Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Delaying the Deal

In EDM, Vladimir Socor examines the candidacy of Kremlin-oriented politician Mikhail Margelov to the presidency of PACE (the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe), an appointment which as Socor says is "not yet a done deal":

Three factors account for the slowdown in the momentum behind Margelov’s candidacy. One is the hesitation and scruples felt by a growing number of PACE members about electing a representative of the Kremlin’s “managed democracy” to the presidency of Europe’s leading democracy-promoting institution. The doubters realize that such an election would accelerate the ongoing erosion of PACE’s credibility.

Another factor is information about outgoing PACE president Rene van der Linden’s involvement in business in Russia in 2006-2007. A dossier of Russian media reports -- that were available all along -- on that topic has now been compiled in Estonia and is circulating among members of the Strasbourg-based PACE. Van der Linden had previously disclaimed repeatedly any business activity in Russia. Faced with the Russian media reports, he no longer denies involvement but disclaims having earned profits from it. Van der Linden played a key role in the deal to put Margelov in PACE’s presidential chair for the next three-year term. Thus, van der Linden’s overall political judgment comes into sharp question at the end of his presidential term.

Baltic parliamentarians in the three capitals and in Strasbourg were taken aback when van der Linden suddenly began replaying Russia’s propaganda themes against their countries in August and September. The Estonian parliament’s European Affairs Commission chairman, Marko Mihkelson -- until recently the head of Estonia’s delegation to PACE -- made public the Russian media compilation, commenting that it is up to van der Linden himself to judge whether he finds himself in a conflict-of-interest situation (Baltic Times, October 17).

Yet another factor in the debate is Russia’s failure to fulfill a host of commitments it had made to the Council of Europe in 1996 as a pre-condition to Russian membership. Quite apart from the overall assault on democracy in Russia in recent years, the non-fulfillment of Russia’s commitments to PACE involves specific, clearly worded, incontrovertible obligations. PACE’s itemized list of those issues when Russia was admitted as a member (Opinion No. 193, January 1996), now circulating among members, helps flag Russia’s unfulfilled membership conditions and commitments.

As Socor notes, there is also a Chechen connection. Read the whole thing.
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