Warsaw prepares for Council of Europe summit

13th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

13 May 2005, WARSAW - Nearly 40 European heads of state and government including German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are expected in the Polish capital Warsaw next Monday for the two-day Council of Europe Heads of State and Government Summit, the Polish Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday.

13 May 2005

WARSAW - Nearly 40 European heads of state and government including German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are expected in the Polish capital Warsaw next Monday for the two-day Council of Europe Heads of State and Government Summit, the Polish Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday.

While Schroeder was expected to attend, French President Jacques Chirac would be staying away as would Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Other leaders expected to attend the two day summit, which is set to address European unity, challenges for European society and pan-European institutions, include Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko and Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Polish media reports suggested on Thursday that with less that two weeks to go ahead of a crucial referendum on the European Union's new constitution, France's Chirac was staying at home to continue his campaign for a 'yes' vote.

Meanwhile Russian media reports explained Putin's absence by pointing to the Council's propensity to criticise Russia for human rights abuses in Chechnya and for limiting media and other democratic freedoms.

In remarks to the Polish PAP news agency, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski also admitted that differences over Ukraine's recent Orange Revolution had chilled ties between Warsaw and Moscow.

Poland was the staunchest backer of the wave of Orange pro-democracy protests which precipitated fresh presidential elections and a victory for pro-Western reformer Viktor Yuschenko in Ukraine late last year.

Moscow had firmly backed the rival candidate, the then prime minister Viktor Yanukovitch, whose first round election victory was found by the Supreme Court to have been marred by massive ballot fraud.

"If this cooling in Polish-Russian relations is the cost of our engagement in resolving the Ukrainian crisis, then I say it made sense. These are the costs we must accept and not cry for this reason," Kwasniewski said.

The 46-member states of the Council are also expected to adopt a declaration and an action plan at the summit's conclusion on Tuesday, when Portugal is also scheduled to take over the Council's rotating six month chairmanship from Poland.

A tight security clamp-down is expected with some 10,000 police being deployed in Warsaw to guard the 2,000 guests due to attend the summit.

Anti-globalisation and left-wing groups have vowed to protest the summit, but organisers have promised the demonstrations would be peaceful.

Established in 1949, the Council of Europe is the continent's oldest political organisation and has grown to include 46 European states from both the east and west. Belarus is an applicant to join, while the Holy See, the United States, Canada, Japan and Mexico enjoy observer status.

The Council is distinct from the 25-nation European Union, but no country has ever joined the Union without first belonging to the Council of Europe. Its headquarters are in Strasbourg.

The Council of Europe aims to defend human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, and develop continent-wide agreements to standardise member countries' social and legal practices.

DPA

Subject: German news

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