Stand-off in Vienna as Azerbaijan tries to change the mandate of the OSCE Office in Baku.

A meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in the...

A meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in the Hofburg in Vienna, Austria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The diplomatic row between Azerbaijan and the OSCE regarding the mandate of the OSCE Office in Baku went public last week in Vienna.On 14 May 2013, whilst in Vienna accompanying President Ilham Aliev who was on a state visit to Austria, the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, took time to address formally the representatives of the 57 participating States of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) at a meeting of the Organisation’s Permanent Council.

Couched in diplomatic language the Minister’s speech, and the response to it from many of the diplomats present, highlighted a serious stand-off on the issue of the role of the Office of the OSCE in Baku. The office was established in 1999 and was seen as an important mechanism to accompany Azerbaijan’s programme of reforms aimed at bringing it in line with OSCE commitments.

Over the recent months Azerbaijan has been asking for the mandate of the office to change, in practise reducing its role to that of a technical office. Since the budget of the office is part of the OSCE budget, and since the budget needs to be approved by consensus by all the member states Azerbaijan has been hinting that it may veto the whole budget unless its request is satisfied.

This is only one of many issues that have emerged over the last year in Azerbaijan’s relations with the EU and other countries as a result of a crack-down against all form of dissent in the country.

read the current mandate of the OSCE office in Baku here.OSCE Baku office mandate More…

Georgia prepares to choose “the man on the white horse”. Or is it just his horse?

The race is on for the office of President of Georgia after the governing Georgian Dream coalition led by Bidhzina Ivanishvili announced that it will nominate Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Giorgi Margvelashvili to the post. Given the massive victory that Georgian Dream registered in last October’s parliamentary elections and its continued popularity in recent opinion polls, Margvelashvili starts the race as the favourite to win.

The office of President of Georgia will be divested from most of its powers after the October elections following constitutional amendments that the previous government of Mikhail Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) pushed through before its election defeat. Executive power will now be vested in the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. The UNM still has to nominate its candidate for the elections, and has announced that it will do primaries to select its candidate. A number of other Georgian personalities are considering contesting as independent candidates.

Georgians have traditionally looked for “a man on the white horse” to lead them.  Georgian history is full of imagery of Georgian leaders, usually men, and on one or two occasions also women, riding into battle on horseback, often slaying a dragon. This time round the situation is rather confusing since the first person in the country will not be the one with the effective power. More…

The case of Ilgar Mammedov puts the Council of Europe on the spot.

ilgar mammedov 2The case of Azerbaijani political activist Ilgar Mammedov is fast becoming a test-case of the resilience and integrity of those European institutions that are meant to be the guardians of human rights on the continent. Mammedov was arrested earlier this year after visiting the town of Ismaili at a time when rioting was taking place.  Mammedov is accused of inciting the riot.

Unrests in Ismailli district began on the evening of January 23, after an accident involving the nephew of the head of the local administration Nizami Alekperov, and the son of the Minister of Labor Fizuli Alekperov – Vugar Alekperov, triggering a riot. The participants set fire to a number of commercial entities belonging to officials. Special Forces and internal troops entered the district using rubber bullets and tear gas  There were dozens of arrests and many injured as a result of clashes. Mammedov, who is also Director of the Council of Europe Schgool for Political Studies in Baku and co-Chair of the social movement “Real”, went to Ismaili to investigate the incident and was subsequently arrested and accused of inciting the riot.

His case was raised this week by the Council of Europe, an institution that has traditionally been the beacon of human rights on the continent. Azerbaijan is a member of the Council and will take over its rotating chairmanship in 2014. There is great unease in European circles about the message this will send, and frustration at a deteriorating human rights situation in Azerbaijan at this juncture. More…

END OF THE CAROUSEL. Hardly fought election for Yerevan City Council consolidates President Sargsyan’s hold on power.

yerevan-election-resultsThe Carousel of elections that have followed one after the other in Armenia came to an end on Sunday, 5 May with the holding of municipal elections to elect the City Council of the Armenian Capital, Yerevan. The election came closely on the heels of Parliamentary elections a year ago and Presidential elections in February. Observers noted that Sunday’s elections were unusually tense for local elections which often attract much less interest and are less hardly fought than the national elections. This time round, a number of opposition forces determined to break the monopoly of power of the ruling party put considerable effort in trying to obtain a majority on the city council.

The governing Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) of President Serzh Sargsyan however put up a spirited defence and gained a large absolute majority on the city council. Of the six parties represented in the Armenian Parliament only three managed to pass the 6% threshold and gain seats on the City Council: the RPA, as well as Prosperous Armenia and the Barev Bloc led by Raffi Hovannesian.

According to Dennis Sammut, Director of LINKS Analysis, “the victory of his party in the Yerevan election is an important psychological moment for the Armenian President.” More…

Yerevan Municipal elections – more of the same.

yerevan-election-resultsThe ruling Republican Party of Armenia has registered an overwhelming victory in elections for Yerevan City Council amidst allegations of widespread irregularities in a hardly fought contest.

Three parties passed the 6% threshhold and will be represented on the City Council of the Armenian Capital – the Republican Party of Armenia, the Prosperous Armenia Party and the Barev Bloc led by Heritage leader, Raffi Hovannesian. More…

Mayday “struggle” in Tbilisi put Georgian police tactics on the spot.

(This article is republished from http://www.commonspace.eu)

Lab 1918There was a sharp reaction from Georgian civil society organisations yesterday after police broke up a May Day demonstration on Tbilisi’s Rustaveli Avenue. The protest was organised by the Georgian grassroot movement Laboratory 1918 to highlight problems of poverty and youth unemployment in Georgian society. Several people were arrested but were released after a few hours. The incident has once more put the limelight on Georgian police tactics. More…