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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs