• 2007-09-26
  • Harry Gaffney, Riga
...but don't show him any credibility either.
What a shame the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Rene van der Linden, cannot add Moscow to his list of countries where he intends "promoting the common values of human rights and democracy."

There are many wonderful things to be admired about Russia and its people (some years ago I was held spellbound by the Kirov Ballet in London) but human rights and democracy are not two of them.
Since van der Linden took over his office he has shown time and again that his interests lie with the Kremlin (his family are alleged to have large investments in Russia) and not with those who pay his salary. According to Estonian parliament's European Affairs Committee Chairman, Marko Mihkelson (also head of Estonia's delegation to PACE until recently), van der Linden "has shown clear sympathy toward Russia's positions in the last few years. He should know himself whether such a stance is influenced by his family's reported economic interests in Russia."

He is simply an errand boy sent by the Russians to beat the drum for the "down-trodden" Baltic ethnic (read Russian) minorities. How pathetic. The Baltics are still suffering indignation after a visit from that other busybody Russian sympathizer, Thomas Hammer-berg. Hopefully they will give van der Linden short shrift when he comes knocking. He is already regarded quizzically by his fellow Netherlanders following the passport fiasco which brought shame to the ministry he headed in that country.
His bosses in the EU should look closely at whether this man, so emphatically biased towards Russia, was the right person to embark on this undertaking. It can only result in PACE suffering a loss of credibility, as I feel his hosts will not take him seriously enough.

But then anyone with a foot in both camps should be regarded with mild contempt and cast adrift at the earliest opportunity. And until a "real" EU representative comes their way and not a caricature, for the Baltics it should be "business as usual." Van der Linden completes his chairmanship at PACE next January. And just in case anybody doubts Russia's encroachment into EU affairs, a Russian politician with close Kremlin ties, Mikhail Margelov, seems strongly positioned to take over PACE's chairmanship through a backroom deal. It will go to a vote, of course, but a vote by PACE for Margelov would be a vote against PACE's own credibility.

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