The Associated Press
December 22, 2006 Friday 6:51 PM GMT
Senate report says EU freeze on adding new members sends dangerous
message to aspirants
By GEORGE GEDDA, Associated Press Writer
The European Union’s decision to put a hold on admission of new
members sends a "dangerous message" to aspiring members in Eastern
Europe and could slow the pace of reform in these countries,
according to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff report.
The report said Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia and Moldova, the so-called
GUAM countries, are clearly eager for EU membership because of the
economic and political benefits they would derive.
But it said, "without the hope of EU accession, GUAM governments will
be under little pressure both from within their own societies and
from Western democracies to continue down the democratic road. The
administration needs to pressure EU member states to reverse this
‘closed door’ policy."
The report examines the state of democracy in selected countries
worldwide, with particular emphasis on programs funded by the U.S.
government that are designed to promote democracy.
The report expressed concern that the prodemocracy revolutions in
Georgia and Ukraine, abetted by democratic grass-roots groups, have
resulted in "a counteroffensive" by neighboring governments against
Committee Chairman Richard Lugar has expressed alarm about this
phenomenon, according to the report, declaring this year,
"Representatives of democracy assistance NGOs have been harassed,
offices closed, and staff expelled. Even more vulnerable are local
grantees and project partners who have been threatened, assaulted,
prosecuted, imprisoned and even killed."
The study recalled that in January 2006, Russian President Vladimir
Putin signed a controversial new law imposing heightened controls on
local and foreign NGOs operating in Russia.
The report called into question the stability of former allies of the
Soviet Union in Central Europe that have been democracies and EU
members for many years. They include the so-called "Visegrad Four"
countries of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.
"Now is indeed the time for consolidation of the democratic reforms
made since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the administration must
keep a vigilant eye on each of the four to prevent any backsliding
and ensure forward movement," the report said.
Belarus was the only country to deny visas to the committee staff.
"Such actions only reinforce the conclusions that have been drawn
regarding Alexander Lukashenko’s iron-fisted regime," the report
It said the administration and the Congress must recognize that the
world "still confronts dangerous ideologies antagonistic to free,
democratic and open societies and economies.
"In order to foster the growth of these ideas, we must revisit the
concept of U.S. government-staffed libraries and centers," it said,
adding that existing efforts are falling short.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress