New secretary general focuses on Baltics' minority problem

  • 2004-07-22
  • From wire reports
MOSCOW - Terry Davis, the new secretary general of the Council of Europe, has promised to turn serious attention to the escalating problems of Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic countries during his post.

"Indeed, I have always been interested in the problems of the Baltic countries' Russian-speaking minorities. I am particularly worried by the large number of stateless residents in Latvia. It is necessary to seriously deal with the problem. I think a more correct solution would be if they became citizens of the country, would gain the right to vote in Latvia and the right to represent their interests there," the Interfax news agency reported Davis saying.
But while assessing the situation concerning the observation of Russian minority rights, the general secretary admitted that Latvian authorities had taken measures to improve the condition.
Davis emphasized that his particular interest in the Baltics' Russian-speaking population did not mean that he was not worried by other issues, such as the situation in Chechnya or freedom of expression in Russia.
"One problem doesn't necessarily have to replace another, but can complement it," he said, adding that the situation in Chechnya was high on his agenda.
"I will certainly discuss the problem with the Council of Europe human rights commissioner. He is dealing with that file, and I will certainly take interest in what he is doing," the general secretary said.
Davis protested against those who had already managed to dub him a guardian of Russian interests in the Council of Europe.
"I do not think Russia would need a guardian like me," he said. "Besides, it is not my work to protect anyone. It is my duty to achieve that the attitude to Russia would be the same as to other European countries."
Estonian Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland also ran for general secretary of the Council of Europe. Terry Davis from Great Britain collected 157 votes, Walter Schwimmer from Austria, who applied for his re-election, collected 81 votes and Ojuland 51 votes.
The general secretary's office term is five years. Davis will take up his post as of Sept. 1.