Thursday, October 26, 2006

Criticism and Caution

Via RFE/RL Newsline (October 26):

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT SLAMS RUSSIA…

EU parliamentarians passed a nonbinding resolution in Strasbourg on October 25 calling for member states to give “serious thought” to their relations with Russia, which should not be based on economic criteria alone, international media reported (see “RFE/RL Newsline,” October 23, 2006). In a strongly worded resolution, the parliament called for democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression to be placed at the core of any future agreement between the EU and Russia. The parliamentarians voiced their concerns over what they called the increasing intimidation, harassment, and killing of journalists, and other people critical of the Russian government. The resolution drew attention to the recent slaying of critical journalist Anna Politkovskaya and called on the EU and Council of Europe, to which Russia belongs, to monitor the investigation of the apparent contract killing. The legislators argued that “the only way to truly honor…Politkovskaya’s passionate commitment to truth, justice, and human dignity is to make common efforts to realize [her] dream of a democratic Russia that fully respects the rights and liberties of its citizens.” PM

…BUT FINLAND IS CAUTIOUS.

The debate over the European Parliament’s October 25 resolution on Russia and democracy recalled the recent exchange in Lahti, Finland, between French President Jacques Chirac, who called for separating morality and economics in dealing with Moscow, and Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, who said that “it is totally wrong to pay attention only to [economic] interests,” international media reported (see “RFE/RL Newsline,” October 23, 2006). Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, whose country holds the EU presidency and has traditionally tread very lightly in dealing with Moscow, warned EU lawmakers that “one shouldn’t go too far. We shouldn’t caricature Russia as some monstrous dictatorship. They want to cooperate, they want to raise their living standards, they want to work with us.” In the run-up to the German EU presidency in the first half of 2007, the German Foreign Ministry, which is run by former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats, seeks to promote German and EU ties to Russia on the basis of an expanding network of  interrelationships (see “RFE/RL Newsline,” August 24 and October 19 and 20, 2006). Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats were not involved in preparing the ministry’s recent position paper and are drafting one of their own, which places more emphasis on trans-Atlantic ties. PM

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