European Union

As Armenia prepares for a presidential election on February 18, the international community should direct its attention to a recent proposal by a presidential advisory body that—if implemented—would drastically increase government control over civil society in the country.

Zselyke Csaky

This year has been a busy one for democracy advocates in Romania. In June, after the courts confirmed a two-year prison sentence in the corruption case of former prime minister Adrian Năstase, the newly appointed government—led by his Social Democratic Party (PSD) protégé, Victor Ponta—launched an unprecedented onslaught against several democratic institutions. These attempts to dismantle checks and balances, which received harsh criticism from the European Union, culminated in an unsuccessful July impeachment referendum against current president and longtime Năstase rival Traian Băsescu.

At least eight journalists and three human rights defenders are serving their terms in the prisons of Azerbaijan, according to a recent Human Rights Watch briefing. That should tell you a lot about the country’s crucially limited freedom of expression.

Arch Puddington
Zselyke Csaky

Ten years ago, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) scored an overwhelming victory in elections for the Turkish parliament. Its triumph represented much more than a normal rotation of power between one traditional party and another. As a party—or, perhaps more accurately, a movement—with roots in moderate Islamism, the AKP stood poles apart from the secularist parties that had dominated Turkish politics for much of the previous century.

Last week, the authorities in Belarus executed two young men who had been convicted of an April 2011 subway bombing in Minsk. While the deeply flawed trial and the swift, primitive nature of the men’s deaths may have disturbed the international community, they were not unusual for Belarus, which has consistently hovered close to the worst possible ratings on issues like the rule of law in Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World and Nations in Transit reports.

Never before has Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenka faced an economic crisis in his country like the one he bears responsibility for today, with a collapsing currency, severe shortages, and dwindling hard currency reserves. Never before has he been under more pressure from the European Union and United States through sanctions for his human rights abuses and from Russia through its cut-off of subsidies. Together, these unprecedented developments are leading some observers to suggest that Lukashenka’s days might be numbered.

The European Union Council’s declaration this week on Cuba showed encouraging signs that concern for human rights and democracy will be part of the renewed political dialogue between the two sides.

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