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EU Expresses Concern About Political Situation in Russia - 2004-10-05

A top incoming foreign policy official of the European Union says Russia is backsliding on democracy and has called for a frank talk with Russian leaders on the matter. She also says efforts should be made to repair Europe's relations with the United States.

The EU's incoming External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, touched on a wide range of subjects during a confirmation hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels. On Russia, she indicated she will take a tough approach.

"An open and frank dialogue, not leaving out anything, is the dialogue that we are going to have with Russia," said Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

The incoming Commissioner said she has discussed Russia's war against separatist rebels in Chechnya with President Vladimir Putin. Moscow has cracked down on the rebels and has also suffered a series of bloody terror attacks blamed on them. Ms. Ferrero-Waldner says it is important that Russia respects human rights, and that democracy puts down strong roots in the country.

Turning to transatlantic relations, she said Europe and the United States have been through difficult times because of the Iraq war, but should now work together.

"The war in Iraq has caused tensions and we need to learn the lessons and remain aware of the implications. But I believe we now must move on," said Ms. Ferrero-Waldner.

Looking to the broader international scene, the incoming EU foreign relations chief said Europe must focus on multilateralism, with the United Nations at its center, to deal with problems in today's changing world.

"I am convinced that only an effective multilateral system can adequately address the new and complex challenges the international community is facing today," she concluded.

Ms. Ferrero-Waldner said she wants the EU to be given a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. France, Britain, the United States, China and Russia are the current permanent members, but other nations are pushing for a spot including Japan, Brazil, India, Germany and South Africa.