European leaders call for democracy in Belarus

Expatica, Netherlands
May 17 2005

17 May 2005

WARSAW - Calls for democracy in Belarus and agreement on the Warsaw
Declaration charting the course for the Council of Europe over
the coming years closed debate at the council's summit in Warsaw
on Tuesday.

Poland's president Aleksander Kwasniewski slammed human rights
violations in Belarus and called for the democratisation of Poland's
eastern neighbour, dubbed by other leaders at the summit Europe's
last dictatorship.

Kwasniewski was echoing calls made on Monday by senior leaders
from France, Georgia, Latvia and Lithuania, among other states,
that Belarussian president Alexander Lukashenko introduce sweeping
democratic reforms which would allow Belarus to join the Council of


German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, one of the few western European
government heads attending the summit, on Tuesday underscored the
indispensability of the council in safeguarding democratic rights
across the continent, including freedom of speech in the media.

Also speaking at the summit's closing debates, Turkish prime minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised parliamentary resolutions by European
states honouring up to 1.5 million Christian Armenians who died or were
killed in massacres and deportations by Ottoman Turks during 1915-23.

Erdogan termed the killings the "so-called Armenian genocide" and
said current discussions amounted to "lobbying" which Turkey would
not support. But he also declared his country was prepared to open
its archives and called on Armenia and other states to do the same
to review the events of 90 years ago.

Armenian president Robert Kocharian, who also attended the summit,
called on Monday for the 1915-23 killings to be recognised as genocide.

While Armenia and most historians say between 1.2 and 1.5 million
ethnic Armenians died or were killed by Muslim Turks in a bloody wave
of deportations and massacres, Turkey says there were no more than
300,000 dead and that they were not deliberately planned or desired.

The Council's 46-member states on Tuesday also signed a formal
declaration of cooperation with the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) aimed at co-ordinating their work for
human rights and democratic freedoms.

The OSCE is the world's largest regional security organisation with 55
member states. It shares the fundamental objectives of the 46-member
council, but includes members from outside Europe.

Tuesday's agreement is intended to avoid overlap in the work carried
out by both bodies. Attention was also focussed on cooperation with
the European Union, which although distinct from the Council, includes
25 of its member states.

The Council of Europe Warsaw Summit brought together 37 European
heads of state and government for two days of debates focussed on
human rights, the rule of law and security issues.

The summit was the council's third since its establishment in 1949.

At the close of debates on Tuesday, Poland handed over the chairmanship
of the Committee of Ministers to Portugal, which will hold the rotating
office for the next six months.

Three treaties were endorsed by several but not all member states
during the summit, according to the Council of Europe press service.

Some 14 states signed a convention on action against trafficking in
human beings, 18 states signed a convention on money-laundering and
11 states inked an agreement on the prevention of terrorism.

All members were expected to sign the documents in the near future,
a senior Polish official said.

About 1,000 left-wing and anti-globalisation activists as well as
Buddhist monks led a largely peaceful protest march through Warsaw
on Monday urging Council of Europe member states to withdraw troops
from Iraq and to oppose gross human rights violations in Chechnya.

Established in the wake of World War Two, the Council of Europe is
the continent's oldest political organisation. It currently groups
46 European countries and is primarily focussed on safeguarding human
rights and fundamental democratic freedoms across the continent.