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Milan Horáček: New EU-Russia Partnership Agreement Must Rest on Human Rights

[We are pleased to present this exclusive guest article from Mr. Milan Horacek, an esteemed European Parliament member and representative of the Green Party of Germany. Milan Horacek is a man of his word. When I first met him and invited him to Moscow, little did I know that this brave man would accompany me right into the court room, and step into the eye of the storm of contemporary Russia’s most controversial trial. Milan literally pushed aside special forces troops to get himself in proximity to Khodorkovsky in the cage. Since that time, Mr. Horacek has been a tireless fighter for the cause of human rights in Russia, and in addition to serving his constituents, he has demonstrated a singular and conscientious dedication to critical issues of rule of law.] New EU-Russia Partnership Agreement Must Rest on Human Rights By Milan Horáček Member of the European Parliament for the Greens/ European Free Alliance

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This year, a new chapter is unfolding in relations between Russia and the European Union: Since 1997, there has existed a partnership and cooperation agreement, which is to be re-launched in the coming months. Cooperation between the EU and the Russian Federation is to be arranged even more closely. Russia is in many respects an important partner for the European Union. The disruptions in the supply of oil due to the dispute between Russia and Belarus in late 2006 and early 2007 have shown manifestly, just how closely relations between the EU and its large eastern neighbour are being arranged (compare also Ukraine in 2006). This closeness carries within itself a fluid transition to dependency, if one considers the high share of Russian oil and gas in the European energy mix. This situation becomes even more explosive, if one considers Russia’s domestic energy policy. The Kremlin’s involvement in breaking up Yukos oil company is obvious. Tax collection or expropriation, the carving out of economic interests or lawful market mechanisms (Putin): One doubts it is possible to find a way through this thicket of half-truths and lies. It is clear, however, that the blatant violation of the principles of democracy and human rights on display in the conviction of former Yukos owners Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. I was present in Moscow in May 2005, when the verdict was announced, and have been working on this case ever since. I was a witness to how the principles of rule of law and judicial independence were repeatedly violated during the formal course of proceedings. Therefore, I am using all of the means at my disposal as a member of the European Parliament to see that justice is done to Khodorkovsky and Lebedev. I have made the predicament of both inmates the subject of a plenum speech and an inquiry to the European Commission and Council. In October 2005, I initiated an informal non-partisan working group on the human-rights situation in Russia, the case of Yukos, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, and Russian prison conditions. We have received detailed information from various guest speakers, including the lawyers of the convicted. Diverse actions have been decided on and implemented, such as, for example, correspondence with the two inmates, the distribution of open letters to Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg as well as the heads of states and governments of the G8 countries, and a press conference in Brussels. Planning is underway for more in future. So long as Russia continues to bend, break, and abuse human rights – as has become clear in the individual cases of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev – it will be a problematic partner for the European Union. Therefore, a new partnership and cooperation agreement must rest on the pillars of democracy, human rights and rule of law.