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Anna Politkovskaya's shadow hangs over Putin in Lahti

(Archives B2) Finally, the European Parliament paid tribute at the opening of its plenary session on 11 October in Brussels to Anna Politkovskaïa, the opposition journalist who was assassinated on Saturday (7 October) in her building in Moscow, by as yet unknown killers. A minute of silence… and one more minute for journalists who have disappeared around the world.

In a statement, Josep Borrell, the President of Parliament, addressed, on behalf of the assembly, his condolences to the family and friends of Anna Politkovskaya ", asking the Russian authorities " to find the authors and the cause of this death ". But, supported mainly by the Socialist Group, and to a lesser extent by the PPE-DE Group, Josep Borrell refused to go further and put on the agenda, at the last minute, a resolution on the situation of human rights in Russia. From " procedural reasons opposing it (1). This issue could be on the agenda of a future plenary.

During the debate devoted to the Lahti summit that followed, each of the participants nevertheless wanted not only to pay tribute to the deceased journalist, but also to assess the possible consequences for relations with Russia, Vladimir Putin being the guest of honor of the European summit in Lahti on 20 October.

« Shocked by this death, Paula Lehtomaki, Finnish Minister for European Affairs, repeated the Presidency's message: We demand a full investigation, and that the culprits be brought to justice. Adding " This is essential for the rule of law in Russia. (This death) is a setback for freedom of expression in Russia. There absolutely must be close relations between the European Union and Russia. A partnership to discuss all subjects. »

« upset » Françoise Grossetête (France), on behalf of the EPP Group, said that he was " very questioning about the reasons for this crime. We are waiting for the light to be shed on this act. »

Very cautious, the leader of the PSE group, Martin Schulz (Germany), called for discernment There is emotion. We don't always like everything that happens in Russia, it's true. But Russia is an essential partner whatever the state of its democracy. Do not point the finger and play the teacher. This country is needed. He must be treated as an equal partner with us ". And to conclude Democratic dialogue must be realistic."

Ironic, Graham watson (United Kingdom), leader of the ALDE group, wondered " how to entertain and welcome Vladimir Putin (in Lahti). (While) there are several dozen journalists who have already suffered this fate (the death) ".

The co-leader of the Greens, Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Germany) was more biting: “ It is useless to hide reality. It's a whole system (which is in question). We have an impossible treaty with Russia, on energy, the link with the gas pipeline. Of course, we will have to negotiate with Russia. But I am also convinced that we must change our attitude ". And to summarize: “We can discuss with Putin. But we can't have dinner with him at night. »

In the long debate that followed, the individual MEPs were often tougher than their leaders, notably in the PSE and the PPE-DE. A stronger sensitivity among the deputies of the East. " We must avoid the Finnishization (of Europe) vis-à-vis Russia " remark Miroslaw Mariusz Piotrowski (I&D, Poland). " This (these) murder(s) calls into question the investigative work of journalists. They create a climate of fear » felt Tunne Kalam (EPP-ED, Estonia). " I ask the Presidency of the Council to raise the issue in Lahti. I call on the Member States and the Commission. We must demand the independence of journalists. This is an essential part of signing the partnership agreement next year ". " We must establish relations as equal partners with Russia - according to Hannes Swoboda (PES, Austria) — to make Russia understand that energy is not inexhaustible, that in 15 years, it will perhaps need our know-how (...) and not to make any concessions regarding the values ​​that we defend ».

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) During the preparatory meeting on the agenda, the Greens' proposal to hold a full debate on the Russian situation, or even to adopt a resolution, was indeed rejected by the majority of the groups and the Presidency of Parliament . The expression of MEPs' concern therefore took the form of a declaration by the president of the assembly, Josep Borrell.

The death of Anna Politkovskaya a negative signal for democracy (Spidla)

At the funeral, on Tuesday in Moscow, of Anna Politkovskaïa, the dissident, murdered in her building this weekend by unknown killers, the European Union was represented at the level of the Head of Delegation of the Commission and representatives of the Finnish and German missions, as well as the ambassadors of France, Denmark and the United Kingdom. The message submitted on behalf of the European Communities refers, according to the Commission spokesperson, to " sincere condolences to family and friends ", regretting " the death which is a loss for those who knew her, a blow struck against democracy and freedom ».

Questioned by ourselves, Vladimir Spidla, the European Commissioner for Employment (and former Czech Prime Minister) who was in Russia at the time but could not go to the funeral, made a point of specifying how much this death means, for him, “ a negative signal for democracy. Because democracy also means protecting freedom of the press in practice. Here it is not an unfortunate death during an act of war, for example, but a deliberate act. »

Condemnations in the West

As early as Sunday, Washington had asked " urgently to the Russian government of carry out an immediate and exhaustive investigation in order to find, prosecute and judge all those responsible for this heinous murder ».

The British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday condemned a “ terrible crime and asked for a thorough investigation “, according to his spokesperson. And the French president Jacques Chirac, who are " deeply moved and shocked ", wished " that all the light is shed on this heinous crime ". For her part, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbor, regretted “ a huge loss” and pressed the Kremlin” to send a clear message against impunity and for the protection of human rights defenders in Russia ».

The necessities of realpolitik

Beyond the remarks of circumstances, the commitments of certain personalities, it is clear that the tone in certain countries, in particular in Germany, is much more conciliatory. Admittedly, the government's human rights officer, Gunter Nooke (CDU, and former human rights activist in DDR, East Germany), reacted strongly in the online newspaper Netzzeitung. It's a " political assassination which is only the tip of the iceberg », and which shows that the freedom of press and opinion is in danger in Russia. " Those who want to make an independent press are intimidated "And" human rights are routinely violated in the Russian Federation. This statement was immediately tempered by the government's coordinator for Russian issues, Andreas Schockenhoff (UDC). " You always have to watch your tone » employee. It's no use " to nail the Kremlin to the pillory (...) It is now the business of Russian justice to undertake everything to clarify the reasons of the assassination, he said.

Read also:  Death of Anna Politkovskaya: An international investigation is needed (H. Flautre)

Initial paper published in Europolitique on October 12, 2006, supplemented and enriched

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).