Thursday, June 23, 2005

Moscow and the PACE

From today's RFE/RL Newsline:

PACE CALLS ON RUSSIA TO 'IMPROVE DEMOCRACY'... The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in Strasbourg "urged Russia to improve its democracy, calling for more power for the Russian parliament,pluralist and impartial broadcasting and normal conditions for civil society" in a resolution passed on 22 June, according to a statement on the assembly's website ( The PACE also warned that solutions to Russia's problems "should be in line with Council of Europe principles," the statement said. "In order for democracy to function properly, power must not only be vertically reinforced but also horizontally shared," the PACE stated in reference to Kremlin-backed reforms approved in the fall of 2004, adding that Moscow should "adjust the direction" of recent reforms. The group also urged that "significantly" more Council of Europe assistance be granted to Russia to help it honor its commitments. The PACE resolution specifically called on Russia to abolish the death penalty, withdraw its troops from the breakaway Transdniester republic, and bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations in Chechnya. AH

...AS REPORT CONDEMNS RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, DEMANDS ACTION... PACE rapporteurs on Russia Rudolf Bindig and David Atkinson harshly criticized Moscow for a perceived lack of compliance with the commitment to human rights it made along with membership in 1995, reported. Bindig and Atkinson also noted a slowdown in the democratization process in Russia in recent years. "The fact is that Russia is not yet a free democracy," RFE/RL's Russia Service quoted Atkinson as saying. The report also noted that the main threats to democracy in Russia remain the conflict in Chechnya, corruption and "dubious privatization deals." RFE/RL reported. VY

...PROMPTING VEILED THREAT OVER MOSCOW'S PACE CONTRIBUTION. The head of the Russian delegation to the PACE, Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev (Unified Russia), expressed disappointment with the assembly after passage of the PACE resolution on 22 June, RTR reported. He called some wording in the document "absolutely unacceptable to Russia," according to RTR, singling out for mention a reference to the "Soviet occupation of the Baltic states." Kosachev then said Russia's financial contributions to the PACE are excessive and noted that Moscow could decide to halt such payments. "That is neither our sanction toward the Council of Europe nor an expression of disappointment, but a realistic evaluation of the situation," he said, according to RTR. Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis countered by saying the same day that "it is Russia's own business to decide what financial contribution it will make to the organization," RTR reported. Davis also asserted that "neither Russia nor Latvia is responsible for the misdeeds of past regimes," RIA-Novosti reported. Russia contributes some 28 million euros ($33.76 million) annually to the Council of Europe's budget, putting it among the top five contributors. VY

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