News

    Polish Leader Urges Europe to Help East Become More Democratic

    Roger Wilkison

    Poland's President Alexander Kwasniewski, left, shakes hands with Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko
    Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski says members of the European Union must support democratic reforms in countries on the continent's eastern fringe, so that they, too, can one day enjoy freedom and prosperity. Mr. Kwasniewski opened a summit of the Council of Europe, the continent's oldest political organization.

    The Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg, France, was founded in 1949 to oversee the democratization of Western Europe after the World War II. With democracy now thriving among the 25 members of an enlarged European Union and improving among those countries that seek to join the bloc, the Council of Europe has become the continent's main human rights monitor, tasked especially with helping countries carry out political and legal reforms and exposing breaches of civil liberties wherever they occur.

    All of the countries of greater Europe, except Belarus, ruled by an authoritarian government, are members of the Council. And most of those that are not members of the European Union want to join the EU as soon as they can.

    Mr. Kwasniewski, as host of the two-day summit, has been pushing hard for the EU, now suffering from enlargement fatigue after incorporating 10 new, mostly former communist members last year, to keep the door open to countries further east. And first among those is Poland's neighbor, Ukraine. The Polish president says the EU has a duty to bring such countries into the European fold, if the continent is to be truly united.

    "We must lend our support to all of those who want to live in accordance with European standards and democratic value in whatever region of our continent," he said.

    Mr. Kwasniewski, referring to another of Poland's neighbors, Belarus, says no European country should be forgotten or abandoned to its own fate.

    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who is trying to get the EU to consider his country for membership, warned against the side-by-side existence of a Europe of haves with one of have-nots. Noting that his government has dropped visa requirements for EU citizens, he called on the bloc to reciprocate by simplifying visa rules for Ukrainians.

    With the EU planning to set up its own human rights agency, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also monitoring Europe-wide compliance with human rights and the rule of law, Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis wants the continent's leaders to clarify his organization's mandate.

    "The challenge facing this summit is to answer the question 'what is the purpose of the Council of Europe?' We cannot find the answer in the past. Instead, we must focus on the future," he said.

    Mr. Davis says the people of greater Europe want more democracy, more respect for human rights and more attention paid to the rule of law. That may be so, but most of the leaders of Europe's great nations, Britain, France and Russia among them, have stayed away from this summit, calling into question the Council of Europe's relevance as the influence of the EU spreads ever wider.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora