During the upcoming PACE session in Strasbourg next week, the delegates are set to review the credentials of the Russian delegation, whose voting rights have been suspended since April 2014. The Russian delegation has also temporarily lost the right to be represented in the assembly’s leading bodies and has been banned from participating in the election observation missions.
The Open Dialog Foundation calls on the members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to carefully consider the countless violations of international laws and obligations committed by the Russian Federation in connection to the aggression on Ukraine.
The Russian delegation’s credentials have been suspended in April 2014 because of the unlawful annexation of the Crimean peninsula in March, the threat of military force and the military occupation of the Ukrainian territory. In it’s April resolution, the Assembly reserved itself the right to fully annul the credentials of the Russian delegation, should the Russian Federation not reverse the annexation of Crimea and de-escalate the situation.
When debating the credentials of the Russian delegation next week, members of the Assembly should ask themselves a few critical questions: has anything been done by the Russian Federation to improve the situation, de-escalate the conflict, or reverse the illegal annexation of Crimea?
The answer is – no. On the contrary, Russia has kept fuelling the separatists’ military capacity in the East of country, amassing troops along the Ukrainian border, detaining and trying political prisoners of Ukrainian citizenship and exerting military and economic moves aimed at threatening Ukraine into the corner. Russia’s actions constitute a clear threat to the whole Europe.
There are absolutely no grounds to grant the Russian delegation back their voting and other suspended rights, if anything the restrictions should go even further, banning the Russian delegates from participating in the PACE sessions and the works of its committees, said Lyudmyla Kozlovska, president of the Open Dialog Foundation. Providing Russia with the right to vote at PACE would constitute a huge mistake and lead to the situation where the Russian delegation, along with pro-Russian allies at PACE could block important decisions criticising illegal actions of the Russian Federation in Ukraine.
By ostensibly ignoring the international diplomatic status of Nadia Savchenko, Ukrainian MP and delegate to PACE, Russia shows it does not adhere to the its basic commitments and is not willing to engage in a peace dialogue. The reaction of PACE has be strong and clear, she added.
Athens: Storm before the calm
In its winter sunshine, the Acropolis has never looked more stunning. Since winning independence and creating their first parliament in the early 19th century, the Greeks have organized 200 elections but only had eight governments that lasted a full term.
The conservative government now to be replaced by the left-wing Syriza party after Sunday (18 January) night’s election managed three years. Its leader, Antonis Samaras, had dutifully carried out the orders given by his fellow conservatives, Angela Merkel for the EU, Christine Lagarde for the IMF, and various functionaries sent from Brussels, Frankfurt and Washington to explain to Greece why lopping 25 percent of their GDP, destroying property values, and halving pensions was what being a proud member of the European Union was all about.
Like poor old Prometheus who brought fire from Mount Olympus to allow mortals to be warm and to cook and then was punished for his impertinence by being chained to a rock and having his liver pecked out by unpleasant harpies every day for eternity, Greece feels the punishment camp it has been in surely cannot go on forever.
Outside Greece, both the left and the right are getting Greece wrong. The right present the arrival of Syriza as a left-wing putsch as if 40 years after the end of the rule by colonels the nation returns to statist, left-wing dictatorship. The left are cheerleaders for Syriza against Merkelism and austerity as if the arrival of Alexis Tsipras in the sprawling prime minister’s residence guarded by high-stepping Evzoni will suddenly propel Europe to send more money to boost pay, pensions and overnight generate job-creating growth.
Since 2010 Athens has been beset by stormy demonstration and ugly shouty TV exchanges but once Syriza are in government they will have to accept the most awful burden any serious politicians ever have to shoulder – responsibility.
Can they do it? Normally political parties show they are fit for office by showing they are serious about politics in opposition. Syriza is not a rooted party with a clear ideological programme, lots of experienced local or regional elected represenatives, and a coherent party organization.
It is rather a movement, an amalgam of all the leftists of the 1980s who could not stand Stalinist communism and detested the clientalist corporatism associated with Pasok, the main socialist party in Greece.
If Syriza forms a government it will then have to shape a proper party, the first example in democratic history of a government having to create a party rather than the other way round.
Tsipras’s main problem is unlikely to be with Europe. After the long Barroso years there is new spirit that wants to work its way out of austerian ordoliberalism. A succession of EU finance ministers from France, Spain, the Netherlands as well as leaders in the European Parliament have all said that Greece must be treated with dignity when it comes knocking on Brussels’ door in the next months.
The sub-Keynsian relaxation in the form of monetary easing due to be announced by the European Central Bank will also help. Syriza is turning to Greece’s secret weapons – its world class economists who have global experience and a number of them are now working for Syriza on plans with help from Brussels insiders on finding language to take off some pressure from impossible-to-meet debt and deficit targets.
Brussels will stay calm. The real difficulty will come from with the Greek Parliament. Syriza MPs will have to decide whether in the world of Pierre Mendes France ‘To govern is to chose” or whether they will demand instant implementation of every demand advanced in recent years from re-instatement of all laid-off workers, big pay hikes, no pressure to pay utility bills and more state ownership.
There is a desire for a new political start in Greece after the decades of corrupt clientalism by New Democracy and Pasok. Every job was allocated on the basis of party allegiance. New Democracy was riddled with people on the take from foreign and Greek firms. The story of Siemens buying Greek ministers is breath-taking but Berlin did not lift a finger to stop its flagship firm from corrupting the Greek state. Nor did German firms stop selling unnecessary arms to the bloated Greek military. Still less did German banks do due diligence on loans in the boom early years of the Eurozone.
Two new parties – Potami (River) – and the Movement for Democratic Socialism are seeking seats on a platform of cleaning up Greek politics. The latter is founded by Georges Papandreou son of the legendary clientalist socialist leader, Andreas. The younger Papandreou, educated in Sweden and America, was a brilliant foreign minister for Greece who transformed relations with Turkey and Europe. He came in as Pasok prime minister just after the banking crisis begun and was blackmailed by Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel into falling in with the Brussels austerity ideology instituted in 2010.
Now he tells me he hopes he can encourage real reform by opening public sector appointments to candidates appointed on merit, not party loyalty.
New Democracy rant and rail that Syriza are “communists” but the real communists in Greece wouldn’t share a plate of mouldy moussaka with Tsipras who is being embraced by Italy’s Matteo Renzi and Martin Schultz, the social democratic head of the European Parliament.
Like the German Greens in the 1990s, Syriza MPs have to decide if they want want to be fundamentalists or realists. The team around Tsipras want the latter. The EU will want to help. Merkel does not want to go down in history as the woman who lost Greece. If Greece stays calm after weathering the storm of recent years, the next period of Greek history may be better than many imagine.
White House on all-party talks in Northern Ireland
Chair Dr Richard Haass and Co-Chair Professor Meghan O'Sullivan pictured at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast after their Christmas break
Statement by NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden on the all-party talks in Northern Ireland.
"Talks led by independent chair Richard Haass with the five parties of the Northern Ireland Executive have reached a critical juncture. The goal has been and remains to reach agreement before the end of the year on new arrangements for parading, flags, and contending with the legacy of past violence. Initiating these talks demonstrated the commitment of the parties and people of Northern Ireland to move forward on tough issues.
"We are confident that a solution can be reached if there is political will on all sides. We call upon the leadership of the five parties to make the compromises necessary to conclude an agreement now, one that would help heal the divisions that continue to stand between the people of Northern Ireland and the future they deserve."
Dr Richard Haass and Professor Meghan O'Sullivan pictured at the Stormont hotel in Belfast after their Christmas break.
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