"Human rights under pressure in Russia"
8 November 2007, AMSTERDAM - The Dutch government should be more critical about Russia's human rights reputation, Dutch legislators said in Parliament late Wednesday night.
8 November 2007
AMSTERDAM - The Dutch government should be more critical about Russia's human rights reputation, Dutch legislators said in Parliament late Wednesday night.
The criticism came as Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende was still in Russia on an official visit.
On Tuesday, Balkenende was present when Dutch Gasunie and Russian Gazprom signed an agreement giving Gasunie a share in the oil pipeline that, once built, will run from the Baltic Sea to Western Europe, including Britain.
During his visit, Balkenende also discussed increased cooperation between other Dutch and Russian businesses, saying the Dutch were interested in intensifying their relations with Russia.
But legislators of the Labour (PvdA) party, the second largest coalition partner, and the liberal left D'66 party said they think prime minister Balkenende approach to Russia is "disappointing."
Martijn van Dam (PvdA) and Alexander Pechtold (D66) said they were not "pleased" with the fact Balkenende focused primarily on the business relations between Russia and the Netherlands.
Prime Minister Balkenende was visiting Russia on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, he was present at the signing ceremony of a cooperation agreement between Dutch Gasunie and Russian Gazprom,
MPs Van Dam and Pechtold pointed out the human rights situation in Russia has been under pressure. Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly do not exist, for example, and the legal system is not independent, they said.
The two said Balkenende should have raised these issues more clearly.
But Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen (CDA) said the prime minister did raise the topics during talks with the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov.
He added it is "extremely rare" for any prime minister to discuss such topics with the Russian president.
Prime Minister Balkenende later confirmed he had discussed the human rights situation with Putin "elaborately," adding he had also conducted talks with Russian non-governmental organisations about the topic.
On Tuesday the Dutch prime minister said he had raised the issue "in general terms."
[Copyright dpa 2007]
Subject: Dutch news