Partnership Plus" revival, a relaunch, extra momentum -- I mean, call it what you will, it's certainly needed. There were fears that the Spanish and Belgian [rotating EU] presidencies [in 2010] would completely neglect the initiative. To be fair, they've kept it ticking over, but no more than that. Obviously, many people hope that the Hungarian and Polish presidencies [in 2011] will give it some more oomph in time for its second anniversary -- but the time to start planning that is now.

Choosing Between East And West

RFE/RL: In the EU's search for regional stability, it has tried to foster reforms in its eastern neighbors that can only take root when a deeper kind of stability exists -- one that would require more direct EU political involvement. But the bloc has refused to provide that. Isn't this a contradiction at the very heart of the EU's engagement with the Eastern Partnership countries?

Yes, the word "stability" may be in the documents -- maybe it's the wrong word. What we're talking about is Europeanization. Often, that required a lot of destabilizing short-term action.

Look at Ukraine, for example, at the moment. A lot of Western European governments, after the chaos of the last three or four years, seemed to perhaps be willing to over-accept the prioritization of stability -- which for Yanukovych means a euphemism for strengthened central political control. That type of stability isn't necessarily a good thing. Nor is stable nonaction a good thing. Sometimes a flurry of reforms is precisely what is required.

But I think your general question is more: "Does the Eastern Partnership help the EU to get leverage on these political systems in order for them to make the necessary reforms?" And I think there you could have a problem. Particularly if you go back to the changing international context that I mentioned at the start.

It is not at all clear that we do have the means to persuade reluctant and often authoritarian leaderships in these six states to make the kinds of reforms that we'd like to see. The carrots aren't juicy enough and the sticks aren't big and threatening enough.

RFE/RL: Is it realistic to tell these countries that they do not need to choose between the EU and Russia -- as, for example, EU Enlargement and Neighborhood Commissioner Stefan Fuele does?

We would like them to not necessarily choose [between the two] in terms of foreign policy, or cultural affinity, or whatever. But clearly we want them to choose our model, the European model. That's what the Copenhagen criteria [of EU accession] mean, after all.

But I've sometimes called the leaders of Eastern Europe a "collective Tito." They don't necessarily want to choose. They are playing a game of balance between East and West to extract resources from both sides, and it is in their interest to prolong that balancing game as long as they can.

European Catch-22

RFE/RL: Is it ultimately in the EU's own interest to limit cooperation to "deep and comprehensive free trade" and visa liberalization -- as it now does?

Well, we're not even there yet. Again, to take the example of Ukraine, the most important state of the six, it is not at all clear yet that [an agreement permitting] "deep" free trade is within their grasp -- certainly not this year. Though the Ukrainians are trying to push on that one.

I think if those two things were achieved, then a lot would have been achieved. Deep free trade will make a considerable difference to the economies in the region. Visa liberalization, of course, makes the biggest difference to local public opinions, it would help swing that in favor of the EU. So the two things you mentioned aren't marginal, but we may not even be able to get there without being first able to [deploy] our levers of engagement for these six states.

RFE/RL: Do you think the EU may come to regret its lack of ambition if it fails to win the region for itself?

Clearly, we're talking about a 20-year period when relatively little has been done -- which is in very sharp contrast to the kind of quick-accession politics for the likes of Poland and the Czech Republic in the 1990s. And 19 -- almost 20 -- years is a long time to spend in the waiting room of European integration.

Both sides have lost patience to a degree. But both sides are to blame. It's the standard catch-22 question -- if the EU had given a clearer perspective, then perhaps these societies would have reformed more. But the EU was never prepared to give that indication until there was more evidence of reform on the ground.

You can talk about specific historical periods when opportunities were missed -- the most important of which is the six months after the Orange Revolution and before the referenda in Holland and France in the summer of 2005 on the [EU] constitution. That was a window of opportunity that was clearly missed to make good the conditionality principle, if you like. Clearly, the environment had changed enormously and the EU did not recognize that. And the window of opportunity soon shut.

By RFE/RL. Published on 7 May 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, May 7, 2010

Inside The World of Georgia's 'Partly Free' Press

Freedom House, the world's most authoritative organization in the field of measuring democracy, recently rated the Georgian media as "partly free." In fact, Georgia needed just a couple more points in order to slip into the shameful "not free" category.

Except for Georgia and Ukraine, the media in all the post-Soviet countries (not counting, of course, the advanced Baltic states) were rated "not free." However, since Georgia claims to be an essentially European democracy (albeit it with some shortcomings), it cannot accept the "partly free" rating.

In an appearance in Los Angeles last month, President Mikheil Saakashvili admitted clear problems in other areas of democratization (for instance, the independence of the courts), but he said that accusations regarding freedom of speech are "total bullshit." And he criticized RFE/RL (whose president, Jeffrey Gedmin, was moderating Saakashvili's appearance) for disseminating this "bullshit."

In fact, Saakashvili often reacts temperamentally to accusations about restrictions on freedom of speech in Georgia and, apparently, he genuinely considers such charges to be unjust.

So what is the truth? If you equate an unfree press with censorship, then you can understand Saakashvili's objections. The programming of two television channels, Maestro and Kavkasia, comprises mostly talk shows in which guests regularly accuse the government of all conceivable and inconceivable sins. Recently, a second public television channel adopted a C-SPAN-type format and now the most radical opposition figures can speak without any restrictions.

The overwhelming majority of Georgian newspapers can be considered opposed to the government (although about half the population never reads newspapers). Many radio stations specialize in criticizing the government. There are no restrictions to Internet access (except for during a short period after the August 2008 war with Russia during which Russian-language sites were inaccessible). Can that be called "lack of freedom"?

'Partly Free' Press

But critics also have strong arguments. The opposition television channels mentioned above, Maestro and Kavkasia, only broadcast in Tbilisi. Only three channels reach the entire country: the private stations Rustavi-2 and Imedi and Channel One Public Television. All three broadcast openly pro-government newscasts. Although Channel One regularly invites opposition figures to participate in political debates, the more popular Rustavi-2 and Imedi do so much less often. In terms of influence over public opinion, all other media taken together would have a hard time competing with these three national channels.

According to many critics, these three channels do not simply support the government, but are actually controlled by it. In the light of this, the scandal surrounding Imedi's March 13 broadcast of a "fake chronicle" is particularly alarming. In that broadcast, the channel showed a hypothetical scenario involving a Russian invasion of Georgia under the pretext of preventing a civil war. The channel did not adequately inform viewers that the events were fictional and, as a result, a brief mass panic ensued and the station was forced to apologize.

But the political problem is that any Imedi project is taken as an expression of official policy. A Russian website posted a recording of a purported conversation between the station's general director, Giorgi Arveladze (who only recently was the head of the presidential office and, later, a minister), and his deputy in which Arveladze said that "Misha" had approved everything and that in fact he had advised the channel not to put cautioning subtitles on the piece.

Both Arveladze and his deputy have said the recording is a fake. A British company hired by the New Rightists opposition party determined that the recording was genuine, except for the part where "Misha" is mentioned. That portion bore signs of manipulation. The argument about the authenticity of the tape will continue, of course, but the impression that the authorities exercise direct influence over the editorial decisions of the leading channels has been strengthened.

Lacking Balance

And there are other concerns: the National Telecommunications Commission, which makes many key decisions regarding broadcasting, is insufficiently independent; the ownership of some television companies is opaque (for instance, the company that controls Rustavi-2 is registered in an offshore zone and its ownership is simply unknown); government agencies are often slow to provide, or refuse to provide, information that should legally be publicly available; and so on. All this is important, but Georgia's "partly free" status is mainly based on the openly pro-government policies of the national television channels.

Under such circumstances, conversations about press freedom in Georgia boil down to the problem of the balance between two forms of bias: pro-government and antigovernment. When Imedi was antigovernment (or, as the government's supporters say, when it served as a political tool in the hands of its owner, oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili), such balance was maintained. But the closure of Imedi under charges that it served to prepare a coup and, after Patarkatsishvili's death, its transfer into the hands of friends of the government did great harm to Georgia's democratic reputation.

However, focusing only on this kind of balance is a mistake. What is just as important is the lack of media outlets that are oriented toward quality, that observe professional journalism standards, that clearly separate analysis and opinion from news reporting, that don't reduce their "analysis" to a collection of rumors and conspiracy theories, and so on. There are such outlets, of course. For instance, recently two news weeklies, the left-leaning "Liberali" and the right-leaning "Tabula," appeared, and both are producing quality journalism. But so far, such media outlets are far from the norm in Georgia.

By Ghia Nodia. Published on 6 May 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.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Implementation of Court judgments in Moldova: good intentions not enough

Christos Pourgourides, rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, has ended a two-day visit to Chisinau (3-4 May 2010) with a call to the Moldovan authorities to increase their efforts to solve several structural problems revealed in these judgments. “Good intentions to rectify the various deficiencies pointed to by the Court are just not enough,” said Mr Pourgourides, who chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

He also called on the authorities to ensure a greater transparency and involvement of civil society, and to make greater use of the Council of Europe’s legal expertise, in particular that of the Venice Commission. The rapporteur also invited the Moldovan Parliament to monitor the implementation of judgments of the Court and was assured that it will continue to do so.

Other topics discussed included the problems of abusive use of force by police officers, lack of effective investigation into such abuses, poor conditions in detention facilities and non-enforcement of domestic final decisions.

During the visit, Mr Pourgourides met the Speaker of Parliament and acting President, the Interior Minister and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, the Vice-President of the Supreme Court and the Deputy Prosecutor General, as well as a number of other officials.

This is the sixth in a series of visits aimed at applying parliamentary pressure on states where delays or difficulties in implementing the European Court's judgments have arisen. The rapporteur has previously undertaken visits to Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Russia and Ukraine, and will later travel to Romania and Turkey.

Source: PACE. Published in Strasbourg on 5 May 2010

To read the Progress Report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights log on

EU and Belarus: Conditional Engagement?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

OSCE helps promote trial and criminal justice reform in Armenia

The Head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, Ambassador Sergey Kapinos, met Armenia's Prosecutor General Aghavn Hovsepyan to discuss justice sector reforms, including implementation of recommendations contained in the trial monitoring report recently released by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

A workshop on ODIHR's trial monitoring recommendations, as they relate to pre-trial proceedings, was also held on 27 April. In March, ODIHR published a report on the trials that took place in the aftermath of the March 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan.

Kapinos noted the Prosecutor General's constructive approach to the recommendations. "We were glad to learn that some of ODIHR's recommendations were immediately accepted, and we understand that certain recommendations will need time for implementation. The OSCE Office stands ready to assist and support the endeavours of the Prosecutor's Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Court of Cassation," he said.

Hovsepyan said: "We highly appreciate the support from the OSCE to reveal shortcomings and find comprehensive solutions to help advance the rule of law and the efficiency of the justice system in Armenia. We hope that further support will be provided to increase the efficiency of ongoing reforms; already a number of actions are planned to implement the recommendations in the report."

Kapinos commended actions taken by the Prosecutor's Office to investigate the case of Vahan Khalafyan, who died while in police custody on 13 April. He also welcomed the Prosecutor General's pledge to investigate cases of alleged violence against journalists, and to promote the Prosecutor's role in police accountability mechanisms, a challenge addressed in a recent report by the OSCE Office.

The OSCE Office has supported the Prosecutor General to upgrade its website to promote interactive communication and help users learn about the activities of the Prosecutor's Office. The OSCE Office is also working with the Prosecutor's Office to identify potential areas for improvement with criminal data collection and will organize an assessment visit by an international expert from the Gottingen University of Criminal Law.

Source: OSCE. Published in Yerevan on 4 May 2010.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

OSCE Office in Yerevan supports efforts to reduce environmental threat posed by chemical waste site in Armenia

An OSCE-supported plan to handle an acute environmental threat posed by a chemical waste site near Yerevan was presented at a joint press conference by the OSCE Office in Yerevan and the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

The Nubarashen chemical waste dump, which stems from the 1980s, originally contained more than 500 tonnes of obsolete pesticides, mainly DDT. The site, which covers an area of more than 3,000 square metres, also has contaminated the soil near the site and threatens several nearby villages. Recently, the site's cover was illicitly removed, creating an acute threat by exposing the dump's contents to the rains that are persistent in Armenia during this time of year. In addition, there is a risk for landslides at the site.

The OSCE Office in Yerevan provided an expert who developed an emergency action plan to contain the immediate threat. Once the acute threat has been dealt with, a long-term plan to dispose of the waste will be drafted with further OSCE assistance in co-ordination with authorities and other international actors.

"This situation poses both an emergency and an opportunity to not only address this particular site but comprehensively address all chemical waste sites in Armenia," said Carel Hofstra, the Deputy Head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan. "It is vital that the government and the international community act in a co-ordinated way and that civil society be involved, for example by raising awareness of local residents."

Col. Hovhannes Yemishyan, the head of Population and Territories Protection Department at the Minstry of Emergency Situations' Armenian Rescue Service, added:

"There is an urgent need to analyse the composition of the waste site's contents, to assess the threats posed by it, and to remove and dispose the pesticides. The OSCE support increases our capacities in the field and helps find an immediate solution to the problem."

The OSCE Office's support formed part of the Environment and Security (ENVSEC) initiative for the South Caucasus region, which aims to provide a framework for co-operation on environmental issues across borders and promote peace and stability through environmental co-operation and sustainable development.

Press Release: OSCE. Published in Yerevan on 30 April 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

The EU's Imperial Understretch

If he were a less serious man, Stefan Fuele might be suspected of having issued a coded cry of desperation earlier this week. So painfully obvious was the mismatch between the European Union's foreign-policy ambitions and the means of which it has availed itself, thrown into sharp relief by Fuele, the EU's enlargement and neighborhood commissioner, during an hour-long seance with the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels on April 28.

Freshly returned from trips to the South Caucasus (April 6-9) and Ukraine (April 21-23), Fuele offered an outline of what the EU has to offer in response to its Eastern neighbors' requests for gestures of integration and goodwill to balance the determined advance of Russian influence.

Essentially, what the EU offers is more of the same -- free trade, a distant prospect of visa-free travel, and money. All of these are tailored to a bureaucratic conditionality which, if anything, displays a tendency of becoming increasingly rigid and formalized.

Ukraine, which has been negotiating an association agreement with the EU since 2007, was given a new EU wish list of what Fuele said are "key reforms which Ukraine needs urgently to develop together with possible incentives and responses from the EU." This new "matrix" (Fuele's word) constitutes a "tool for [the] political steering" of the country and its reforms by the EU.

More Of The Same

How does the bloc expect to achieve these aims?

By offering more money, and the same more-or-less distant prospects of free trade and visa-free travel already present within the association agreement framework. In other words, by holding out a prospect limited, in current EU terminology, to "economic integration and political association." (The word "association" is here carefully designed to evoke a state of affairs clearly inferior to integration, or, it goes without saying, membership.)

This at the very moment -- as Fuele himself repeatedly acknowledged -- when Ukraine has extended Russia's lease of its Sevastopol naval base by another 25 years in exchange for subsidies for the purchase of Russian gas estimated at $3 billion to $4 billion.

Amid the intense domestic and international controversy the deal has caused -- also noted by Fuele -- the EU is plotting a course of near-absolute political neutrality. The bloc views the arrangement, Fuele said, exclusively through the prism of energy security, the transparency of Ukraine's gas sector, and the health of its gas-transit infrastructure. In other words, the only long-term commitment the EU is prepared to extend to Ukraine is as a vessel for gas deliveries.

The EU does not intend to contest Ukraine's future with other outside powers beyond ensuring the vessel functions in a well-ordered manner.

"The point I made there in Kyiv was that the integration efforts will be judged on reforms and the implementation of the reforms, and not necessarily on the prolongation of [the lease] of the Russian military base," Fuele said.

Confusion Of Categories

Fuele offered another glimpse of the solipsistic space of imaginary international harmony which the EU, conceived as an abstract whole, seems to believe it inhabits when he said the bloc will "play a more active role" in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict once its embryonic diplomatic corps, the External Action Service (EAS), is up and running.

The EAS, a 7-8000-strong body of diplomats envisaged by the Lisbon Treaty, may well defy pessimists and eventually come into being. But any hope that it will supply the EU's foreign policy with the vision and determination almost totally lacking from it at present is what philosophers call a confusion of categories.

The EAS will never be a panacea for the EU's current shortcomings. It will always remain an instrument whose use presupposes the guiding force of the collective political will of the EU's sovereign member states. And this latter is precisely what is so glaringly absent from the current EU that its stance on issues like Ukraine and the South Caucasus can with some justification be described as delusional.

What leaders in the EU's neighborhood want is quite simple.

On the one hand, they want things they can convert into domestic political capital -- money, visa-free travel, free trade. This is only natural, the first concern of every government being its own survival. On the other hand, the more far-thinking among them are also looking to ensure the long-term survival of their countries under the most favorable possible external and internal conditions. These leaders naturally look to the EU as a counterbalance to the inclement prospects offered by Russia's approaches.

The EU is effectively offering goods of the first kind under the assumption (or guise) of delivering those of the second. While there is no question its gospel of reform is well-meant, the bloc seems utterly oblivious to the fundamental paradox at the heart of its neighborhood policy -- that what it does presupposes a stability that can only be secured by radically different means.

The result is imperial understretch. To use a fittingly imperial allegory, the EU is dispatching missionaries to where soldiers should tread first -- with predictable consequences for their flocks.

To be sure, this is not the fault of Fuele or other officials paid to defend the EU's basic values and underlying assumptions, regardless of how inadequate or absurd they may turn out to be in concrete application. Fuele, as a matter of fact, has quickly acquired a good reputation among observers and officials alike for his solid grasp of his brief.

It seems reasonable to suppose that Fuele (and his colleagues) are privately acutely aware of the shortcomings and inadequacy of the foreign-policy instruments at their disposal. In fact, Fuele himself may have been alluding to exactly this when he told the EU deputies in attendance on April 28 that the bloc has no hope of making a global mark if it fails to establish itself in its own neighborhood.

By Ahto Lobjakas. Published on 30 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.