ESI report: how Azerbaijan managed to silence the Council of Europe?

As “Golos Armenii” (“Armenian voice”) writes the European Stability Initiative (ESI) researching institute has published a rather interesting report named “Caviar diplomacy- How Azerbaija silenced the Council of Europe”  on May 24. This report really seems to be a sensation even on the scene of the criticism by the world media towards Azerbaijani concerning the “Eurovision 2012” contest in Baku.

As “Golos Armenii” writes English magazine “FINANCIAL TIMES” was surprised some days ago that Azerbaijan is still member of the European Council. ESI report gives answer to this question. And the report does it not by subtext of remarks as many other European organizations do. No, it says everything directly and concrete, with facts, persons and situations. It names things and events by their names.

The beginning of the report proves this. Photos of the PACE members who have had any connection with the monitoring in Azerbaijan are divided in two groups: “defenders” and “critics”. The authors discuss 12 years of Azerbaijani membership in PACE in the context of elections and show how the European deputies “were silenced”. They present shocking details how the corruption prospered in the EC due to Azerbaijan and which consequences the bribery of the deputies had.

Armenian magazine considers that the ESI report is worthy to be published completely. But even some parts of the documents are able to present how the primitive corruption entered to the Council of Europe due to Azerbaijan.

Many PACE deputies ask just after “Hallo”: “And where is the caviar”? Gibing presents is one of the Azerbaijani customs but then one should pay for the presents certainly

The report presents some information by the Azerbaijani sources in Strasburg. For example, “Diplomacy is always about winning friends, building alliances, cutting deals. In the case of Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe, however, it often went much further. As Azerbaijani sources in Strasbourg told ESI in 2011, Azerbaijan had a systematic policy of getting influence in Baku:

“One kilogram of caviar is worth between 1,300 and 1,400 euro. Each of our friends in PACE receives at every session, four times a year, at least 0.4 to 0.6 kg. Our key friends in PACE, who get this, are around 10 to 12 people. There are another 3 to 4 people in the secretariat.”

As the authors of the document say the report describes how Baku autocratic regime managed to overcome its responsibilities over the EC, silenced the critics and could make a show from the international monitoring.

“When Azerbaijan was admitted to the Council of Europe, despite well documented democratic failings, it was with the idea that Council of Europe membership would gradually transform Azerbaijan. Sadly, the reverse has occurred. The outcome is a tragedy for the citizens of Azerbaijan, particularly those brave pro-democracy activists who languish in jail as political prisoners. But it is also a tragedy for Europe, whose values have been trampled on. For the PACE parliamentarians enjoying the benefits of caviar diplomacy are also sitting members of national parliaments across Europe. And it is certainly a tragedy for the Council of Europe itself, which urgently needs to recover the values its founders entrusted it with if it is to justify its continued existence”, the report writes.

Later in the report the authors present in details the “worst” elections of PACE for its whole history which took place on 2010.

In January 2011 the ODIHR published a detailed and highly critical analysis of the Azerbaijan parliamentary elections. This time, however, there was no press conference. By then, the results of the elections had become yesterday’s news. But the impression of what had happened in Baku remained with all those who were there. A few months later Audrey Glover spoke at a conference in Maastricht about sophisticated ways in which governments manipulate elections: “By intimidation and rejecting prospective candidates on flimsy grounds so that they cannot  register, the opposition can virtually be eliminated before an election campaign begins … This results in voter fatigue and a lack of confidence in the whole electoral process, as well as a drop in voter turnout, which in itself allows for manipulation.” Glover ended on a note of resignation: “A certain degree of hopelessness arises and raises the question: is there any value in repeatedly monitoring these countries?”, the report concludes.  

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