Interview with Rene van der Linden Kostantin Kosachev
Russia Today: Mr van der Linden, can you tell us, you recently said that the proposed deployment of the U.S. missile defence system in Eastern Europe hardly builds up confidence and mutual understanding. Does that mean you do not agree with it?
Rene van der Linden: Especially not the way they tried to get it through and I am very happy that today there is a common working group between the U.S. and Russia so that they hopefully can find a common solution that is convenient for both parties and it is in my view a negative element if member states of the EU and of the Council of Europe on their own take the decisions without consultation with Russia.
RT: Mr Kosachev, an element of support of some of your views from the European quarters?
Konstantin Kosachev: This is not a support of our specific view but a reflection of the controversy in this situation and a lot of leading politicians in Europe do have their concerns and doubts and questions about these plans. And what is important that this time Russia acts in a completely different way. We do not just say “no” to certain situation which we dislike but we make our alternative proposals. One with the Gabala (radar station), the second one with the Armavir (radar) station – just accept it, do not ignore it. And in case that we succeed in proceeding that way we may avoid any misunderstandings and complications.
RT: Let's move away from that issue because Mr van der Linden, during your visit, you are going to go to Estonia, one of the Baltic states. Russian speakers there are the second largest ethnic group but according to Amnesty International they enjoy very limited rights. What can you do about that situation?
R.L.: It is the duty and responsibility of the Council of Europe to put this on the agenda and also for this reason I hope to discuss this question with the authorities in the Baltic states. And it is unacceptable in Europe that we have double standards in Europe for minorities thereafter in one of the member states and for that reason it is necessary that all the member states fulfil their commitments to the Council of Europe to treat minorities in the same way everywhere in the member states.
RT: Mr Kosachev, what are you actually doing about the situation of Russian speakers in not just Estonia but other countries? What sort of support is your government giving?
K.K.: Well, we do have a special programme now to support our compatriots. We have not had this programme for many years but we do have it now and of course we work in all international organisations, the most of all in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe but as well in other Parliamentary Assemblies of OC, in the Inter-Parliamentary Union and I hope we will be able sooner or later to come back to the situation when this problem of Russian-speaking minorities in Estonia and Latvia will again become a matter for monitoring or post-monitoring procedures within the Assembly of the Council of Europe.
RT: So you are welcoming Mr van der Linden's stance on this and the support that you are getting on this issue?
K.K.: Yes and I may tell you that a number of people who do have questions about that increases within the assembly as well.
RT: Can we stand on this because we know that about 800 veterans of the SS troops recently have held a convention in Estonia, the SS troops you fought in the World War II. This coming August the Estonian government is allowing staging of games named after a Nazi subversion groups and indeed are organising this. How does the EU regard that? Is that tolerable?
R.L.: The Council of Europe, especially the Parliamentary Assembly, has taken a firm position in the past and we will do this in the future against this kind of manifestations which have reference to former the Nazi period and especially also those who would try to get public attention for what has happened in the past which to our mind never could happen again and for that reason we are strongly against this kind of demonstrations.
RT: But just how much influence would you have over Estonia in that respect?
R.L.: We have influence in the way that we can put it on the agenda, give political pressure, give a lot of attention in the Council's Assembly and I do not exclude that if this phenomenon will take place in August that we will have also a political debate on this in the October PACE session.
RT: And of course one of the main reasons you are here is also the human rights situation here in Russia. We are heading towards new elections next year. What is your view of the human rights in this country?
R.L.: Of course to my mind Russia is on its way to fulfil its commitments and obligations to the Council of Europe, also when it comes to the human rights, the position of non-governmental organisations, the position of the media. And I am very confident that the elections in December will be free and fair. For that reason the Council of Europe will send a huge and broad observer mission to observe the elections.
RT: Mr Kosachev, what about the charge that many opposing political parties do not get a voice here, that there is some sort of oppression of opposing political views?
K.K.: Well, in each electoral situation you would face such discussions and protests. I do not believe that these problems are of crucial character predetermining the outcome of the elections. Definitely no. We are interested in having an objective observer or a lot of observers. I do believe that Russia should invite observers from each international organization where Russia is a member state, like the Council of Europe, the OC, CIS Assembly and others and we are very much interested in having them here. And by that confirming that this coming election will be fair and free.
RT: Moving from political issues to social issues. At the moment, even today on our channel we were reporting the increase of racist attacks in this country. What is the Russian government doing to curtail that?
K.K.: Well, I am not in the government but in the Parliament but I may tell you that it is completely unacceptable and we will do our utmost, from the parliamentary side, to demand from the government, from the law enforcement bodies to have zero tolerance of such events. I am absolutely sure that this is not typical for modern Russia and it should not have foot on Russian soil.
RT: How do you see the visit of Mr van der Linden in your organisation and do you welcome his visit or is it a case of them meddling in your affairs?
K.K.: I am very happy that Mr van der Linden has time to come to Russia for several days this time, not to visit just the capital city or main cities but also go to the countryside to visit other regions of Russia and by that have a real feeling of what is going on in Russia, not just judge about this situation from mass media.
RT: Mr van der Linden, are you encouraged by what you have heard from Russia and what you have seen so far? You have got a positive response on your visit here?
R.L.: As far as my experience now it is very encouraging. I have met non-governmental organisations, especially local and regional authorities, elected representatives of the regions and the Council of Europe will especially take attention of this situation when we make very important pre-electoral mission and I fully agree with Mr Kosachev that we need to do the utmost to give these elections the free and fair status in Europe.
RT: Just finally Mr Kosachev's sayng let's put some links to mass media about the Russia's stance. What is the situation now between the EU, between the U.S. and Russia? Do you think, both of you, just finally, will the relations improve? Are they really as bad as is meant out to be?
R.L.: They have to improve because we belong together, we are dependent on each other, the relationship between the European Union and Russia is to my mind one of the key issues for the coming 10-15-20 years. And for that reason I am here to invest in this relationship and the Council of Europe will do its utmost to be helpful.
K.K.: Definitely yes, we have no other option and I do believe that the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly may play a crucial role here contributing to improving these relations between Russia and other organisations like the European Union on a bilateral level.