Tag Archives: elections

Belarus: the White Elephant in the Room

Brussels, we’ve got a white elephant in the room. It’s Belarus, of course. The place where they beat up presidential candidates (watch the video of the beating of presidential candidate Neklyaev). The place where one man is clinging to power for 16 long years.

There were presidential elections yesterday in Belarus. They ended in protest and police violence, just as you might expect from a country which is at the bottom of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2010. All the mise en scène was there – flags, songs, and police beating up and arresting protestors. This is a place where they kill journalists, after all.

I witnessed both the protest and ensuing police violence in Minsk, the capital of Belarus and the reaction of relevant EU officials yesterday. Three politicians spoke out in this order: Carl Bildt, Wilfred Martens and Jerzy Buzek (Mr. Buzek’s statement specifically called on Lukashenko to stop the violence). Not a single word was heard from the High Representative Catherine Ashton or any representative of the Commission.

Now there is a slight annoyance. It turns out that Belarus lies on the EU doorstep. Technically speaking, EU is committed to the values of democracy and rule of law. Democracy and rule of law are obviously not abundant in Belarus. So what do we do about it?

Well, not much, to be honest. There is something called high-level EU–Belarus political dialogue. There is some action by OSCE observers who say that probably the election process got somewhat better in the 2010 elections. Sort of.

This is worrying. Belarus is a European country and a potential EU Member State (no matter how far-fetched that sounds). The European Union has already experienced relative loss of leadership on the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The case of Belarus is disturbing and quite obviously Lukashenko has no intention to lose grip on power. All geopolitical considerations notwithstanding, EU can only profit from a free and democratic Belarus, and vice versa. That is why the EU must really step up its pressure on the political regime, or at least condemn it properly.

UPDATE: There’s a statement now by the spokesperson of the High Representative Catherine Ashton.

Should EU Member States’ Embassies Help Iranian Protestors?

EUobserver reports that Italy had instructed its embassy in Tehran to provide humanitarian aid to wounded protesters, pending a coordinated response from all EU countries. Austria has also instructed its embassy to provide first aid to protestors. But Sweden – which is about to take over the EU presidency – said it cannot grant asylum to refugees. Belgium also thinks that it should not allow refugees on the territory of its embassy.

France and Finland have also called for a common EU approach on how to deal with refugees and asylum seekers.

In the same time the Iranian government has accused the UK and France in meddling with the crisis.

What should EU governments do? From a diplomatic and consular law perspective – nothing. They should not use embassies in such a way that can infringe article 41, of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations – containing a duty a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of the receiving state.

However, the EU can do a lot by working with the US, China, Russia, and other stakeholders to contain Iran, as claims François Godement from the European Council on Foreign Relations. A team of experts from RAND Corporation also believes that a concerted, multilateral approach is needed to manage the Iranian threat. This also implies a common European approach to Iran for a change.

Simon Hix Analyses EP Election Results

The leading European political scholar Simon Hix analyses in an interview for Euractiv the outcome from the European Parliament elections. He believes that there is a systemic shift to extremist parties, along with a fall of support for the social democratic parties.

Final Results from the EP Elections

We now have the final results from the European Parliament elections. The overall European voter turnout is 43.1 %, the lowest in history.

We also have the detailed breakdown from the Bulgarian elections for European Parliament here.

Euractiv explores the first negotiations about the next European Commission.

Why Vote for the European Parliament?

Some are probably asking this question. Here are three important reasons:

1. The European Parliament is a lawmaking institution. Many rules that will change your life are adopted with its participation. An example – the idea to ban ordinary lighting bulbs.

2. The European Parliament decides whether or not a new Member State will join the European Union. The candidates for membership in the moment are Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey.

3. The European Parliament participates in the election of the European Commission. Who will be the President of the Commission depends on you!

Election Ballots Will Be Recounted in Moldova After All

Moldova’s Constitutional Court ordered the Central Election Commission to carry out the recount after receiving the request from the Communist President Vladimir Voronin.

The opposition demands a new election.

Meanwhile EU diplomats in Moldova are trying to verify reports of gross human rights violations in the aftermath of anti-government protests. Havier Solana’s special envoy to Moldova, Hungarian diplomat Kalman Mizsei, has been in Chisinau for the past week on a mission to establish a dialogue between government and opposition forces and to gather facts.

This is a welcome development, but it remains to be seen whether tensions will subside. I am impressed by claims of civil organizations in Moldova reported by EurActiv that claim that preconditions are being created for the establishment of a police and dictatorial regime in the Republic of Moldova.

Today democracy obviously comes in short supply.

The Bulgarian Democratic Deficit – 3

It is with utmost anxiety that I write this post.

It appears that today in Bulgaria democracy is crumbling. I have three specific sets of evidence for this observation:

1. Media laws are re-written in an erroneous manner, with specific considerations definitely not in the common interest. Source: Nelly Ognyanova.
2. Election law is engineered to keep one specific coalition out of parliament. This is done by doubling the threshold for coalitions from 4% to 8% (until now the threshold has been the samefor parties AND coalitions – 4%). Source: Rumyana Kolarova.
3. The leadership of a political party that participates in the aforementioned coalition has been denied registration in the Sofia District Court because it was elected by direct party elections, and, according to the court, “direct party elections have not been made [before] in Bulgaria”.

There are at least two ways to look at this. One is the scientific approach – and we can talk about deliberative democracy as defined by Habermas, or about the seminal work of Putnam on Italy’s democracy and institutions in order to draw some analogies.

But I am much more inclined to remind that Bulgaria is a Member State of the European Union, and as such should at all times comply with the Copenhagen criteria for membership and the principles laid down in Article 6(1) of the Treaty on European Union. Political criteria include stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.

Should we not comply with these criteria, where should we belong???