Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Despite Boost In U.S. Support, Russia's WTO Bid Still Faces Opposition In Georgia

Addressing reporters eager to hear what came out of a meeting between two of the world's most powerful men, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev spoke of beef and chicken.

Beef because Obama, in a show of U.S. hospitality, had taken Medvedev to his favorite burger joint for lunch that day. And chicken because the package of agreements struck by the two leaders included a pledge by Medvedev to allow U.S. poultry imports back into Russia after they were banned due to what Russia said were safety concerns.

That agreement brought the United States one step closer to fully backing Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), whose members conduct 95 percent of world commerce. Russian accession, Obama said, would benefit all involved.

"I emphasized to President Medvedev, I emphasized to his entire delegation, and I now want to emphasize to the Russian people: We think it is not only in the interests of the Russian Federation, but in the interests of the United States, and in the interests of the world, that Russian joins the WTO. So this is something that we want to get resolved," Obama said.

Concerns about agricultural subsidies, insufficient regulation of state-run companies, and lax intellectual property laws have all been part of U.S. reluctance to support Russia's WTO bid -- even after the countries signed a bilateral WTO agreement in 2006.

Obama said his economic negotiators were working hard with the Russians on tackling the "difficult issues" that remain, saying that they require "significant work." Their resolution, he suggested, "may be in the hands of the Russian government."

Medvedev himself described the outstanding issues as "minor problems" and said negotiators were expected to complete their work by the end of September.

Tbilisi Two-Step

But overcoming longstanding U.S. objections may not necessarily guarantee smooth sailing for Russia. The WTO, which oversees trade treaties and facilitates access to export markets, has 153 member states -- all of which are involved in the decision to admit new countries. Among those members is Georgia, which has long been at odds with its aggressive neighbor to the north.

Tbilisi, long angered by Russian support for its breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as a Russian embargo of Georgian wine and mineral water, for years threatened to use its WTO membership to block Russia's bid. A Georgia-Russia WTO working group was established but has so far failed to reach any agreements.

In recent months, opposition to Russia's WTO bid appeared to die down in Tbilisi, prompting speculation the government, chastened by the August 2008 war between the two countries, had changed its position.

But Niko Mchedlishvili, head of the Georgian prime minister's press office, told RFE/RL's Georgian Service there has been no such switch.

"The government's position remains unchanged. It stays the same as it was several years ago," Mchedlishvili said. "Not a single point has been changed in the document which resulted from the negotiations between Georgia and Russia. Therefore, all talk about a possible concession from Georgia's side during the negotiations with the World Trade Organization is an absolute lie."

Obama and Medvedev, during their Washington press conference, mentioned Georgia only once -- in connection to U.S.-Russian disagreement over Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- with no mention of Tbilisi's potential role in the WTO process.

Multiple Obstacles

Russian officials have made it clear that they consider full U.S. support the true necessity for gaining membership, which, according to a study commissioned by the World Bank, would encourage foreign investment and, by one measure, would mean Russia could annually gain about 3.3 percent of its GDP, or about $53 billion a year.

Last year, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said Russia's accession depended almost entirely on the United States. Indeed, Russian officials and others have held the U.S. largely responsible for prolonging Russia's 17-year accession process. Ahead of his U.S. visit, Medvedev said pointedly that "the ball is in the U.S. court."

Many experts agree.

"This [Georgia's objection] is not the first issue. This will be left until later," Anders Aslund, senior fellow at the U.S.-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, said. "The main issues now are between the U.S. and Russia. One just needs to clean the table and [decide] how it should be done, and that's a couple of months of negotiations to sort out the technical things. But the important thing is that the U.S. and Russia trust one another."

With the success of the U.S.-Russian "reset" being hailed in both Washington and Moscow, trust indeed appears to be at its highest in years.

Gone is the plan -- put forward by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin -- to enter the WTO in a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, a move that clashed with WTO protocol and befuddled the United States. And with Medvedev tour of the U.S. tech hub Silicon Valley, which preceded his trip to Washington, the Russian leader is sending the message that his country is serious about changing and modernizing its economy.

'Every Opportunity'

Up next is the G20 summit in Canada, to which Medvedev and Obama were traveling together. Russia is the only G20 country that is not a member of the WTO, and after Medvedev's U.S. trip, that looks increasingly likely to change.

And yet, the Georgian problem remains. Matthew Rojansky, deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Medvedev may be looking to Obama to eliminate that hurdle.

"Barring, potentially, a new [Georgian] government which has a different attitude about how you do conflict resolution with your enormous northern neighbor," said Rojansky, "the question is what influence the United States can have vis-a-vis Georgia if we [the United States] are set on paving the way to Russian accession."

The Russian news agency RIA-Novosti quoted Medvedev at Stanford University as saying, "As soon as Georgia gets a new leader we will have every opportunity to restore ties."

Until then, the United States may be looked to help bridge the impasse. Whether it's willing to do so, however, may be influenced by the state of Washington's evolving relations with Georgia.

Lincoln Mitchell, professor of international politics at Columbia University, said the United States, if it wanted to, could offer Georgia economic or other benefits as incentives to sway the Georgian stance, but is unlikely to use threats to strong-arm its Caucasian ally.

"My sense of things is that the U.S. isn't in a place right now where it is going to pressure Georgia to do this, particularly given the way Georgia -- I would say with some success -- has created this narrative of 'the U.S. is selling us out over Russia,'" Mitchell said. "I don't think [the United States] would then go in that context and ask [Georgia] to do something like this."

Aslund said that ultimately, a loophole in the accession process could allow Russia to join the WTO in spite of Georgian disapproval. WTO members must reach a general agreement, or "consensus" of potential members, which is technically not the same as a unanimous vote.

According to a spokesperson from the WTO, however, an applicant country doesn't come up for general WTO review unless disputes with individual members have been previously resolved.

By Richard Solash. Published on 25 June 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, June 28, 2010

Statement by the Spokesperson of High Representative Catherine Ashton on Nagorno-Karabakh

The spokesperson of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission Catherine Ashton issued a following statement today:

"The High Representative regrets the armed incident resulting in the loss of human life that took place during the night between 18-19 June along the Line of Contact in the context of the Nagorno- Karabakh conflict. The High Representative calls on both sides to respect the ceasefire, restrain from the use of force or any threat thereof, and continue efforts for the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The EU reiterates its full support to the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and the work of the three co-chairs."

Published in Brussels on 22 June 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

Azerbaijan: the forthcoming parliamentary elections must be in full compliance with European standards

Ahead of the parliamentary elections in November 2010, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called on the Azerbaijani authorities “to ensure the necessary conditions for the full compliance of the forthcoming elections with the European standards”. In line with the conclusions of the monitoring co-rapporteurs, Andres Herkel (Estonia, EPP/CD) and Joseph Debono Grech (Malta, SOC), it encouraged the authorities to co-operate with the Venice Commission in order to continue with the revision of the electoral code and to “generate conditions for a fair electoral campaign” by fully implementing the law on the freedom of assembly and by ensuring the freedom of the media.

In this context, the PACE called on the Azerbaijani authorities “to pass on a clear message, at the highest political level, that electoral fraud will not be tolerated” and urged all political parties to take part in the forthcoming elections. The Assembly stressed that these elections were all the more important given that “it was necessary to reinforce the application of the constitutionally-guaranteed principle of the separation of powers” and, especially, to strengthen the parliament’s role vis-à-vis the executive.

Lastly, with regard to the media situation, the Assembly condemned the arrests, intimidation, harassment, and physical threats of journalists, reiterated its position that defamation should be decriminalised and called on the authorities to release Eynulla Fatullayev as ordered by the European Court of Human Rights.

Source: PACE. Published on 24 June 2010.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

MOSCOW BLOG: Belarus backs down on gas bill as Russia gets its energy PR right

That was quick. Russia's state-owned gas monopoly began to cut off Belarus' gas supplies at 10:00am on the morning of June 21 over $200m in unpaid energy bills, but by 4:00pm that same day Minsk had backed down and promised to cough up "within two weeks."

Not that Moscow was even going to accept this promise and actually went through with a 15% reduction in gas deliveries, saying it wasn't prepared to wait even two weeks.

And on Tuesday Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko lashed out at the Kremlin calling the row over unpaid bills that saw Russia reduce gas deliveries as the start of a "gas war" and ordered a halt to gas transit through the republic to Europe -- not that anyone in Europe reported any change in volumes arriving through there pipes. Clearly there is going to be some haggling before this dispute is over.

Still, as the news broke about the gas cut-off, journalists scrambled to cover the latest instalment of Russia's so-called "gas wars." However, the thing that sticks out from this story - apart from Minsk totally misjudging the situation - is that Russia finally appears to "get it" when it comes to international PR over energy issues.

On the face of it, Moscow has acted very aggressively in order to force Belarus to pay. This seems to jibe with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's promise in a leaked policy paper that Russia was putting its foreign policy on a pragmatic basis where there would be no more "gnashing of teeth."

There was gnashing aplenty on June 21, but the key is that Moscow forced the issue now when the minimum damage would be done, rather than in the middle of winter, as in previous episodes, when the maximum damage would happen. I suspect it's no coincidence that the deadline for the payment was set for June 21 - which happens to be the official first day of summer. In other words, the demand for gas in Europe is at its absolute nadir for the year and so even if Moscow followed through on its threat to cut 85% of Belarus' supplies, it would make no noticeable difference to Gazprom's clients in Western Europe. TV station Russia Today interviewed the head of one of Germany's gas company who said the gas in storage was more than enough to cover any shortfall.

And then there was the amount cut. In the energy showdowns with Ukraine in 2006 and Belarus in 2007, Gazprom simply turned off the taps completely from one minute to the next. This time, from the very start the maximum that would be cut was 85%. Moreover, the plan was to cut gas progressively in chunks of 15% over a period of weeks. Even more surprising was how careful the Kremlin was to flag the cut-offs in advance as the tension built over several weeks and went as far as informing its western partners before the gas volumes were reduced - something it pointedly forgot to do in previous rows.

Taken all together, this is the clearest demonstration yet of the President Dmitry Medvedev-sponsored "business orientated foreign policy" and is a major improvement in the Kremlin's efforts to bolster its reputation as a reliable energy partner.

If you were going to characterise the issue in terms of personalities, then this gas showdown is marked by Medvedev's liberal outward-looking, sophisticated approach to dealing with foreign investors, as opposed to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's inward-looking, strong-arm tactics typical of his "vertical power" way of doing things - not that it's likely policy is actually driven by either man in isolation of the other. But still, this is another piece of evidence of the "new look" that Medvedev was trying to sell at the St Petersburg investment forum at the weekend.

Not-so-special relationships

Finally, the gas issue highlights another trend that has been in place since Putin was president: Russia has conceded any attempt at forging "special relationships" with its former Soviet vassal states.

There is no reason - economically speaking - why Russia should subsidise the Belarusian economy (or any other country's economy for that matter) and it is remarkable that Gazprom has increased the prices for all its customers.

Having said that, there are still marked differences in the price that Gazprom asks for its gas, which is presumably based on the customer's ability to pay. Belarus has the cash to pay off its $200m bill - Minsk reported this week that it has just under $6bn in foreign currency reserves - however, it needs to spend heavily on investment and with presidential elections looming this winter, the government clearly wants to keep as much in reserve as it can to lavish on voters before they go to the polls.

If Gazprom insisted on the roughly $380 per 1,000 cubic meters (cm) it currently charges Western European countries, then it would precipitate a financial crisis in Belarus. The same is true in Ukraine where former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko did a deal in January 2009 to pay over $300 per 1'000 cm for gas, which very nearly did precipitate a crisis - the state had to be bailed out by the IMF and the government started drawing down its special drawing rights to meet the monthly bill, only just squeaking through the year.

Indeed, the new gas deal that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych cut with Gazprom a few months ago is highly significant, as he managed to get a discount - the same discount Minsk is asking for - and reduced the price to about $250 per 1,000 cm. In this sense, Ukraine is now the only former Soviet state where the Kremlin has entered into a "special relationship" where it is prepared to subsidise a foreign economy with lower gas prices. Yanukovych clearly would prefer to have a special relationship with the EU, but Brussels, despite the friendly rhetoric, has failed to come up with any practical support whatsoever, driving Yanukovych into Putin's arms as a result.

By BNE. Published on 23 June 2010
Copyright (c) 2010. BNE. Reprinted with the permission of Business New Europe
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of S & D.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Semneby Downplays Fears EU Is Reducing Presence In South Caucasus

Peter Semneby, who has served as the European Union's special representative to the South Caucasus since February 2006, is seeking to downplay fears in the region that the EU is looking to reduce its diplomatic presence in the region.

Speaking to RFE/RL's Armenian Service in Yerevan, where he is currently completing a two-day tour, Semneby played down rumors of an EU initiative to reduce its embassies to a single European regional headquarters in Tbilisi.

"The European Union has just upgraded the commission delegations in all three capitals to full European Union representations," Semneby said. "All three countries are important partner countries of ours, in particular in a situation when we are taking a new and important step with the launching of negotiations of association agreements, and this clearly requires a presence in each country that is tailor-made to the needs and the situation of each individual country."

Semneby declined to comment on another proposal that likewise aims to scale back the EU's presence in the strategically important and politically volatile South Caucasus region -- the suggestion floated last month by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to abolish a number of EU special representative posts, including Semneby's.

The proposal, which is reportedly still being discussed, would significantly downgrade the EU's presence on the ground in the South Caucasus. Ashton's plan has raised alarm bells in the region, particularly in Georgia, which is still recovering from its 2008 war with Russia and sees the EU as a protective firewall between Tbilisi and Moscow.

Another EU special representative post marked for closure is that in Moldova, currently held by Kalman Mizsei. Semneby said he did not want to comment on "ongoing discussions about what the future European diplomatic representation will look like."

Semneby's visit to Yerevan comes just two days after the Armenian Defense Ministry said four Armenian soldiers were killed in fighting in Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Reports said one Azerbaijani fighter was also killed in the fighting, which reportedly broke out near the Line of Contact that separates Azerbaijan proper from the ethnic Armenian territories of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The skirmish came the same day as the presidents of Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan met on the sidelines of a St. Petersburg economic forum to discuss Nagorno-Karabakh, one of the South Caucasus three "frozen conflicts."

Semneby called the situation "deplorable" and said tensions must be reduced in order for all sides to come to a negotiated solution on the issue.

"It's not really acceptable that events like this take place," Semneby said. "And in addition here we have the unnecessary tragic loss of human lives. This incident demonstrates that there is a tense situation along the Line of Contact, that it can easily get out of hand, and that it's necessary to take whatever measures are available in order to lower tension and to build confidence."

By RFE/RL. Published on 21 June 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, June 21, 2010

Armenian broadcasting law fails to guarantee media pluralism, says OSCE media freedom representative

Despite amendments, Armenia's new Law on Television and Radio fails to promote broadcast pluralism in the digital era, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, said.

The law, adopted by Parliament on 10 June, would need a presidential signature to take effect.

Mijatovic said Armenian authorities had discussed the law draft with civil society and the international community, and that her Office had provided a legal review of the draft.

"Although some recommendations from the legal review have been addressed, other recommendations that are of crucial importance for a smooth transition from analogue to digital broadcasting have not been taken into account," she said.

Mijatovic said that the law's shortcomings included a limit to the number of broadcast channels; a lack of clear rules for the licensing of satellite, mobile telephone and online broadcasting; the placement of all forms of broadcasting under a regime of licensing or permission by the Regulator; the granting of authority to the courts to terminate broadcast licences based on provisions in the law that contain undue limitations on freedom of the media; and a lack of procedures and terms for the establishment of private digital channels.

"Armenia should not lose the opportunity to adopt forward-looking media legislation. New technologies, including digital broadcasting, should be used by governments to strengthen media pluralism. These technologies can improve access to information and enable the public to seek, access and impart information," she said.

Mijatovic emphasized that her office is ready to continue its support to the authorities in all legislative reforms related to media freedom.

The full text of the OSCE review and a recent addendum, in English and in Armenian, are available at:

Source: OSCE. Published in Vienna on 15 June 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

European Union signs visa facilitation agreement with Georgia

The European Union and Georgia signed a visa facilitation agreement with Georgia, opening the way for easier travel and people-to-people contact across Europe. The signature of the readmission agreement negotiated between the European Union and Georgia in parallel will be organised very soon.

"The conclusion of a visa facilitation agreement is a concrete step forward in EU-Georgia relations. It is EU's message of openness to the Georgian citizens." said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs. "The visa facilitation and readmission agreements are very tangible result of the Eastern partnership and will promote interaction between citizens of the EU and Georgia and strengthen our cooperation in the fight against irregular immigration."

Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, stated: ''This is part of our commitment to bring Georgia closer to the EU, not only at institutional level but also at peoples' level''.

The visa facilitation agreement aims at making it easier for Georgian citizens, in particular those who travel most, to acquire short term visas for the EU1. It provides a reduced visa fee of 35€ instead of 60 € for all Georgian citizens and a total exemption from the visa fee for certain categories of applicants (e.g. children below the age of 12, pensioners, disabled persons, students, close relatives and representatives of civil society organisations). Furthermore for certain persons (e.g. businesspeople, students and journalists) the necessary documents requested for supporting a visa application are simplified. Bona fide frequent travellers will be issued multi-entry visas with long periods of validity. Finally, the holders of diplomatic passports are exempt from the visa obligation. The agreement also obliges the Consulates to take a decision within 10 days on whether or not to issue a visa.

The negotiations of the readmission agreement have been finalised and the text was initialled between the negotiators on the same day as the visa facilitation agreement. The formal signature of the readmission agreement will be organised once the Council finalises the necessary procedures. Both visa facilitation and readmission agreements will enter into force on the same day.

The agreement on readmission sets out clear obligations and procedures for the authorities of both Georgia and EU Member States as to when and how to take back people who are illegally residing on their territories. The draft agreement covers not only the illegally staying nationals of both parties but also third country nationals and stateless persons being in an irregular situation provided they have a clear link with the requested Party (e.g. visa or resident permit).

Full respect of Human Rights as provided by the European Convention of Human Rights will also be guaranteed during the application of the readmission agreement.

EU citizens are already exempt from the visa obligation by Georgia.


In June 2008, the Council invited the Commission to open a dialogue with Georgia to launch a discussion on a Mobility Partnership. The Extraordinary European Council of 1 September 2008 decided "to step up relations with Georgia, including visa facilitation measures". In November 2009, negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements were concluded (IP/08/1406) and the EU and Georgia signed a mobility partnership aiming at promoting a better framework for cooperation on all aspects of migration policy (IP/09/1853).

Georgia is one of six countries within the European Partnership established by the EU in May 2009 (Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit, 7 May 2009). The purpose of the Eastern Partnership is to deepen and strengthen relations between the EU and its neighbouring countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

Since 2006, the EU has concluded visa facilitation agreements with Russia, Ukraine, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and the Republic of Moldova. Negotiations are ongoing with Cape Verde.

1 :
The visa facilitation agreement does not apply to UK and Ireland (which do not participate in the Schengen cooperation), and to Denmark. It is applicable towards the rest of the EU. Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland who participate in Schengen are invited to conclude similar visa facilitation agreements.

European Commission launches visa dialogue with Moldova

The European Commission launched a dialogue on visa-free travel with the Republic of Moldova. The aim of the dialogue is to examine the relevant conditions for visa-free travel of Moldovan citizens to the EU as a long-term goal.

"A future visa-free travel regime would further facilitate people-to-people contacts and strengthen economic, societal and cultural ties between the European Union and Moldova. Provided that the relevant conditions for well-managed and secure mobility are put in place, a visa-free regime can add a very tangible element to Moldova's closer relations with the EU", said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.

Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, stated: "This is a promise that we made last December to Moldova, and a sign of our commitment to the Moldovan people. I am happy to see that we are able to deliver it. This step towards visa-free regime with Moldova is the best proof that reforms at home can bring Moldovan citizens tangible benefits."

The visa dialogue, opened at the EU-Republic of Moldova Cooperation Council in Luxembourg today, will allow the EU and the Moldovan authorities to examine the technical preconditions for the establishment of a visa-free regime for Moldovan citizens. The dialogue will focus on key areas such as security of travel documents, border and migration management, as well as relevant public order and security and external relations issues.

As a first step towards the longer-term goal of visa-free travel, Moldovan citizens enjoy the benefits of a visa facilitation agreement with the EU since 1 January 2008. The Republic of Moldova lifted the visa obligation on EU citizens on 1 January 2007.


At the previous EU-Republic of Moldova Cooperation Council on 21 December 2009 the parties agreed to launch during 2010 a dialogue examining the conditions for visa-free travel of Moldovan citizens to the EU as a long-term goal.

On 1 January 2008, a visa facilitation and readmission agreement between the EU and Moldova entered into force. The visa facilitation agreement sets a lower visa fee (€35 instead of €60) for all applicants, and waives fees for broad categories of citizens such as children, pensioners, students, people visiting family members living in the EU, people in need of medical treatment, economic operators working with EU companies, sportsmen and women, participants in cultural exchanges, journalists, etc. In 2009, more than half of Schengen visas issued in Moldova were issued free of charge. The visa facilitation agreement also simplifies and accelerates procedures and provides for easier access to multiple-entry visas of longer duration.

Source: European Commission

Thursday, June 17, 2010

PACE President calls for full implementation of Resolution 1683

During a press conference organised at the end of his official visit to Georgia from 13 to 15 June, PACE President Mevlüt Çavusoglu stressed that by coming to Georgia early in his Presidency he wanted to show the importance he attached to the country, its ongoing democratic reforms as well as its plight after the August 2008 war.

He said his talks had focused on the consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia and the role that the Council of Europe, and especially PACE, could and should play in this respect as well as the ongoing democratic reforms and outstanding commitments of Georgia to the Council of Europe.

He stressed that with regard to the consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia, he had re-iterated PACE’s firm support for the territorial integrity of Georgia and called on all sides to fully implement the demands PACE had made, in particular in its Resolution1683, which addresses crucial humanitarian issues affecting the daily life of the inhabitants in this region.

“These demands focus on the freedom of movement of civilians over the administrative borders with the two regions; access, and more important, the presence of monitors as well as international and humanitarian organisations; the right to return of IDPs; a full and credible investigation into alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed by any side, including Georgia, in relation to the war,“ he recalled.

With regard to ongoing democratic reforms, the PACE President welcomed that the last local elections were considered a big improvement by international monitors, whilst stressing the need to adress remaining important shortcomings. A new election code should be drafted with the help of the Venice Commission, and in dialogue and consultation with both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary opposition, well before the next parliamentary elections, the President said.

He also called on the authorities to strengthen dialogue with all opposition forces on issues deemed important for the development of the country and welcomed reforms aimed at consolidating democracy and strengthening the role of the parliament.

He finally expressed his concern about complaints brought to his attention with regard to decreasing media pluralism and lack of transparency with regard to media ownership, the independence of the judiciary, especially in cases that have political implications, as well as allegations that political motives had affected the prosecution and sentencing of persons. “I met a woman on hunger strike in front of the Council of Europe office who claimed her brother was in prison for political reasons. If true, this would be unacceptable and I will ask the President to investigate,” he said.

“These are worrying issues that could directly affect the further European integration of Georgia. I will therefore ask the PACE co-rapporteurs for Georgia to organise a visit in the very near future, giving priority to these important human rights issues, he said.

The state of affairs with respect to the repatriation of the Meskhetian population had also been discussed, the President said, an issue of importance to PACE and close to his heart.

During his vist, the PACE President met the President of the Republic Mikhail Saakashvili, the Speaker of Parliament David Bakradze, the Vice-Prime Minister and State Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili, the Foreign Minister Gregory Vashadze and the State Minister of Refugees and Accommodation Koba Subeliani. He also met the Chairman of the Constitutional Court George Papuashvili, representatives of the parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition, the Governor of the Shida Kartli Region Lado Vardzelashvili and the Chairman of the Government of Adjara Levan Varshalomidze.

To download Resolution 1683 log on

Source: Council of Europe. Published in Strasbourg on 16 June 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

EU-Republic of Moldova Cooperation Council

Twelfth Meeting
15 June 2010

At the EU-Republic of Moldova Cooperation Council today, the Cooperation Council welcomed the positive dynamics of EU-Republic of Moldova relations and the developments achieved over the last six months. The Cooperation Council recalled in particular the positive impetus provided by the EU-Republic of Moldova Cooperation Council of 21 December 2009 and emphasised the opportunities provided by the Eastern Partnership, including its multilateral dimension.

The Cooperation Council expressed appreciation for the consistent process of consultations on constitutional reform and recalled the importance of respecting democratic standards and the rule of law, and of inclusiveness, in completing this process.

The EU welcomed Republic of Moldova’s European aspirations and determined commitment to the goals of political association and economic integration with the EU. The EU reiterated its wish to move forward with concrete measures to ensure that reforms in Republic of Moldova can be sustained, with a particular focus on negotiations of the future Association Agreement, progress towards economic integration and visa dialogue which was launched in the margins of the Cooperation Council.

The EU re-affirmed its readiness to support Republic of Moldova, including with macrofinancial assistance and high-level advice to the government. It stressed the need for Republic of Moldova to step up efforts to implement effectively structural reform - notably with regard to the rule of law, the fight against corruption, and the business and investment climate.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

EU Envoys In South Caucasus, Moldova Facing End Of The Road

Formally, the European Union is shedding its envoys to the South Caucasus and Moldova as part of the streamlining of its diplomatic machinery under the Lisbon Treaty.

The issue is not on the agenda of the EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on June 14, where it is subsumed under the general problem of setting up the European External Action Service (EEAS), an embryonic EU diplomatic corps. The EEAS is set to integrate most -- though not all -- of the bloc's foreign policy representation under one roof in Brussels.

The ministers will also adopt a declaration on the South Caucasus -- without a debate, however, and without a document making any mention of the plan to scrap the EU special envoy for the region.

Whereas the passing of the EU's special representative to the Middle Eastern peace process will go largely unlamented among member states, and the merging of the various EU representatives in Kabul has been welcomed by most, the plans by Catherine Ashton, the EU's top foreign policy officials, with respect to the South Caucasus and Moldova have caused concerns.

Both are home to long-standing conflict flashpoints close to the EU's own borders where the bloc finds itself in contention for influence with Russia. Any downgrading of the EU's involvement in either part of the world would inevitably send powerful messages to both local capitals -- most of which seek closer integration with the West -- as well as Moscow.

Last week, a number of foreign ministers, mostly from Eastern Europe, wrote to Ashton to protest against the dropping of the envoys to the South Caucasus. The issue came up at the joint regular breakfast of Nordic and Baltic ministers ahead of the EU meeting this morning.

But officials privately concede the fightback appears doomed. The EEAS represents far too great a prize in the eyes of the member states. At the end of the day, none appears prepared to risk reopening negotiations on its structure after a hard-fought consensus was reached in late spring. The goal now is to secure the green light from the European Parliament. This is likely to take at least until July, with the parliament intent on using its new Lisbon-derived leverage to enhance its own powers.

As a result, the EEAS is not expected to be fully functional before January 1, 2011. With Ashton reportedly keen on abolishing the special representatives for the South Caucasus and Moldova -- Peter Semneby and Kalman Miszei, respectively -- at the end of their terms on August 31, a hiatus thus beckons in EU involvement with both.

Ashton is said even to oppose any temporary extension of the envoys' mandates to bridge the time gap.

But in the eyes of the concerned EU member states, this would just be the tip of the iceberg. Darker worries are visible under the surface -- above all, that the centralization of diplomatic responsibility in Brussels will have a contrary effect to that ostensibly sought by Ashton, especially in the South Caucasus. Semneby spends most of his time in the region, serving as a highly visible symbol of the EU's commitment to the region, an important conduit for information, and a respected contact point for local governments.

His impending replacement with one or more lower-ranked bureaucrats in Brussels would jeopardize all of these functions -- and disturb the precarious balance which now exists in the region, where the EU acts as a kind of counterweight to Russia.

There are also fears that the centralization of EU diplomatic functions would remove what few teeth the bloc's foreign policy has left. The EEAS will not be authorized to make policy -- each of the EU's 27 member states retains the right of veto -- but merely to implement it.

Diplomats say Ashton has complained repeatedly that some among the existing envoys act too independently, above all issuing statements not sufficiently coordinated with Brussels. The letter to EU foreign ministers on May 21 where the EU's top diplomat first floated her intention to abolish some envoys notes that some of the special representatives are "exceptional individuals" -- and goes on to suggest only some of them could be found a place within the EEAS.

The full integration of the EU's diplomatic outreach into the EEAS would bring it under the tighter control of the larger member states. Most of its top figures would hail from Paris, Berlin, and London.

Diplomats note that with the departure of Semneby -- who is Swedish -- the top EU figure in the region will be Pierre Morel, charged with overseeing the Geneva talks between Georgia and Russia. Morel is considered a very capable diplomat -- he also doubles as the EU's Brussels-based Central Asian envoy. But he is also French, leading some to worry he may take a more accommodating stance toward Russia. Morel is flanked by the head of the EU's monitoring mission to Georgia, currently a German diplomat. Germany is also seen as pro-Moscow.

Ashton's maneuvering may also be linked to Germany's recent high-profile rapprochement with Russia, which saw Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Dmitry Medvedev adopt a joint memorandum on June 5 proposing the creation of an EU-Russia "political and security committee" tasked with crisis resolution. Making no mention of Georgia -- where Moscow says there are no "frozen conflicts" left after the secession of Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- the document's focus is on Moldova.

The German-Russian memorandum has caused consternation in other EU capitals, which would normally have expected to be consulted beforehand.

There may also be a link between the EU's impending reconfiguring of its eastern policy and a possible U.S. initiative -- suggested privately by diplomats at NATO -- to resuscitate talks with Moscow on a successor to the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty.

By Ahto Lobjakas. Published on 14 June 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, June 14, 2010

Štefan Füle: Speech on EU-Moldova relations

European Parliament

Brussels, 9 June 2010

Mr. Chairman,

Honourable Members,


Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to join you for a broad exchange of views on the current issues of EU-Moldova relations. Our session is particularly timely ahead of the Cooperation Council scheduled for 15 June, and a few days after Moldova’s ruling coalition has announced its plans to put an end to the constitutional crisis. To respect our time constraints and in view of the remarks by other speakers and the subsequent discussion, I will limit my remarks to some key elements.

This event is organized to mark one year since the Pro–European shift in Moldova. As a matter of fact, in 2009, EU-Moldova relations went through a serious test due to difficult political environment following the spring elections. The new Government has set a very ambitious reform agenda clearly reflecting Moldova’s European aspirations and commitment to the goals of political association and economic integration with the EU.

In this context, five months ago, we have started negotiations on our new contractual relation, the future Association Agreement that should be far more ambitious than the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. I have to say we are moving very fast forward in these negotiations. This does not mean that any of the sides has decided to give away its positions for the sake of speed. On the contrary, I am amazed by the density of the discussions that we manage to have on all matters. I encourage the successful continuation of these talks and due implementation of the commitments.

I am glad that we could field last week a full-fledged fact-finding mission which is an important milestone towards a deep and comprehensive free trade area, or as I prefer to call it, towards a deeper economic integration. I now expect the many Commission services involved in this assessment exercise to come up with so called ‘key recommendations’ for Moldova to address before negotiations on a DCFTA can be launched.

As regards mobility, evidently, visa-free travel is a key objective of our relations, in the framework of the Eastern Partnership. We have prepared ground for the Cooperation Council to open our visa dialogue and I am very pleased, Minister [Leanca], that you will attend its first session. This visa dialogue will allow us to examine together in a structured manner the conditions for visa-free travel of Moldovan citizens to the European Union. Moreover, in the regional context, this approach applied in the case of Moldova could serve as a model for other Eastern Partnership countries bearing in mind the specificity and progress of each country.

Furthermore, let me reaffirm EU's readiness to support Moldova in implementing structural reforms. As a matter of fact, extensive financial and technical support has always underpinned our cooperation. Between 1991 and 2009, the EU provided more than €270 million euros to Moldova. This assistance has contributed to many reforms, for instance in social assistance, healthcare and water sanitation. It has also helped modernise Moldovan enterprises and promote their exports. Besides, a team of highly-experienced advisers was deployed in April to assist the Moldovan Government carrying out its reform agenda.

In March this year, we hosted a donors’ conference on Moldova. Over forty donors that participated in the conference pledged an impressive €1.9 billion euros for the period 2010-2013. This was more than expected. We the EU scaled up our own support and pledged €550 million euros. This makes Moldova the front runner in EU assistance in this part of the world. I am proud to say that this pledge will materialise in a few weeks, with a €45 million programme to foster economic activity outside Moldova’s urban areas. An upfront payment of €15 million euros to the Moldovan budget will follow shortly to support these regional development efforts.

No one will contest the place of our macro-financial assistance in that context. The Commission’s legislative proposal for a €90 million euros package was submitted today to the European Parliament. It is important that we all work together to get it approved by the Parliament and the Council as soon as possible.

Rightly so, these developments demonstrate the confidence of the European Union in Moldova’s commitment to the process of European integration and to the development of its democratic culture, as illustrated in the ‘Rethink Moldova’ document produced by the Moldovan Government. For the immediate future, our democracy-support package is in place. We are also working to sustain our electoral support in view of the future parliamentary elections. Last but not least, let me emphasise that support for the rule of law and respect for human rights constitutes the first priority of our bilateral assistance.

Mr. Chairman,

Honourable Members,


Ladies and gentlemen,

You have heard in the presentation by Prime Minister Filat what are the achievements and challenges of the internal reforms and external relations of Moldova. On the latter, I take this opportunity to encourage Moldova to continue to be constructive in its contacts with Ukraine. On the European agenda, a lot has been achieved so far thanks to considerable efforts that Moldova, as well as the EU, have deployed. Nevertheless, the country needs to step up efforts in many areas in order to stabilise the political, economic and social situation for the sake of its people. In this context, let me state that on this challenging path towards prosperity and stability, Moldova does not stand alone as proves also today's event.

Thank you for your attention.

Source: European Commission

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Commissioner Füle encourgaes full engagement with Belarus

Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle stressed that full engagement with Belarus within the framework of the Eastern Partnership is important to promote democracy and the rule of law in the country. He said this during the delegation meeting of Euronest Parliamentary Assembly which took place in the European Parliament on Thursday.

Füle gave an overview of the positive achievements of the Eastern Partnership during the past year, adding that Belarus was the most active country in terms of seeking funding from this project.

Referring to the bilateral relations with Belarus, he stressed that while Belarus will still be obliged to meet certain political conditions in line with other democratic country, the policy of isolation did not achieve any results and therefore supports the policy of rapprochement towards Belarus. He referred to the Action Plan as a means of finding a way of how the two sides can move forward towards deeper engagement.

Despite that the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Belarus has been frozen since 1998, the European Commission is committed to continue dialogue on the visa facilitation agreement and on European Investment Bank lending to Belarus amongst other issues.

Füle said that he will soon be visiting Belarus and stressed that free and fair election will be on top on his agenda during his talks with the authorities in Belarus.

EP Chair for Euronest Parliamentary Assembly Kristian Vigenin proposed to organise a high level conference to discuss a joint strategy towards Belarus.

Azerbaijan Belongs On Obama's List Of Violators Of Press Freedom

It was encouraging to see U.S. President Barack Obama sign on May 17 the Daniel Pearl Act, which requires the U.S. State Department to compile a public list of governments that violate the rights of journalists. There is no guarantee, however, that this measure will not be perceived as a mere PR tactic or just another tool designed to intimidate countries already blacklisted by the United States due to other foreign policy concerns.

To preclude that, it is important that the list objectively name the regimes with the worst records on press freedom, including the so-called "friendly dictatorships" in the Middle East and beyond.

To that end, I nominate the first candidate – the leadership of the Azerbaijan Republic.

Azerbaijan's petro-dictatorship not only qualifies as a gross violator of press freedom by any reasonable criteria, it also often uses its energy and geopolitical cooperation with the West to deflect criticism on human rights and democracy. Thus, the inclusion of this regime would send a strong message about the list's impartiality and credibility.

Let's consider the basic "credentials" of this contender for a place on the list.

The government's most vocal critic, Elmar Huseynov, an opposition journalist and the editor of the popular magazine "Monitor," was murdered in 2005 in front of his apartment building. His killers are still at large, and many observers accuse the authorities of deliberately stonewalling the investigation and failing to bring them to justice. Some even identify powerful figures within the government as the real force behind the crime.

Huseynov's former colleague, dissident journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, has been behind bars for several years on fabricated "terrorism" and "drug possession" charges, and the Azerbaijani leadership has ignored the recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights ordering his release, which is mandatory for Azerbaijan as a member of Council of Europe.

Last year, two young bloggers, Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli, were severely beaten and then arrested on absurd charges of "hooliganism." Despite numerous protests and condemnations from international rights groups, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, European governments, and the U.S. State Department, a court in Baku sentenced them to 2 1/2 years in jail. Many other independent journalists have been imprisoned, physically attacked, blackmailed, or forced into exile.

Under President Ilham Aliyev, who inherited the post from his late father in 2003, all local TV and radio stations have been brought under government control. The broadcasting of Western radio stations, including the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, has been banned from the local airwaves.

The remaining few opposition newspapers are deprived of revenue as the authorities target any businesses that advertise in their pages. They are also subject to bogus "defamation" lawsuits resulting in large fines and in some cases the paper's mandatory closure.

Not surprisingly, Azerbaijan has already been named as one of the top violators of press freedom by leading international organizations. Aliyev has been repeatedly included in the "Predator of the Press" list compiled by the international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. The U.S. State Department's own annual report on human rights also lists numerous instances of the suppression of free media and reprisals against journalists critical of the government's policies.

Therefore, not only would it be illogical to exclude Azerbaijan from the new list mandated by the Daniel Pearl Act, such an omission would give credence to the supposition that American policy-makers readily sacrifice democracy and human rights on the altar of lucrative energy contracts.

On the other hand, the inclusion of Azerbaijan in this list would show consistency and the principled nature of the U.S. stance and provide moral support for those forces that struggle for free speech in Azerbaijan and around the world.

By Elmar Chakhtakhtinski. Published on 8 June 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, June 9, 2010

OSCE/ODIHR, Venice Commission say amendments to Belarusian election law provide 'mixed response'

The amendments to the Belarusian election code provide a mixed response to the recommendations made by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, the two institutions concluded in a joint legal opinion.

The amendments introduced in January represent a step towards removing some flaws in the country's election legislation, but they are unlikely to resolve the underlying concern that the legislative framework for elections in Belarus continues to fall short of providing a basis for genuinely democratic elections, the document says.

"The amendments include a number of significant improvements which respond to some of the recommendations we made in previous election observation reports and during the recent process of open and constructive consultations with the Belarusian authorities," said Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, Director of ODIHR.

But several areas need further elaboration or are not yet addressed at all, he added: "For example, the potential positive impact of some of the amendments risks being undermined by flaws in the counting and tabulation process which remained unchanged."

Thomas Markert, the Secretary of the Venice Commission, stressed that no legislation, however good it may be, can alone guarantee elections in line with international standards: "The quality of future elections in Belarus will depend not only on the quality of the legislation. Equally important is its implementation in good faith."

The legal opinion identifies a number of new provisions that could lead to improvements in electoral practice. These include the easing of restrictions on candidate registration and campaigning, new safeguards for early voting and the possibility of appealing certain Central Election Commission decisions to the Supreme Court.

The opinion raises concerns related to appointment procedures for election commission members, including the absence of selection criteria. It also notes the lack of safeguards ensuring the integrity and transparency of the vote count and results tabulation. For example, there have been no amendments to ensure that precinct commission members count the ballots in a transparent manner and that observers are given direct and effective opportunities to monitor the voting, counting and tabulation process. In addition, there are no provisions mandating the election commissions at various levels to publish detailed preliminary and final results of the vote, by polling stations, without undue delay.

ODIHR and the Venice Commission stand ready to assist the authorities of Belarus with the continuation of the electoral reform process. ODIHR is looking forward to monitoring the impact of the amendments during the upcoming presidential elections.

Source: OSCE. Published on 4 June 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Council of Europe mediates solution to end constitutional crisis in Moldova

The four party leaders in the governing “Alliance for European Integration” (AEI) announced that the government will hold a referendum to amend Article 78 of the Constitution (to allow for direct election of the President), dissolve Parliament and call for new elections. The referendum is expected to be held in the first half of September and new parliamentary elections are to be organised in Autumn after the Parliament’s dissolution in October.

Thiss solution was reached as the result of the lengthy mediation efforts by the Council of Europe and its Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, after it became clear that a broad compromise between the governing Alliance and the opposition Communist Party (CPRM) was not possible.


“We have to follow the European path and I am grateful to the Secretary General who has helped us reach a solution to overcome this crisis,” said Acting President of Moldova Mihai Ghimpu.

Prime Minister Vlad Filat said: “It is important that we stand united and ensure the implementation of the solution reached today. This requires the full support of all parliamentarians of the Alliance. Without the help of the Council of Europe and the direct intervention of its Secretary General we would not have succeeded in bringing this crisis to an end”.

The leader of the Democratic Party, Marian Lupu, added: “I am very glad that we can present today a joint consolidated solution to overcome the current constitutional crisis”.

“I am glad to be able to fully support the decision made by the Alliance to end this crisis. I have discussed it with EU leaders and they are fully behind the solution. I have been in contact with all four leaders of the Alliance and the leader of the Communist Party in an effort to find a way to amend Article 78. It was not possible to reach a broad compromise between the alliance and the Communist Party on this and the only way forward was to bring the decision to the people, which is normal in any democracy. The solution is supported by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and the European Union. I appeal to all citizens in Moldova to exercise their right to vote in the coming referendum,” said Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland.

Note to editors

The Acting President of Moldova Mihai Ghimpu would have been obliged to dissolve Parliament on 16 June 2010 and call elections. Amendments to Article 78 of the Constitution are needed to break the political and institutional deadlock. There have been three attempts to elect a President in just over one year. Two alternative proposals for constitutional amendments were made by the CPRM and the AEI, neither of which had the necessary 2/3 majority to get the proposal passed.

The Council of Europe Secretary General was invited to Chisinau on 2 and 3 June to mediate a solution between the sides with a view to unlocking the political crisis.

Source: Council of Europe. Published on 3 June 2010

Monday, June 7, 2010

PACE co-rapporteurs welcome Ukrainian authorities’ pledge to honour remaining Council of Europe commitments

Renate Wohlwend and Mailis Reps, monitoring co-rapporteurs for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), have welcomed the clearly-stated objective of Ukraine’s authorities and ruling coalition to implement remaining commitments to the Council of Europe in the near future. “The request of the President of Ukraine to his government and the Verkhovna Rada to adopt a reform package that would honour the country’s remaining commitments to the Council of Europe is an ambitious project that deserves the support of the Council of Europe and its Assembly,” said the co-rapporteurs at the end of a fact-finding visit to the country.

However, they also noted that several interlocutors from the opposition, but also from the ruling coalition, had indicated that the eagerness of the authorities to implement these reforms with the shortest possible delay had limited the possibility for proper reflection and consultation between all political forces. “The reforms needed to meet the remaining commitments, due to their importance, should necessarily be based on a consensus between the different political forces that is as wide as possible,” stressed the co-rapporteurs. “We therefore urge the relevant authorities to ensure that parliamentary procedures are fully respected, that the Venice Commission is properly consulted before legislation is adopted, and that the elaboration and adoption of any legislative reforms are made in an open and inclusive manner.”

In addition, they underscored that a number of reforms depended on a long-overdue reform of the Constitution, but that the President’s plans did not yet include such a constitutional reform project, which was much needed.

The co-rapporteurs noted with concern the increasing number of allegations that democratic freedoms such as freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of the media had come under stress in recent months. “A clear and unwavering respect for democratic freedoms and rights has been one of the main achievements in Ukraine’s democratic development in recent years. Any regress in respecting and protecting these rights would be unacceptable for the Assembly,” the co-rapporteurs said. They therefore noted with satisfaction that the President had stressed there would be zero tolerance for such behaviour, and that all allegations would be fully investigated, and perpetrators punished.

“Ukraine’s European orientation was highlighted over and again by all the interlocutors we spoke to. The road to European integration goes through the Council of Europe and the fulfilment of Ukraine’s commitments to it. We pledge to spare no effort to help the country in doing so,” concluded Ms Wohlwend and Ms Reps.

Source: PACE. Published in Strasbourg on 4 June 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

EU supports poverty reduction and economic growth in Moldova

The European Commission adopted on 1 June 2010 the Annual Action Programme 2010 for the Republic of Moldova, worth a €66 million.

This new cooperation programme will support the anti-poverty agenda of the new Moldovan government seeking to stimulate economic growth throughout the country. A special focus of the programme is put on reducing poverty in rural areas. Moreover, the assistance programme will support developments in the fields of energy and biomass, in order to contribute to a more secure and sustainable energy production in the Republic of Moldova. This support aims to reduce Moldova's almost complete dependence on foreign primary energy sources.

Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, said: "Moldova faces formidable challenges that require decisive and determined action on reform. We stand by Moldova in these efforts. Today's decision proves that our support is real and substantial."


This €66 million allocation is provided through the EU's European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which sets aside assistance funds annually to Moldova and 16 other partner states along the EU's Eastern and Southern borders. Moldova has received similar allocations in the previous years under the ENPI, supporting for example the water supply and sanitation infrastructure in the country. The allocations from the ENPI are the main source of EU assistance for the partner states along the eastern border of the EU and the Mediterranean. In addition to ENPI assistance funds, Moldova also receives further support from the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and other thematic programmes.

Download the Annual Action Programme 2010 for Moldova:

Additional information:

- On EU assistance to Moldova:

- On external relations EU-Moldova:

- On the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP):

- On the Eastern Partnership:

Source: European Commission

Thursday, June 3, 2010

European Union promotes regional development and Public Finance Management reform in Georgia

The European Commission adopted on 1 June 2010 the Annual Action Programme 2010 for Georgia, worth €37 million.

The EU support intends to contribute to the reduction in regional disparities within Georgia and to stimulate economic growth and regional development throughout the country. Deeper economic integration of Georgia with the EU internal market will be supported, as well as programmes to increase efficiency of social assistance for vulnerable social groups.

Moreover, the assistance programme will support the ongoing Public Finance Management Reform, among others through establishing a modern framework for debt management and supporting the establishment of evaluation systems of the spending of public finances.

Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, said: "We encourage the acceleration of the reform efforts in Georgia so that all citizens of Georgia draw concrete benefits from the process of getting closer to the EU, fully enjoying fundamental freedoms, human rights, economic growth and prosperity. I hope that the programme adopted today will contribute to this objective."


The €37 million allocation is provided through the EU's European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which is the main source of EU assistance for Georgia and the other 16 partner states along the Eastern border of the EU and the Mediterranean. The aim of this assistance is to promote enhanced cooperation and progressive economic integration between the European Union and its partner countries. Furthermore, the assistance shall also encourage partner countries' efforts aimed at promoting good governance and equitable social and economic development. In addition to ENPI assistance funds, Georgia also receives further support from the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and other thematic programmes.

Download the Annual Action Programme 2010 for Georgia:

Additional information:

- On EU assistance to Georgia:

- On external relations EU-Georgia:

- On the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP):

- On the Eastern Partnership:

Source: European Commission

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In Georgia and Moldova, Worries That EU Special Reps -- And Their Protection -- May Vanish

Officials in Moldova and Georgia are reacting with concern to speculation that the EU is poised to remove special representatives appointed to their regions.

If confirmed, the change would signal a major downgrading in the EU's strategic interest in both Chisinau and the countries of the South Caucasus.

EU foreign policy officials gave no hint of change on the horizon when they met with the six post-Soviet countries that make up its Eastern Partnership community last week.

Instead, officials from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus were assured that the EU's eastern neighbors remain "main priorities" for the European Union.

So it was with a mix of surprise and anger when those countries learned May 31 that the EU is looking to abolish two of its key posts in the region.

Ashton's Bombshell

An assistant to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told EU ambassadors on May 28 that she was looking to eliminate the EU's special representatives to Moldova and the South Caucasus.

Such a move would significantly downgrade the EU's presence on the ground in two regions seen as politically unstable and vulnerable to creeping Russian influence.

There has been no official statement from either the EU or the two affected officials -- Kalman Mizsei, the special representative to Moldova, or Peter Semneby, who holds the post for the South Caucasus.

Iulian Fruntashu, an adviser to Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat, told RFE/RL's Moldovan Service he was concerned about what the move might mean for Moldova's progress toward EU integration as one of the Eastern Partners.

"The circumstances, I think, weren't the best for the work of Kalman Mizsei. But I think the position itself shouldn't be abandoned just because Catherine Ashton wants to simplify the stucture of the EU's diplomatic service," Fruntashu said. "I think that a high representative nominated by the European Council shows that the EU is making a priority of Moldova, Georgia, and other countries in the region. We are interested first and foremost in the Eastern Partnership and Moldova's place in it, and I think that it would have been useful for us to keep a special EU representive in Moldova."

The move -- which will also affect other of the EU's 11 special representatives -- has been defended as an attempt to streamline the EU's diplomatic corps. But a letter from Ashton outlining the plan also offers rationales that have struck some observers as flawed.

Ashton's letter, for one, suggests that the bloc should scrap geographically distant posts. But Moldova and the South Caucasus are both closer than Central Asia or Africa's Great Lakes region, both of which will retain their special representatives.

The letter also suggests the bloc should retain only those seen as most important for the EU -- an alarming wake-up call for countries hosting no fewer than four post-Soviet "frozen conflicts."

Labor Pains

News of the proposed change came as EU officials were gathering in Rostov-for-Donu for a summit with their Russian counterparts seen as ushering in less tempestuous relations between Moscow and Brussels.

According to the Ashton plan, Mizsei's current post would be merged with that of the European Commission's representative and eventually brought within the External Action Service, the consolidated diplomatic corps Ashton is laboring to introduce.

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia would see a similar shift. In addition to losing the oversight of Semneby, who has held the post for more than four years and is widely respected in the region, the change would mean the end of the EU's unified approach to the South Caucasus.

Such a move could be advantageous to Moscow, which has been accused of using regional rivalries to destabilize the strategically important area.

Temur Iakobashvili, Georgia's state minister for reintegration, is a key figure in Tbilisi's battle to regain control of its pro-Moscow breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Speaking to RFE/RL's Georgian Service, he said he believed the decision was not "final," but expressed concern that a change in posts would have a negative effect on conflict resolution in the area.

"The important thing is not what the new position would be called," Iakobashvili said. "It's what would happen to [the distribution of] functions, and I think the Caucasus-wide element of Mr. Semneby's post is an important one."

He added: "Conflicts haven't vanished anywhere. In the case of Georgia, moreover, we're even facing the occupation [of our territory]. Therefore, it's an important to consider the question of how these functions will be distributed."

By Valentina Ursu, Marina Vashakmadze. Published on 1 June 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.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

PES gives support to Moldovan Democratic Party during visit to Chisinau

The Party of European Socialists, together with the European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity, organised a Fact-finding Mission to Chisinau, Moldova, on 27 May 2010. The joint initiative was led by Peter Schieder, Chair of the PES Advisory Group on Eastern European Neighbours and former President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, SPÖ Austria, and by Marianne Mikko, former MEP and Co-Chair of the EU-Moldova Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, SDE, Estonia. They were welcomed by Democratic Party of Moldova leader, Marian Lupu.

Members of the delegation held bilateral meetings with government and EU officials, representatives of political parties, international organisations and independent political thinkers and analysts. The delegation also took part in the International Roundtable “Social Moldova – Common Europe”, organised on 28 May by the PES sister party Democratic Party of Moldova with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the Alfred Mozer Stichting.

PES Co-chair Peter Schieder, addressed the roundtable guests and assembled media together with Mr. Lupu. He posed the question: “Why does the PES place such interest on Moldova? Why does the EU grant such priority and financial aid to this country? To answer that it is the case because the country needs it would be far too simple. Socialists and social democrats, the EU, focus on this country because they see a real chance for Moldova. It is now up to Moldova, its political forces and its people to be determined and to seize the opportunities the country has today.”


Moldova has seen some drastic political changes in the past year. The eight-year Communist rule ended with the so-called ‘twitter revolution’ and after the early elections of summer 2009, a new ruling coalition, the Alliance for European Integration (AEI), was established by the Democratic Party (DPM), the Liberal Party (LP), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and the Moldova Noastra Alliance (MNA). However, the coalition is eight parliamentary seats short of electing the next President. With ongoing negotiations on constitutional changes, referenda and early elections, the risk of a prolonged crisis is a matter of concern.

The joint PES and European Forum Delegation also included Titus Corlatean, Party Vice-president and President of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Romanian Senate, PSD Romania, Christoph Zöpel, Former Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Committee “Economic Policy, Labour and National Resources” of the Socialist International, SPD Germany, Ivan Catalin Sorin, Member of the European Parliament, PSD Romania, Miroslava Gateva, Political Adviser of the International Department, BSP Bulgaria, Mikhna Berindei, Adviser of the Foundation Jean Jaures, France, Marina Ohanjanyan and Inge Visscher, respectively Project Manager and Intern of the European Forum, and David Capezzuto, Political Advisor of the PES International Unit.

Source: PES. Published on 31 May 2010

OSCE Office in Yerevan helps strengthen Ombudsman institution as National Preventive Mechanism

Representatives of Armenia's Human Rights Defender's Office concluded a three-day study visit to Slovenia organized by the OSCE Office in Yerevan to strengthen the institution's capacity to prevent torture and ill-treatment.

The Armenian experts met Slovenia's Deputy Ombudsman, Ivan Selih and colleagues, as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations, and visited a police station in Domzale and a prison in Ljubljana. They discussed the experiences of the Slovenian Human Rights Ombudsman as the country's designated National Preventive Mechanism (NPM).

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 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. Armenia ratified the Optional Protocol in 2006.

"Our Office has supported Human Rights Defender's Office to advocate for more effective oversight of detention facilities. We believe that knowledge of the European experience in preventive strategies will enhance the role of the Ombudsman as an effective preventive mechanism," said Ambassador Sergey Kapinos, the Head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan.

"The Slovenian model for a National Preventive Mechanism is one of the most highly regarded by international experts, and learning about their experience will be useful in developing enhanced oversight of detention places in Armenia," said Arman Tatoyan, an Armenian NPM expert on the trip.

"We are happy to share our experience and practices with preventive visits and co-operation with non-governmental organizations," said Deputy Ombudsman Selih.

Source: OSCE. Published in Yerevan on 27 May 2010.