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.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs