Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

EaP CSF Co-Chair Krzysztof Bobinski addressed Euronest and demanded a reaction to the current campaign in Azerbaijan

“The European Parliament must react to the current campaign by the Azerbaijani authorities to limit democratic rights and civil society activities”, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum Co-chair Krzysztof Bobinski said on Tuesday.

The EaP CSF was invited to address the Committee on Social Affairs, Education, Culture and Civil Society of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly which brings together members of parliament from the Eastern Partnership countries and the European parliament on 19 March 2013. The CSF was represented by Krzysztof Bobinski, Co-Chair of the EaP CSF Steering Committee, Artur Benedyktowicz, Policy and Advocacy Officer for Social Policy from Caritas Europe and Natalia Yerashevich, Director of the Secretariat of the Steering Committee of the EaP CSF.

During his speech at the meeting Bobinski said that “I urge that Euronest as well as the European Parliament as a whole make its position clear on this drive by the authorities in Baku to go back on their commitments to the Eastern Partnership programme as well as to the OSCE and the Council of Europe of which Azerbaijan is a member."

The appeal came after the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) confirmed that Azerbaijan was exploring ways of limiting the OSCE mandate in the country. The change in the mandate could include an attempt to block election monitoring operations conducted by the Organisation for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), an OSCE agency, which plans to monitor presidential elections in Azerbaijan in October of this year.

Since the beginning of this year street demonstrations in Baku have been broken up by riot police, journalists and opposition activists have been detained and new legislation has been passed which will make it harder to fund non-governmental organisations and easier to impose big fines on them.

President Ilham Alijev, recently denied the EU’s right to interfere in Azerbaijani internal affairs after Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Stefan Füle, the Commissioner for enlargement protested against civil rights violations. Also Ramiz Mehdiyev, the head of the president’s administration has accused foreign donors of ‘unlawfully’ financing Azeri non-governmental organizations in a recent speech which could presage an all out assault on NGOs.

The full speech of Mr. Bobinski is available here.

A reply to the speech of Mr. Bobinski by the Chair of the Azerbaijani delegation to Euronest was received on 9 April and is available here.

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