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GRECO President Kos to EuroFora : Corruption is a common threat for all Europe, the US and beyond

Written by ACM
Monday, 05 October 2009

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Transparency on Political Funding and Criminalisation of Corruption, while extending investigation also to Local/Regional level, are the next steps by CoE's anti-Corruption body GRECO, (to which participate even USA), anxious to prevent a duplication by the EU which risks to split Europe in 2 different parts, as his experienced President, Dragos Kos (2002-2009) said to "EuroForra".

Corruption affects both "People's trust to Democracy", provokes Discriminations affecting Human Rights, and can even deprive States from 30% to 50% of their normal revenue, (losing up to 3,8 Billion $ each year in Turkey's case), stressed key participants at an exceptional Summit of CoE's Justice Ministers to take stock of GRECO's 1st Decade (1989-2009), where the way Germany dealt with Siemens' case, dating from 2000-2004 with ramifications to other Countries as Greece and elsewhere, served as one key example.

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- "Corruption is a mortal threat to democracy, .. and may destroy People's confdence in political institutions and public administration", stressed from the outset CoE's deputy Secretary General, Mrs Maud de Boehr-Buquicchio, reminding "a series of politically-related corruption scandals in a a number of Western States".

- There are "frequent complaints", and a "serious problem in several European countries", particularly about "corruption in the Judiciary", which "favours people with money and contacts", gravely discriminating against and affecting Poor People's Rights, denounced the PanEuropean Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg.

- "Corruption... destroys political equality,.. imposing an Oligarchy, ..erases the distinction between Private and Public Interest, and keeps representatives far away, instead of expressing citizens' needs, added French Justice Minister Jean Marie Bocquel, describing the French system of State Funding for Political Parties which accept transparency.

Starting in 1999 with less than 20 pioneer CoE Member States, GRECO succeeded in a Decade to gather today 47 CoE Member States, and to add also the USA.

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But, after EU Commission's June 2009 plans on "Justice and Home affairs", known as "Stockholm program",  CoE faces now a risk of competition by new EU bodies, with which it prefers to closely cooperate.

Since EU debates and decisions are expected soon in EU Parliament and EU Council on December 2009, CoE must establish a kind of "Structural Cooperation" with the EU, which could, even if informal, regularly tackle joint planification and action issues in the common task to fight corruption, said to "EuroFora" CoE's Director on Monitoring, Christos Yakumopoulos.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    -"In EU Commission's communication to EU Council, there are some sentences which could mean that there is some duplication of efforts. There is some wording implying that a new anti-corruption mechanism could be established within the EU'; confirmed to "EuroFora" GRECO's President, Goran Kos from Slovenia, denouncing risks to provoke "gaps" between EU members and other european countries.


- "I don't think that we need something like that. Because it will lead to duplication of efforts, dilution and waste of resources, and I don't think that all member states would support such an idea". - "We have to increase cooperation with the EU, because it doesn't really make sense now : We (CoE) are planning our way forward, they (EU) are planning their way forward, and there is no real coordination".  

- "Really it could be tricky if EU and CoE didn't join efforts. Otherwise, Europe could face very dangerous phenomena, : This could lead to a full split of Europe in 2 differend  parts. If we are talking about a unified Europe, this is a separation which is not normal " - "Moreover, if we talk about Corruption, it's dangerous for all countries in Europe. It doesn' make any difference if these countries are EU members or not. We all face the same threat", GRECO's President said, agreeing with "EuroFora" that, "of course", "corruption networks can go beyond EU Member countries"..-

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    Corruption may cost up to 30% or 50% of a State's revenue : F.ex.  in Turkey Corruption usurpates more than 3,8 Billion $ each year, (i.e. almost .. 4 times the amount of EU's annual aid !), and in Croatia some 0,25 Billion $ per year (i.e.  55 $ per inhabitant), denounced the President of CoE's PanEuropean anti-Corruption watchdog.

    In other countries, as fex. Greece or Cyprus, even if almost every Legal mecanism useful against Corruption already exists, nevertheless, ..practical "results could be better", GRECO's experienced President (2002-2008) criticized, in reply to an "EuroFora"s question. For all Europe, a key issue is now "implementation" of CoE's anti-corruption standards, Kos concluded later at his official speech.
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    Kos, replying to another journalist's question, agreed that Germany dealt efficiently with the Siemens case, - "We (GRECO) learned a lot" with the way that Germany investigated that case, and "Siemens seriously changed" after that.  "But, on the other hand, in Germany they didn't yet introduce a full criminal responsibility", he observed. And this was stressed also by the CoE Chairman-in-office, Slovenian Minister of Justice, Ales Zala. who added to the out-going, Socialist German Minister Mrs Zyries' description of the Siemens' case, that those responsible for corruption must know that they will face consequences "not only on their careers, but also on their freedom".

    The lack of full Criminalization of Corruption provokes sometimes serious problems : In Germany, f.ex., despite a succesful fight against corruption in "Siemens"' case, investigation was concluded as far as the enterprise is concerned, "since December 2008", and with participation of experts from the USA, since said to "EuroFora" Munich's Head Prosecutor Manfred Nötzel.

    . But the part of the case which concerns Greece (illegal funding of Political parties) notoriously risks to be blocked, because a suspect which is also a key witness, arrested in Germany, opposed extradition to Greece, as well as investigation in Germany itself, claiming that a minor sanction existing there had been Time-barred  !..

    As for transparency on Politicians' funding is concerned, in theory, this might go as far as to check even ..new US President Barack Obama's notoriously record-braking 2008 campain budget, which succeeded to raise many hundreds millions of euros, more than any other candidate in USA's History

- "Yes, of course", USA is among the countries which will be checked by GRECO's team, for the 1st time, also about politicians' funding, GRECO's President confirmed to "EuroFora".

     - "At the beginning, when we spoke about that, there were strong reactions. But afterwards, we have been (positively) surprised by political parties' trasparency on funding", said to "EuroFora" Kos.

    However, "it's from December 2009 that we shall start to discuss the first Reports". And "we know that some countries have serious difficulties about that. We (GRECO) are eager to see what wil be the 1st reactions and results"

    But, "the time has come" for Corrution risks to start to be checked also "at a Local and Regional level", (particularly in Countries with large Decentralisation). Until now we (CoE) didn't know what was going on a the Local level, despite the fact thet "it often faces significant Corruption risks in daily operations", GRECO's President concluded, speaking timely at the eve of the PanEuropean Congress of Local and Regional Authorities' 2009 session next week in Strasbourg.

 

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1989-2009 Gorbatchev 20 years after: PanEuropean Debates in Strasbourg to realize Europe's potential

Written by ACM
Friday, 02 October 2009

 

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-"Since (Russian) President Medvedev gives us his hand, we'd better accept it", stressed new French Minister for EU affairs, Pierre Lellouch, to "EuroFora", on the Sarkozy - Merkel recent proposal to create a "common area" for all Europe and its closest strategic neighbours, including Russia, Turkey and other countries, after meeting with Historic former President Gorbatchev at the CoE, 20 Years since his venue in Strasbourg in 1989, which marked a vision of PanEuropean unity and started the proces of Europe's reUnification.

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The potential of Europe cannot be fully realized without common aims between EU and Russia, from Security, Economy and Environment to Democracy and Human Rights, he stressed, launching an invitation to start paneuropean dialogue and debates in Strasbourg.

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We, Europeans, are placed in front of "a truly unique Historic Opportunity". We need a "new structure" on Security issues, but CoE plays a vital role and can realize its full potential if it remains faithful to its Human Rights', Democracy and Rule of Law Values' real dimension, without double standards, he added speaking at an exceptional ceremony for CoE's 60th Anniversary, joined also by EU Commission's President Jose Barroso.

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Welcomed with laud and enthousiastic applaudissements by more young people that Schweitzer's amphitheater could normally contain, obliging the surprised organisers of the event to kindly refuse numerous visitors who outpassed their expectations, Gorbatchev was immediately questioned in 2009 by the same person who had welcomed him officially when he had come in 1989 as the 1st Russia's President to speak at the CoE :

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- "What's for you the Identity of that greater Europe as a whole, from the Atlantic ocean to Ural mountains, that you have spoken of, after General De Gaulle ? What makes you believe that there is "something" existing there" which can unite the people ?, asked him professor Francoise Lalumiere, the former CoE's Secretary General and current director of Paris' "European Home".

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- "I know that many things in History have started with France", observed Gorbatchev earlier, at his meeting with Lellouch. But now, he curiously appeared as if he had been outpassed by Lalumiere's querry :  - "That's a typically French question", he smiled back with friendly criticism, before structuring the issue in a quite differend way, as a man forever marked by the fact that he had, first of all, to think Global, situating Russia mainly vis a vis the USA, back in the 1989 old period when the most urgent need was to end the former "Cold War" at first, before having the time to really think about anything else.

But, at various key-moments, he stressed "Europe's enormous Cultural potential", and called himself to "keep our European Identity"...

However, Gorbatchev was strongly critical about the way previous European Governments misused until now the Historic opportunities opened for a reUnification of a greater Europe, 20 Years after his 1989 breakthrough proposal to create "a common European Home" and the fall of Berlin's wall, that Chancellor Merkel is currently preparing to celebrate on November 9, 2009 :

- I want to see, during my life-time, the result of what we did in 1989 by bringing in Transparency ("Glasnost") and Democracy, ending the Cold War, and proposing to create "a common Home in Europe", Gorbatchev stressed 20 years later in 2009 Strasbourg.

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It's also nearly 2 Centuries since famous writer Victor Hugo addressed an International Peace Conference by expressing his belief that "the time will come when, France, Russia, Italy, England, Germany, and all countries of the continent,  without losing their distinct qualities and glorious individualities, will forge together a superior entity, and become the European Fraternity",
that Gorbatchev had cited at his historic CoE 1989 speech, as it was reminded now, and was also highlighted during the 2008 French EU Presidency.

But, instead of that, some attempted to provoke new tensions and dividing lines in Europe, while "irresponsibility of some businesses", and economic reforms made in a too harsh way, threw to poverty millions of people, and provoked  an "enormous disappointment", he regretted.

The current Global "Crisis" worsens things, added to "enormous Environmental problems", and if it's treated "only with fire-fighting methods", then, "the next Crisis wil be more enormously destructive", he warned.

Reacting to questions on dissident Journalist's deaths, related to Tchechnya and North Caucasus' tension and terrorism, (which has recently aggressed or killed also many Governemental officials, even some well known for their pro-reform and democratic trends, as it was denounced by NGOs at the CoE), Gorbatchev regretted that some journalists faced tragic situations when they came close to "power struggles", and "become targets", as he said. "We need improvements, on Elections, Media, etc", he observed

- "It's important that our Common European Home is based on foundations respecting freedom of Press and Human Rights", he added at a following question.

But, some looked eager only to "isolate" Russia and "get the spoils" from a demembrement of former USSR and afterwards of Russia, even if such threats are now out-dated, particularly after Russia succeeded to protect its territorial integrity, and overcome a previous "chaos", thanks to Putin's era, which "stabilized" things, he added.

And now Gorbatchev strongly advocated new Russian President Medvedev's proposal "to create a common PanEuropean Security Architecture".

Smiling, he didn't exclude that in future, "who knows ? May be it will happen for Russia to join NATO", as he said in reply to a question.

But, questioned on the EU, Gorbatchev carefully said that it raises the issue of "EU's definition", since, "if Russia entered into the EU, then, EU would extend up to Vladivostok", at the Pacific ocean, ...; Meanwhile, EU Member States are not ready to welcome Russia in, and Russia neither.

Meanwhile, even for other EU Enlargements, "EU has first to solve questions related to its Citizens, before any new enlargement", he observed.

But, earlier, "the fact that (Western and Eastern) Germans came together, helped Europe's reUnification", he said.

- "Our common aim should be to build this common European Home from both ends, from both Russia and the West".  There are "big opportunities", and "CoE could play a key role", Gorbatchev preferred to say

What is important is that Europe should seize an Historic opportunity to realize its "enormous Cultural potential", and "live really up to its Human Rights values", without double standards.

On the contrary, "without Russia it would be impossible for Europe to fully realize its potential", Gorbatchev warned.

He spoke after CoE's Assembly debated and adopted a Report drafted by the Head of France's delegation, ChristianDemocrat/EPP MEP Jean-Claude Mignon, on Europe's "Future", which observed that CoE, in addition to being the Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law PanEuropean Organization, is also "a broad, inclusive Political Forum, encompassing EU Member and Non-member States, Russia and Turkey in particular, and open to political and intercultural dialogue with neighbouring states in Northern Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia", as fex. Kazakhstan, etc.

Among other concrete proposals, Gorbatchev cited an example that "EuroFora" has been strongly supporting at least since 2005/2006 : - "F.ex. I had proposed to former French President Mitterand to create PanEuropean Transport corridors all accross the continent. He seemed to agree. But, many years afterwards, nothing was done !", he criticized.

Gorbatchev probably doesn't realize that the recent project to create a High-Speed Train link called "Magistrale", between Paris, Strasbourg, Munich, Wien and Budapest, could perhaps be the 1st step in this direction : Russian Trans-Siberian railroad has recently approached Budapest, making it easier for Strasbourg's extension to provide the strategic "Missing link".

 This strongly reminds what could be former French President Jacques Chirac's real conclusion, after a long career at top responsibilities : Welcoming German Chancellor Merkel and former Russian President Putin, current PM, at Compiegne Castle back on September 2006 (only a few months before he quits from office), he ended it all up by showing them the most spectacular, symbolic image : An impressive overall view of a huge, immense avenue, long of many kms, opened among surrounding forests and leading up to a high hill, that Napoleon had created himself, in the front of the historic castle, which contains a superbe, symbolic painting called "Napoleon's dream".

- In the only writtings Napoleon left to history, when he was deported and held prisoner at Saint Helen's remote island, it's astonishing to find out how important was for him the idea of a greater Europe as a whole : He had rightfully warned, that after what he thougt to be a betrayal of 18th Century's Revolutionary Democratic "Enlightenment" ideas, (which had inspired also a German as Beethoven to write his famous "Heroic" music at the honor of France's Napoleon, in addition to his famous "Ode to joy" which became now EU's anthem), Europe risked to face a long era of tension, uprisings, division and Wars, provoking destructions and weakening its potential.

That's precisely what happened since those times of 1810-1815, with revolts succeeding one another, (1830, 1848-9, 1871, 1917, etc), Franco-German and World Wars (1870, 1914-1919, 1940-1945), followed by a long Europe's Division and "Cold War" (1948 - 1988), etc., until the fall of Berlin's wall (1989), Russia's entry at the CoE (1995), and Germany's reUnification, extended to EU's Enlargements Eastwards in 2004 and 2007, started to change the situation.

If new French President Nicolas Sarkozy hadn't already succeeded to take a notoriously efficient initiative to stop the Russia - Georgia war back on August 2008, and hadn't proposed later in 2008, while he chaired the EU, a concrete measure to overcome risks for a renewed Russo- American tension in Europe, by provisionaly "freezing" both the American anti-missile shield and the Russian counter-measures in rockets and missiles' deployement overseas and at Europe's heart at Kaliningrand, until OSCE starts discussing Russian President Medvedev's proposal to create a PanEuropean Security mechanism with the participation of all, US included, observers might say that it was his subsequent 2009 Summer meeting with Chirac, at his family ressort, which might have helped a bit to think anew about Russia.

It's as early as since CoE's 2nd Summit of Heads of State and Government, back in 1997 in Strasbourg, that Chirac, together with former ChristianDemocrat German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, (the "father" of Germany's reunification), and former Russian President Yeltsin, had decided to initiate a formula of Franco-Germano-Russian Summits

But Sarkozy's well known good relations with the USA too, including with new US President Obama, (reflected now even at Lellouch's fresh nomination as new EU affairs Minister, after being a long-time NATO specialist and enthousiast), particularly after the Historic return of France to NATO's military component at Strasbourg's April 2009 NATO's 60th Anniversary Summit, obviously provides a better "balanced" approach, more credible overseas, on matters concerning Russia : Thus, after obtaining also German chancellor Merkel's agreement, Sarkozy openly presented the idea to create a "common area" in Europe with Russia, Turkey and other european or neighboring countries, during Obama's latest Paris' visit.
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However, Gorbatchev's most striking move, which might give a new Historic mark to his 2009 CoE visit, was to play a familiar note to "EuroFora"'s ears :

=> The experienced and historic former Russian President concluded by launching a vibrant call for large, open, frank and friendly "Dialogues", Debates, and exchanges of views, at a kind of PanEuropean Fora, with modern Media which can usefully contribute into bringing together all European Countries, including Russia.

- "We must not be afraid to take up the challenge of Dialogue", he said. On the contracry, "We need to talk. We need Debates and Discussions", he stressed.                                                                                                                                                                      

Putting also Germany at the spot-light, Gorbatchev observed that he found really useful the Saint Petersburg Forum's dialogues with young people from Germany and Russia, and he advised to extend and further develop the idea, at a PanEuropean level, at CoE's headquarters in Strasbourg.

Gorbatchev was speaking under a huge painting of an ancient Greek column of white marble, (famous symbol of Parthenon's cradle of direct Democracy), to which were added the key-words : "Strasbourg's Dialogues".

Co-organized by CoE's Director of Communication Seda Pumpyanskaya, and Strsbourg's Mayor Roland Ries, the 2009 event may be didn't expect to succeed beyond its own expectations, and attract such proposals to extend beyond its initially unique, one off, character.

=> But Gorbatchev's 2009 move went exactly in the direction of "EuroFora"'s project, initially presented in Strasbourg and Brussels since 1997, a year after Russia's official full accession to the CoE (in 1996, which also brought USA in Strasbourg with a "special status" in 1995) :

That's why "EuroFora" was conceived from the start in a manner which opens the way also for Russian language to be simultaneously used, together with English, French, German and other European languages, as its 2007 relaunch with the original structure of "Elxis" CMS Multilingual software and its Forum's automatic translations including to Russian, clearly indicates

5 differend Journalists and experts experienced in European affairs, fluently speaking Russian, have already proposed to cooperate with "EuroFora" in Strasbourg, in the direction suggested now by Gorbatchev.

As Gorbatchev himself reminded in 2009, already back in 1989, "a lot of peaceful revolutions became possible", "without interfering", he claimed, but because "we had started with Glasnost (Transparency), and gave Citizens the possibility to freely debate"...

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CoE Chair Slovenian President Tuerk to EuroFora: EU-Croatia talks freeze/unfreeze = lesson to others

Written by ACM
Thursday, 01 October 2009

 

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The suspension and the revival of EU - Croatia negotiations is a useful lesson also for other candidate countries (f.ex. Turkey, etc), showing that, instead of hidding problems, it's better to discuss and solve them according to EU criteria and obligations, f.ex. on "good neighbourhood" relations, replied CoE's Chairman, Slovenian President Danilo Tuerk to "EuroFora"'s question.

    - ""We (EU) should never sweep real problems under the carpet", stressed the Chairman of the CoE. On the contrary, "the Key lesson is : "Never hide a problem !". Bring the problem from the bottom up. Negociate it, and find a Solution ! - " We have to find fair and just solutions to these kinds of things"

    - "That's the lesson of our experience, of the problem that Croatia had with good neighborhood relations, which were succesfuly concluded", the Slovenian President said

    -  "I believe that (such) lesson learned, will be relevant  for the Future,"
"and I am confident that these efforts will provide a way, that will help Croatia and then also others", he significantly concluded.

    Tuerk said that to "EurioFora after Croatian President Mesic, speaking previously to "EuroFora" had reacted to the fact that EU - Croatia's negotiations had been "freezed", while EU - Turkey negotiations were still going on, by criticizing "Double Standards".

( See : http://www.eurofora.net/newsflashes/irish/sloveniacroatia.html )

The move came shortly after Cyprus' President Demetres Christofias launched a fresh call to the EU to convince Turkey to respect its obligations and stop refusing even to recognize Cyprus, aggravating the military occupation of its northern part also by discriminating against Cyprus' related Ships and Airplanes, threatening its sovereign rght to peacefully exploit Oil-Gas resources at its territoral  waters, etc.

Greece had also, jointly denounced to the EU, since July 2009, a recent "escalation" of the frequent "violations of national airspace"" at the Aegean Sea reportedly by Turkish Military Airplanes.

- "Good Neighbourhood relations are, of course, part of .. the criteria that every Candidate has to fullfil", stressed now the Slovenian President.

 - "This questiion has to be seein in the context of criteria for  EU membership.  Every Candidate (i.e. also Turkey, etc.) has to fullfil the criteria. And Good Neighbourhood relations are part of that, of course", Tuerk explained.

 - "So, now, I am confident that the discussions we had in the recent past, (between Slovenia and Croatia) and the reform which has been defined these days  will help",

    He said that in reply to "EuroFora"'s Question if he thought that the way he handled the issue with Croatia, where he "was firm but also found a solution", strengthened the credibility of "EU's Copenhagen Criteria".

 - " I am confident that these efforts will provide a way, that will help Croatia and then also others", concluded Danilo Tuerk.


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* CoE's Chair for Cultural Heritage protection : important for InterCultural Dialogue, say EU + CoE
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    The Chairman of the CoE, Slovenian President spoke to "EuroFora"  the day he inaugurated in Strasbourg an Exhibition on a common EU - CoE Program for the protection of Cultural Heritage in post-Conflict situations, as in  the Balkans, etc., where  EU Commision's representative expressed the hope that it may spread also to other conflict-stricken countries, (as in Cyprus, Caucasus, etc).   

-  "Protectiion of Cultural Heritage is important also for Inter-Cultural Dialogue", stressed at this occasion CoE's Director on Culture and Education, Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni.

 

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New CoE SG Jagland to EuroFora on Sarkozy-Merkel idea: EU-Russia-Turkey+ Economy-Human Rights Area

Written by ACM
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
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Replying to "EuroFora"s questions and later in an exclusive interview, new CoE's Secretary General, Thorbjorn Jagland, welcomed and associated himself with the idea, recently launched by French President Sarkozy with German Chancellor Merkel and the support of Russian Prime Minister Putin, to create a Common Space for Economy, Politics, Human Rights and Democracy standards, between EU and Russia, Turkey and other countries.

Speaking before a landmark debate on the "Future" of Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Jagland, a former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Norway, currently President of Parliament and of the Nobel "Peace" Prize Committee, agreed with "EuroFora", concerning CoE's competences, that "Human Rights and Democracy are also Peace-building".


Even if they don't yet give "Hotlines at the Media", nevertheless, Human Rights are "very important in People's Minds !", he agreed, expressing his readiness to "consider" any "new project" that "EuroFora" might eventually present in order to "unite all efforts" to boost CoE's "visibility".

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 - "Norway, your country, as well as Switzerland, which will chair soon CoE's Ministers, are among European countries which aren't yet EU Members, but part of an "European Economic Space", and have a Special Status. Now that CoE debates on its"Future", what's your opinion about a parallel vision, recently by French President Sarkozy in agreement with German Chancellor Merkel, supported also by Russian Prime Minister Putin and others", already presented by Sarkozy to new USA President Obama, "to create a kind of "Common Space" in Europe, where Russia, but also Turkey and other countries, independently of the EU (Enlargment) questions, might share not only Economic, but also Legal and (Human Rights) Values' and standards ?", "EuroFora" asked Jagland.

- "I very much associate myself with the ideal to have a Common Space for Economy and Politics and everything (you said) on the entire continent", Jagland replied to "EuroFora"'s question, (but without explicitly saying if he included, or not, also Turkey), at his 1st Press Conference after his election as new CoE's SG for the 2009-2014 five years period.

- "You referred to the EEA agreements that we have between Norway and other EFTA countries with the EU, which is a real (common) Economic space, because we have the same Rules and Laws also for Economy", he observed. 


- "If there is an idea to expand it to other parts of Europe, I would welcome it very much", CoE's new SG stressed.

- "Although I think that it's quite a big challenge to do it !", he carefully warned smiling..  

- "Because, as you know", "when it comes to Economy, it's not the same", as in CoE's competences which notoriously focus on Human Rights, Democracy and Law, particularly since the decisions taken by the 2005 Warsaw Summit of the PanEuropean organization's Heads of State and Government.

But, replying also to another "EuroFora" question on "core Human Rights issues", in this regard, Jagland appeared more upbeat :

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- "Yesterday" (at the eve of SG's election), "I gave you a photograph with a Painting by a Norwegian who was at a Concentration Camp in the Past, at Struthof, close to Strasbourg, where, notoriously, "MISSING" People from all over Europe were held" until the 2nd WW. "By a coincidence, these same days there was an important ECHR judgement on "MISSING" peuple here : the "Varnavas" case", on 9 Cyprus' Missing persons and Turkey. On such "core Human Rights issues, do you think that you might contribute, ..so that the values and judgements of the European Court of Human Rights ..might be better respected in the Future, in a way which also helps Reconciliation, by giving People a Guarantee that, when they are reUnited together, these kind of things will never happen again ?", "EuroFora" asked Jagland.  

-  "Absolutely !", the new CoE's SG agreed strongly.

- "That is why we have the CoE !", his new chief stressed, showing that he considered that as an existential issue for Strasbourg's PanEuropean Organization.

- I.e. "in order to enhance Human Rights, spreading Democracy to the entire Continent". And this is something "which is (also) Peace-building, indeed", Jagland agreed.In this regard, he pointed at 2 things :   


- "We (CoE) do have : (1) these Common Standards and (Human Rights) Values under the Conventions which we have at the CoE ;  and (2) the Court, which is an instrument to implement them", he concluded, putting an accent on ECHR judgements' implementation.

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- "But it doesn't always create the Headlines in the Media", Jagland regretted, rightfully critical. 

- "Because CoE is working with issues which are not giving immediate "Hotlines" in the Media", he observed later, in an exclusive interview with "EuroFora".

- However, Human Rights and Democracy, are an important, relevant issue, (at least) sometimes. Aren't they ?", "EuroFora" wondered.

- "It should be", CoE's new SG carefully replied. Nevertheless, "when it comes to being visible, it's not that easy".

 - "But it is very, very important in People's Minds", Jagland stressed.

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(Photo of Painting by Norwegian deportee Rudolf Naess, of the Nazi Concentration Camp "Struthof" close to Strasbourg, where Historians found that "Missing" persons from all over Europe were gathered and submitted to atrocious "Tests" : Document of the "European Center of Resistants and deportees" given to "EuroFora" on the 20.09.2009 European Heritage Days)
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- So, "I think that it's possible to make it (CoE) more visible".  "But it depends, very much, on how relevant we are : If we are relevant, if we can contribute to something, then, I think that it's possible to be "visible", Jagland agreed. - Even if "there has been recently an amelioration", recently, "about CoE's visibility, ... "several People hope on you to do something ", observed "EuroFora".

- "I don't know, I don't have any particular idea now", Jagland replied, while recognizing the importance oif the issue. And, when "EuroFora" asked him if, " in order to be succesful, and unite all efforts", he " would be ready to consider also New Projects, based on experience of more than 15 years, if they are proposed ?", CoE's new SG replied positively ; - "Well, yes, if they are", he accepted.

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(Jagland explaining later his views to the French Press, after his reply to "EuroFora" question on the Sarkozy-Merkel-Putin idea, under the careful and beautiful ear of CoE's Director of Communications, Seda Pumpyanskaya from Russia). 

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("EuroFora", in addition to other relevant news -some already send earlier to donors/subscribers- is due to publish on the new CoE's SG soon a more comprehensive approach, including an Exclusive Interview).
 
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New CoE SG must fil Legitimity Gap by New Balance with Parliamentarians says Top MEP before key vote

Written by ACM
Monday, 28 September 2009

 

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Whoever might become CoE's new Secretary General tomorrow, he will have to fight hard to succeed to fill a serious "Legitimity gap" and to convince Europe's People that principles of pluralist Democracy and Human rights will be really respected inside Strasbourg's panEuropean Organisation, as CoE asks from its 47 member States, said in substance the President CoE Assembly's largest Group, ChristianDemocrat/EPP, Belgian Senator and former Head of Government of Flandres' federated State, Luc Van den Brande, speaking to Journalists including "EuroFora" at the eve of a crucial vote tomorrow for the election to CoE's top job.

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After last Sunday's larger than expected win of chancellor Merkel's ChristianDemocrats at one of Europe's biggest countries : Germany, it became an obvious paradox, that, despite EU Citizens' large vote, throughout most of EU's 27 Member Countries, in favor of ChristianDemocrat/EPP parties who won the latest June 2009 EU Elections, on the contrary, CoE's next SG will have to be a Socialist, whether MEPs like it, or not...

- "We have a problem" : It's not so democratic to be obliged to chose only among 2 Socialists, as we wouldn't also accept to be obliged to chose only among 2 christiandemocrats , earlier admitted even the President of CoE's Socialist Group, Swiss MEP Andreas Gross, as MEPs reminded now.

This is due to a more than 6 Months insistance of a majority in CoE's Committee of Ministers' Deputies (Ambassadors) to change the rules of CoE SG's election without previously consulting CoE's Assembly which elects him, and to exclude, for the 1st time in CoE's 60 years History, all Parliamentarian candidates, even if they were experienced heads of strong political Groups at a pan-European level.

The Ambassadorial committee claimed that it preferred, this time, to have candidates with a "higher standing", as f.ex. a former Prime Minister, even of only 1 or 2 years experience, hoping to get more publicity in the Press and have a more persuasive diplomacy than in the Past. (Regardless of the existence, or not, of a long enough experience into handling Multilateral European affairs, and without taking into account the fact that a simple Swiss MEP, Dick Marty, recently succeeded to win an unprecedended, world-wide headline news' publicity at the biggest Mass Media, from CNN to BBC, EuroNews and New York Times, etc, simply with original Investigations and a Report denouncing controversial practices of "secret detention centers" and CIA's "reddition flights" as excessive abuses against Human Rights in the necessary fight against terrorism.

But it was not yet explained why it's only after initially admitting 4 candidacies, and even "hearing" all 4 candidates, suddenly it was only at the end of March 2009 that the ambassadorial Committee was suddenly pushed to make an "U-turn" and find out that 2 of them would not meet its new formal criteria of admissibility.


The main problem is that, by doing so, a majority in CoE's Ambassadorial Committe hindered CoE's Parliamentary Assembly to use the elementary Democratic right to be free to chose among various politicall candidates, since it excluded the ChristanDemocrat/EPP and the Liberal candidate, obliging MEPs to vote only on the two remaining candidates, both Socialists.

Moreover, they succeed an outgoing CoE SG, Terry Davis, who was also Socialist, (as even the President of CoE's Assembly, Luis de Puig, is).  - "That obviously makes too much Socialists !", several CoE officials observed.1

A fact contrary to CoE's own principles of "Pluralist Democracy", as CoE's Assembly oficially denounced in a Resolution adopted quasi-unanimously on April 2009. This was followed by a majority ...refusal to vote for an election in such conditions on June 2009. (See previous "EuroFora" publications). And strong protests at this September 2009 session, shared by most MEPs, as CoE Assembly's President, Spanish Socialist MEP Luis de Puig reiterated also this week in Strasbourg.

But, after various "pressures" reportedly exerted on several MEPs, and in view of the fact thet the organization remained without a SG from September 1st, (even if the currently acting CoE SG Mrs Maud de Boer Buqquichio succeeeded to keep Strasbourg's house going), this time, a small number of 25 or 30 among CoE Assembly's 318 MEPs changed stance, and accepted to proceed to an election, even knowing that it was done in unsatisfactory conditions.

However, with MEPs divided between only 130 accepting to go for an election, while more than 72 stil refused or abstained, whoever might be elected risks to never gather more than a small Minority among CoE Assembly's 318 MEPs...

A surprising fact is that this unprecedented Crisis at CoE's top, between its MEPs and its Ambassadors, divided two parts which normally belong to one and same political trend : Since the Governments, which appoint and control the Ambassadors, are themselves elected, in each Member Country, by the same political majority of MEPs who stand in CoE's Parliamentary Assembly !  Unlile EU Parliament, where EuroMPs are chosen in differend, independent EU Elections, which may varry politically from the color of their National Government, on the contrary, at CoE's PanEuropean Assembly, MEPs come from the same political majority which elected their national Governments. Thus, it's certainly not a clear political opposition between opposite parties at CoE's level which might explain this strange clash.

The move comes shortly before CoE's Ministerial Committee starts to be chaired in 2010 by Turkey : one of CoE's most criticized Member States for exceptionaly grave violations of Human Rights (such as : Killings, enforced "disappearances", Torture, oppression of Freedom of Speech, destruction of Family Homes, arbitrary deprivation of Liberty, brutal aggressions,  Impunity of Criminals, etc). This fits with attempts to restrict CoE's Assembly's, ECHR's, and/or SG's independency.

- But, on the contrary, CoE, whose role was recently diminished, needs now a real and strong Parliamentary Assembly, "equal" to its Committee of Ministers, and not a mere "Consultative" Assembly, which is an out-dated remnant of 1949, Van den Brande stressed, launching a call to "change" a currently unsatisfactory situation by strengthening PACE in the "Future".

As for the largest Group : EPP's stance on tomorrow'rs vote about the remaining 2 candidates, Thorbjorn Yagland of Norway and Wlodzimierz Cimoscewicz of Poland, after making several observations on various favorable concrete points at each of them, Van den Brande announced that the ChristianDemocrats, after hesitating on whether they should abstain, finally decided, on the contrary, to "actively" intervene, in order to "influence" the votes on CoE's "future". But, even if he promissed a surprise on the "outcome" of the vote, he didn't open up his cards on EPP's final choice..

- Cimoscewicz was nominated by a Government from the center-right (as EPP), and, as a Polish, might facilitate CoE Assembly's closer cooperation with EU Parliament, whose new President is also Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek, while also working more on the "Eastern and Western Europe" he pointed out. 

On the other side, Yagland has also experience, and with his "Northern dimension", f.ex. he might keep Russia close to the rest of Europe, while also seeing where it needs to change, Van den Brande added.

This made an indirect but obvious hint to a motion for the refusal of Russian Delegation's credentials, signed by most Polish MEPs : - "I don't believe in radical sanctions", he clarified. But Cimoscewicz too, could handle correctly the Russian issue : I remember, when as Minister-President of Flanders' federated State  visited Walesha, (the Historic "Solidarnosc" activist and Polish Politician), he had told me that we must cooperate with Russia, but not at any price.

Whoever among them might be elected, at any case, one thing is certain : CoE cannot respect its own principles, regain and develop its recently diminished influence, without creating a "New Balance" in Strasbourg, betwen its Ministers and its Parliamentarians, Van den Brande concluded in reply to an "EuroFora" question.   

And he anounced a very "active" PACE, eager to fully play its role into forging CoE's "Future", to give it "a Perspective for the next 15 to 20 Years".                                                                                               

***

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Facing a 70% Abstention threat in 2009 Election, EU endorses EuroFora's idea for Citizens' debates on crucial EU decisions !

- Different views on "Europe's Future", should be debated among Citizens at June 2009 EU Elections, thanks to political Parties' "Manifestos", says EU Parliament's Report


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
A main idea, initiated and promoted by EuroFora's founders since 1997: the vital need to develop European Citizens' democratic right to actively participate in multilingual debates on EU decisions, is formally endorsed by the EU from 2009 !

The move is a key attempt to overcome "catastrophic" Polls which warn that only ...30% of Citizens are ready to vote in the forthcoming June 2009 EU Election !  This was revealed by EU Commission's vice-president, in charge of Communication policy, Margot Wallstrom, during a "hot" meeting of EU Parliament's Committee on Culture and Education, during the December 2008 Strasbourg session.

Wallstrom faced criticism, but also suggestions from various MEPs, naturally worried by Abstention threats which herself found even "worse" than in 1999 or 2004...

A Report on "Active Dialogue with Citizens",examined at the same time, presented some useful practical tips, on "facilitating Interviews"; etc., but also a  potentialy important call to "incorporate the conclusions of ...debates...into (EU) policies, and take into consideration the expectations that Citizens have of the EU when deciding". An amendment even implies that Citizens' participation in debates on EU decisions is a democratic "Right".

More importantly, it finds that  a Debate "on the Future of Europe", (as French President Nicolas Sarkozy has asked since 2007), would be a good idea " for the 2009 European parliamentary Elections", because "clarifying the political differences between the EU political parties would help citizens to identify themselves with, and choose between various concepts", for which "all parties (should) present their Manifesto".

A "Joint political declaration on Communicating Europe in Partnership", co-signed by "the European Parliament, Council and ... Commission", confirms that they "attach the utmost importance to improving communication on EU issues", by "enabling European citizens to exercise their right to participate in the democratic life of the Union, in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizens, observing the principles of pluralism, participation, openness and transparency".

This should "enable Citizens to exercise their right to express their views and to participate actively in the public Debate on European Union issues", while also "promoting the respect of multilingualism". In this regard, EU confirms its "wish to develop synergies with national, regional and local authorities as well as with representatives of Civil Society".

    It's since 1997 that a group of EuroFora's founders have officially presented a pioneer Project (then called "EIW", for "Europe in the World"), which aimed to develop Strasbourg's "Polyphonic music", by providing "Interactive information", on "main issues ... during the Decision-making process of European Organizations which engage in Transparent and Public Democratic Debates"

    This should be done, inter alia, by "exploring the potential of New Communication Tools (mainly Internet)", as well as classic-form debates, the 1997 EIW pioneer project's anounced in its "Synopsis". It was formally "accepted for evaluation" by EU Commission in Brussels in order to be examined for a grant in the framework of the "Research/Technology/Development (RTD) Programme in the field of Information Technologies", then called "ESPRIT", as a "Best Practice Pilot Project".

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        But the vital, urgent Political need for EU to search new, efficient ways to reach the People and interact with European Citizens, was really felt in Brussels and elsewhere only after the unprecedented in History 1999 and 2004 Majority Abstention in EU Elections, followed by 3 "NO" in Referenda in France, the Netherlands and Ireland, on 2005 and 2008...
    In this New Political Landscape, we prepared a new, actualised and more developed version of our initial idea, in a simplified and more efficient form, thanks also to a large Experience accumulated during many years of EU/CoE/UNO Press work and Multi-lingual debates, with the New project "EuroFora" :

    On 2006 we presented in Public its main lines during Questions/Replies that we raised at two Press Conferences by EU Commission President, Jose Baroso, and mainly EU Commission's vice-President, in charge of Communication policy, Margot Wallstrom, together with EU Parliament's vice-president, Alejo Vidal-Quadras, in Strasbourg, (Videos available), and we reminded it at various brief contacts with Commissioner Wallstrom in 2007 and 2008.

    Meanwhile, a new Text was also presented for "EuroFora" Project mainly to certain Political and other personalities, at European, National or Regional/Local level, mainly in 2007, but also in 2008..

    Now, after the unexpected 2008 Irish "NO", and before the 2009 EU Elections, which are due to be of exceptionally crucial importance for Europe's Future, the moment has obviously come to launch that project, progressively, but in real practice.

    Whoever really cares for Europe and its Citizens is welcome to join, in one way or another. Only anti-European, anti-democratic, obscure or ignorant groups might oppose or attempt to "steal" and deviate the main idea.

    But European Citizens, incited by enlightened political leaders, are those who will finally write the real History.

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2009 EU Elections were won by Parties against Technocracy and Turkey's controversial EU bid, while the 1999-2004 Majority Abstention trend decelerated. What should be done in 2009-2014 ?

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