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WHAT KIND OF 'EUROPE' DOES RUSSIA WANT? Konstantin Kosachyov, who heads the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, told "Izvestia" of December 21 that "the governments of Old [Western] Europe seem to have a good understanding of where the real risks to Europe's energy stability lie. The real problems [in relations between Russia and the EU] do not stem from Europe's excessive dependence on Russian gas, which has been supplied reliably for decades." He argued instead that "the real threat comes from unpredictable transit states," which he did not name, except for Ukraine. Kosachyov believes that "if overt opponents of closer relations with Moscow come to have decisive influence on EU relations with Russia," Moscow will seek bilateral deals. He added that "European politicians should realize for themselves that it is futile and counterproductive for opponents of cooperation to be present in structures which are supposed to ensure cooperation" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 19 and 26, 2006). Elsewhere, U.K. Member of Parliament Denis MacShane (Labour), who was minister of state for Europe in 2002-05, told the "International Herald Tribune" of December 21 that German Foreign Minister Steinmeier must make it clear to President Putin on his current visit to Moscow that he is speaking for the entire EU when raising human rights concerns. MacShane added that "the Kremlin wants to divide Europe into Old Europe, which it feels it can manipulate and [where it can] have its poodles...and New Europe, which is Atlanticist and which includes the member states from Eastern Europe, Britain, and the Nordic countries. These countries are increasingly nervous about Russia's drift away from the rule of law, press freedom, and human rights." PM
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER AGAIN BARRED FROM CABINET MEETING. Lawmakers from the ruling Party of Regions prevented Borys Tarasyuk from attending a cabinet meeting in Kyiv on December 20, Ukrainian media reported. Tarasyuk was dismissed from the post of foreign minister by the Verkhovna Rada on December 1, but President Viktor Yushchenko subsequently issued a decree ordering Tarasyuk to remain in his job. Yushchenko maintains that parliament dismissed Tarasyuk unlawfully, arguing that such a dismissal should have been preceded by a presidential motion. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych demanded on December 20 that Yushchenko select a new candidate for the post of foreign minister and instruct First Deputy Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko to attend cabinet meetings instead of Tarasyuk. Tarasyuk was also prevented from attending a cabinet session last week. JM
RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
A Survey of Developments in Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team
EUROPEAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER SPOTS AREAS OF CONCERN. Following his trip to Ukraine from December 10-17, Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, gave an interview to "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report."
RFE/RL: What does the mandate of the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights cover?
Thomas Hammarberg: My office is mandated to monitor the human-rights record of the 46 Council of Europe member states, and identify shortcomings in the law and practice. We also seek to encourage reforms by advocating the adoption and implementation of existing Council of Europe human-rights standards.
RFE/RL: Do you have the authority to enforce human-rights compliance upon the Council of Europe's members?
Hammarberg: Neither I nor the rest of the Council of Europe machinery can actually enforce compliance. But the organization's main decision-making body, the Committee of Ministers, oversees the execution of all judgments by the European Court of Human Rights. For example, at their last sitting in early December, they reviewed over 800 cases in which member-state governments had been found guilty of violating the European Convention on Human Rights, and were ordered to pay damages to individuals. My office focuses on promoting reforms and pointing to structural shortcomings, in order to render it unnecessary for cases to be addressed to the court. Apart from raising the problems with governments, we also work through ombudsmen, national human rights institutions, and civil society organizations.
RFE/RL: What was the purpose of your recent visit to Ukraine? Hammerberg: The main goal of this visit was to make a
comprehensive assessment of the human-rights situation in Ukraine. While we are in dialogue with the authorities, NGOs, and other international organizations during the year, it is important occasionally to dedicate time to be there in person and do a full review. In the course of my 8-day visit to Ukraine (Kyiv, Lviv, and Odessa), I met President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, six government ministers, leading parliamentarians, the head of the Supreme Court, as well as religious leaders and representatives of human-rights civil-society organizations. I also visited police stations, detention centers, secondary schools, shelters for migrants and psychiatric hospitals.
RFE/RL: What are your first impressions after this visit? Hammarberg: There is a better climate for freedom of
expression than before. This also helps defining the many remaining human-rights problems. Indeed, there are several areas where Ukraine will need to continue with sweeping reforms. Let me mention a few. First, there is an urgent need to address the HIV/ AIDS epidemic which -- if not seriously addressed -- could lead to a dramatic demographic as well as economic and social crisis. Secondly, the authorities need to pay close attention to the functioning of the justice system as a whole. We identified deep-rooted problems in relation to the work of the courts and the functioning of law enforcement, including corruption and ill-treatment, even torture, of people arrested. Also, the prosecutor-general still has a broader mandate than such offices in other countries in Europe. The standards in institutions for pretrial detention and in the prisons need to be improved. Thirdly, xenophobia is a serious problem in Ukraine, as demonstrated by the great number of hate crimes and hate-speech incidents. Minority groups and migrants are particularly vulnerable, and I believe that racial crimes should be seen and treated as serious crimes by the authorities. Having said all of the above, I believe Ukraine has amazing human resources. I have met a number of dedicated, hard-working, and competent individuals, both in the NGO community and in various state institutions, who I believe have the potential to make a real difference.
"RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report" is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.