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Wednesday, 8 June 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

EU-Russia summit (debate)
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  Werner Schulz, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(DE) Mr President, Commissioner Füle, while, at first glance, it may seem understandable for Russia to protect itself in order to prevent the spread of Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) infection into its territory, a complete ban on imports of European vegetables is not what we expect of a country that aspires to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO). That is also something we will have to talk about in Nizhny Novgorod. More important, however, are the political germs, or seeds, that are actually present – the weak beginnings of democracy and the rule of law. On these aspects, we should do everything we can within the context of the Partnership for Modernisation to help their roots to spread across Russia and develop.

President Medvedev has acknowledged that economical and technical modernisation cannot be achieved without a fundamental modernisation of society. Yet so far, we have seen little in the way of action to accompany these fine words. The representatives of the EU should therefore make it abundantly clear to President Medvedev that the forthcoming elections to the Duma are a test of the credibility of his reform policy.

Genuine and proper elections form part of the foundations of democracy. Anyone who wants pluralism and political competition should ensure that the election standards declared by the Council of Europe are adhered to and should allow long-term election observation by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at the earliest stage.

Fair elections start with allowing the registration of parties. Regrettably, early indications suggest that the Russian leadership has learnt nothing from the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that there were no grounds for dissolving the Republican Party and apparently does not wish to allow the newly established People’s Freedom Party to be registered.

More Kremlin-backed parties and an All-Russia People’s Front initiated by Prime Minister Putin are merely leading us down a political blind alley. This semblance of competition has led the country into political apathy and devalued the Duma. President Medvedev could bring about a breakthrough here and end his Presidency with at least one demonstrable success.

In the particular cases of Mr Khodorkovsky and Mr Magnitsky, rather than waiting for a ruling from Strasbourg, the judicial arbitrariness should be brought to an end. The review of these cases by the Fedotov commission is a good first step. Its results and conclusions should be published as soon as possible.

The future participation of the Civil Society Forum established recently in Prague should be an important topic for discussion during the talks and negotiations between the EU and Russia. After all, events in North Africa demonstrate that for effective reform, you need an active civil society. The Russian Government should therefore work to bring this about in its own country and endeavour to achieve a partnership for modernisation with civil society.

 
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