EU diplomacy must move into high gear to support freedom of assembly and expression, and set up a situation room in Kyiv to shape peaceful resolution to conflict in Ukraine

PASOS challenges EU and Eastern Partner countries to sign a Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, Prague/Kyiv, 24 January 2014

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Dear High Representative, Dear Commissioner, Dear President of the European Parliament, Dear President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

Following the Eastern Partnership summit held in Vilnius on 29 November 2013, PASOS issued a statement endorsing the right of the people of Ukraine to campaign for their country’s European integration, and supporting the right to freedom of assembly as the democratic right of all Ukrainians. We reiterate the sentiments in that statement of 4 December 2013, and reaffirm our support for Ukraine’s European integration, condemn the use of force by the Ukrainian authorities that has resulted in at least four deaths, and the political repression against democracy activists and independent media, including confirmed cases of abduction, torture, and murder. We recommend that the EU – using the resources and expertise of the European External Action Service and the foreign ministries of the member states – should set up a situation room in Kyiv, led by a special envoy with the diplomatic mandate to negotiate with all sides in Ukraine on behalf of the EU.

We welcome the visit to Kyiv on 24 January of European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle, and the delegation of the European Parliament due to visit on 28-30 January. It is time for EU diplomacy to move into high gear to prevent further escalation of the internal conflict in Ukraine, to put an end to political repression against pro-democracy activists, and to voice support for freedom of assembly and expression, including the rights of civil society organisations and the independent media. These fundamental rights that have been curbed by the dictatorial legislation passed by the Ukrainian parliament on 16 January and subsequently signed into law by the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.

This legislation must be overturned, and we call upon the Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe, at its meeting of 27 January 2014, to insist that the government of Ukraine fulfil its obligations to human rights and freedoms as a member of the Council of Europe by reversing this legislation.

It is now an urgent imperative for the EU to form a coherent response to the developments in Ukraine, to set up a situation room in Kyiv, and to send high-level diplomatic missions – from EU member states as well as the European Commission. This diplomacy must act swiftly and consistently, and the member states must provide full backing for the diplomatic missions to:

•meet with civil society leaders, and press the government of Ukraine to reverse the draconian legislation introduced on 16 January,
•forge a negotiated, peaceful resolution to the conflict that has tragically seen deaths of at least four protesters on the streets of Ukraine,
•insist on an investigation into the deaths of pro-democracy activists, and ensure that those responsible are held accountable,
•monitor the compliance of the Ukrainian police and other state services with constitutional guarantees of protection of life and safety of peaceful protesters, media and observers,
•show to the government and citizens of Ukraine that the EU abhors the violence of recent days, and will support democracy, human rights, and individual freedoms through consistent, pro-active engagement.

Ukrainian authorities have adopted legislation that brands non-governmental organisations receiving money from international sources as “foreign agents”, mirroring legislation introduced in Russia. This authoritarian development in Ukraine follows the adoption by the Parliament of Azerbaijan on 17 December 2013 of new restrictions on the activities of NGOs.

The EU should demonstrably support civil society actors and citizens wishing to express their opinions freely in the Eastern Partner countries, and diplomatic missions to all partner countries should always meet with representatives of civil society. Greater priority must be given to support democratisation in the neighbourhood, as human rights and democratic freedoms are key to sustainable peaceful development for both the EU neighbourhood and for the EU member states themselves.

Furthermore, PASOS calls for a Charter on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms to be observed by EaP countries, and for the EU to have clear policies that are triggered by violations of these rights and freedoms (including vocal and financial support to human rights defenders, independent election monitors, and civil society associations). The Charter is a new initiative being developed by PASOS and its partners within the framework of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum.

PASOS is a network of more than 56 independent think-tanks spanning 28 countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Signatories of statement, 24 January 2014

PASOS Board:
Andrew Cartwright, Center for Policy Studies at Central European University, Hungary (Chair)
Olga Stuzhinskaya, Office for a Democratic Belarus (Deputy Chair)
Borislav Mavrov, European Institute, Bulgaria
Piotr Kaźmierkiewicz, Institute of Public Affairs, Poland Gjergji Vurmo, Institute for Democracy and Mediation, Albania
Linda Austere, Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS, Latvia
Jeff Lovitt, Executive Director, PASOS, and co-Chair, Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

PASOS members:
Iryna Bekeshkina, Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation,

Ukraine Institute of World Policy, Ukraine

Volodymyr Panchenko, International Centre for Policy Studies, Ukraine

Jan Piekło, Polish-Ukrainian Cooperation Foundation (PAUCI)

Alexander Duleba, Research Centre of Slovak Foreign Policy Association Institute for Public Affairs, Slovak Republic

Institute of Public Affairs, Poland

CEDEM - Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, Montenegro

Kosovar Civil Society Foundation

European Institute, Bulgaria

Institute for Democracy and Mediation, Albania

Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies, Serbia

Association for International Affairs, Czech Republic