ENP Countries Should Reconsider Their Stance on Human Rights, Religious Freedom and Anti-semitism Before Signing Association Agreement With the EU

Sep 19, 2013, 08:02 ET from EU- Ukraine Business Council

BRUSSELS, September 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Hosted by MEP Jelko Kacin alongside the EU Ukraine Business Council and Human Rights Without Frontieres at the European Parliament in Brussels, yesterday's seminar aimed to review the increasingly worrying situation regarding the status of religious freedom in the eastern Neighbourhood countries. The seminar highlighted instances where governments of countries such as Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and Moldova are restricting their citizens' ability to practice their religion - an issue particularly important given the time pressures being brought to bear in signing association agreements with the Eastern Neighbourhood countries at the Vilnius summit in November.

Opening the seminar was Willy Fautre, Director of Human Rights Without Frontieres who emphasised the raised concern specifically in Ukraine where social hostility is a huge problem and where an increasing number of incidents of vandalism have been reported in regards to religious minorities. Fautre said that, "Governments in the ENP impose legislation which denies the registration and carrying out religious activities. Education should be the primary solution."

Svitlana Kutsenko, member of Embassy of God Protestant Church in Kyiv further described the appalling and irresponsible behaviour of the Ukrainian government which is seen to be discriminating against the right to freedom of conscience and religion in the country. She specifically referred to the case of Senior Pastor of the Embassy of God Church in Kyiv, Sunday Adelaja who has been continuously criticised and blamed for sectarianism as well as fraud and other criminal activity by the government. However, after 5 years of investigation there has still been no evidence found on the baseless charges. Kutsenko made it clear that "Ukraine's government has a lack of respect to any rule of law and does not adhere to any regulations."

Part of the panel focused on the anti-semitism present in Europe, which over the years has been steadily increasing, but governments have failed to address this issue.

Rotyslav Ishchenko, Director of the Systematic Analysis and Forecasting Centre noted this increase in anti-semitism in Ukraine, especially in regards to the Svoboda party which is gaining popularity despite being a party with national socialism ties and has been previously compared to having neo-nazi ideologies. Ishchenko claimed that the "ideology of the currently ruling political system in Ukraine has come from there and the current government are hailing fascists to be heroes. The EU needs to put pressure on the Ukrainian government to criminalise any fascist, nationalist or anti-semitism activities."

David Attar, mayor of Gilboa municipality in Israel also acknowledged that "in regards to joining the EU -all states should emphasise common standards and benchmarks for each country as they progress towards these standards, especially as Europe is seeing an increase in attacks on Jewish communities.

"The situation is very grave in countries such as Hungary and Romania and we have observed a concern regarding the rise of radical anti-Semitic campaigning in Ukraine, where UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) has been celebrated despite their ties to fascism. There is a request to states attempting to sign the Association Agreement with the EU and the need for them to reconsider their stance on human rights and religious freedom."

The underlying message of the event was the need to manage the level of anti-semitism via channels of education, media and training programmes as the speakers appealed to the EU members of parliament to help tackle these issues. This was strongly supported by former Knesset member Leon Litinetsky.

Summarising the debate, Director of EUUBC James Wilson, maintained there is a need to address these issues in a grander scale by communicating to Brussels that there is still much to be done in the ENP countries ahead of Vilnius, suggesting that many of the countries should not proceed to signing association agreements until improvement can be seen and proposing a joint statement needs to be sent to MEPs and the parliament.


SOURCE EU- Ukraine Business Council