Region 11:21 29/10/2013

Azerbaijan: Pino Arlacchi Embarrasses Europe

Italian Panorama online edition has published a large article touching upon Pino Arlacchi’s activities.
See the full article below:

The MEP of the Democratic Party states that the regime of Baku is "free, fair and transparent" while the Socialists in Brussels demand Pino Arlacchi’s expellant and taking disciplinary action against him.

Regime or "free, fair and transparent" democracy ? The last elections in Azerbaijan have swept the upper floors of Brussels like a tsunami, embarrassing the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament which would monitor the electoral processes in countries outside the EU. According to Pino Arlacchi (MEP elected in share of Di Pietro and currently in the pews of the Socialists), the presidential elections in Azerbaijan which have been renewed for the third time (not surprisingly) the President Ilham Aliyev with 85% of the vote, were "free, fair and transparent".

But the ‘’official’’ delegation of the OSCE / ODIHR, headed by Tana De Zulueta, provided a diametrically opposite report, highlighting heavy rigging and typical actions of a regime that for several years has been the target of international organizations because it systematically tramples on human rights and the most basic civil rights.

The European Parliament heard Pino Arlacchi behind closed-door internal meeting, asking him why his election observation report was so different compared to the data provided by the OSCE. The MEP answered that it was done to "defend" the Italian interests in the region. Azerbaijan sits on a sea of oil and gas and it is one of the main crossroads of the international energy market.

The Italian company ENI holds 5% of the BTC pipeline consortium in Azerbaijan (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) launched in 2006; it allows carrying oil from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean, without interfering with oil tankers crossing the Bosporus. At its full capacity the pipeline can carry up to one million barrels per day, of which 50,000 are under ENI’s control.

Moreover, in 2007 the ‘’Saipem’’ company has completed the construction of six platforms for the extraction of crude oil and two for the production. In 2008 ‘’Saipem’’ signed a long-term contract with BP for the provision of maintenance of the deep-water installations. Meanwhile, in 2011 the same Italian company, ‘’Saipem’’ signed two other contracts in Azerbaijan for the construction and installation of a model that links engineering operations already started in the area.

For the time being, however, these Italian interests in Azerbaijan are not threatened: during his recent visit to Baku on August 11, 2013, the Prime Minister Enrico Letta stressed the good relations with the Azerbaijani government based on ‘’mutual interests’’ where the TAP pipeline project (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) bears strategic importance for both Italy and Azerbaijan. In Letta’s view the TAP project will strengthen bilateral relationships with the European Union in view of the November summit between the Eastern Partnership countries.

In short, it is not clear why Arlacchi wanted to defend "mutual interests" which are safe and sound at the moment. More importantly, how such defense can pass through the recognition of democracy that in reality does not exist. According to the data provided by the Democracy Index 2012, compiled by The Economist magazine, Azerbaijan ranked as "authoritarian regime", the 139th place in the world for economic and political freedom and well below the standards of other countries in deficit of democracy, such as Angola, Swaziland, Burkina Faso and Cuba.

The position of the head of the Brussels Parliament observers’ delegation has created an embarrassing situation not only among fellow Italians, but also, and especially between the leaders of the EU institution who always expressed their observations in a "transparent" way (they for real) on the Aliyev regime which for decades has dominated Azerbaijan, passing the scepter from father to son. Additionally, this year in June the European Parliament voted for a resolution which expressed "serious concern" about reports on human rights in Azerbaijan provided by international human rights organizations, which highlight the imprisonment of journalists and political activists.

By the same resolution, the European Parliament condemned the intimidation and violence against opposition leaders who expressed their criticism of the Azeri regime in Baku and requested the Azerbaijani government to comply with the international standards of freedom of the press and expression.

The European Greens are ready for the battle. Their leader, Ulrike Lunacek, used mordancy words against the group headed by Arlacchi:

_ "The findings and the report of the EP mission to Azerbaijan are a sham and in sharp contrast with those of the OSCE / ODIHR mission and numerous domestic election observers in the country since 28 August. The EP report failed to acknowledge the stifling environment of these elections, which included well-documented human rights violations, harassment of the political apposition and restriction of fundamental democratic principles. The Green/EFA group does not support the statement made by the EP’s delegation and has requested a common meeting with the head of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission Tana de Zulueta.’’_

The Greens in the European Parliament have rejected the report of Pino Arlacchi’s delegation and asked the Commission for clarification since such a thing had never happened in Brussels. Also, what happened casts a heavy shadow on the Sakharov Prize, which is awarded yearly to an individual who has excelled in the struggle for civil and human rights in the world.

The Sakharov is the only worldwide recognition for Human Rights (the Nobel for Peace). The European Parliament certainly cannot give credibility to an authoritarian regime such as the Azeri one and then award a prize to those who maybe fought the regime by sacrificing their life and freedom.

But still, why Pino Arlacchi has seen democracy where it is really impossible to find? According to numerous reports published by Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Azerbaijan in 2013 was ranked the fifth to last place in the ranking of press freedom in the world. The question remains unanswered until now, but this is not the first time that the MEP finds himself in a "gossip".

Back in 2001, he was not reappointed as director of the UNODC (United Nations Drug Enforcement Agency, based in Vienna) following the allegations against him made by Maurizio Turco (President of the Italian Radical group in the European Parliament at that time) and by Daniele Capezzone for "supporting and legitimizing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden found refuge and hospitality".

They also raised many suspicions on the decision of the agency directed by Pino Arlacchi to lavish $ 15 million to Laos, plus another $ 35 million in the five years to come. The Lao People's Democratic Republic is one of the three largest producers of opium in the world, besides being a communist regime where civil rights and individual freedoms are very limited.

Arlacchi "elegantly" gets the boot from the UN. The decision of the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan arrives soon after the release of OIOS report (UN Office for the control of internal practices) that expresses "strong concern for the centralized and arbitrary way" used by Arlacchi in conducting anti-drug agency in Vienna.

According to the OIOS internal investigation, the direction of Arlacchi "does not guarantee the collective decision mechanisms" and lacks of "a system of worldwide programs monitoring," with all administrative decisions concentrated in the sole hands of the director. In addition, “staff morale "at the time of Arlacchi direction is "very low", a frustration - the internal audit office sustains- due to the "lack of transparency in management decisions, especially with regard to the assumptions and career staff."

At the end of the report, OIOS clearly states that “the situation of the UNODC head can no longer be permitted and cannot continue." On the other side Kofi Annan wants to avoid a scandal, and so prefers not to fire Arlacchi , who meanwhile was almost at the end of his mandate, but " suspend " him from his duties until the end of the assignment, thus guaranteeing him golden retirement benefits.

The experience of the UN ends badly, but Pino Arlacchi returns to the international community through the window of the European Parliament, presenting himself as candidate in 2009 under the Italia dei Valori electoral roll guided by Antonio Di Pietro. Then, a year later he decides to switch to the Democratic Party and joins the group of Socialists in Brussels, that today, after the "misleading" statements about the goodness of the Azeri regime, turn their backs on him.

The statement issued by Hannes Swoboda, chairman of the Group of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, sounds like an excommunication for Arlacchi. "The S&D Group in the European Parliament – Swoboda says - is distancing itself from the findings of the EP/PACE election observation mission (the one leaded by Arlacchi ed) on the recent presidential elections in Azerbaijan. The S&D Group –Swoboda continues - is of the opinion that the differences between the EP/PACE assessment and the OSCE/ODHIR evaluation are so striking that the EP/PACE findings cannot be endorsed as they are based solely on an ad-hoc, short-term evaluation.”

"We come to this conclusion on the basis of longer-term developments and especially the conditions ahead of the elections: there are severe restrictions on the freedom of assembly and expression. Dozens of activists and journalists in Azerbaijan -including a presidential candidate - are wrongfully imprisoned for their political activities.” And the conclusion of the President of the Socialists is without appeal for Arlacchi and the Arlacchi boys: "I deplore the fact that some MEPs felt the need to undertake parallel individual missions without an institutional mandate.” Then Swoboda reminds that “This June, the European Parliament adopted a critical resolution on the situation of human rights in Azerbaijan. The S&D Group takes the view that this resolution accurately reflects the official position of the institution."

Before in the UN and then at the European Parliament Pino Arlacchi is now left stranded for the second time, but this time many of us want to go deeper and understand the reason for such an incomprehensible position.

European Voice, the newspaper founded by the Economist Group in 1995 which follows all the activities of the main EU institutions, takes charge of the mistery explanation. In a poisonous editorial, European Voice questions Arlacchi’s parliamentary delegation (Filip Kacmarek, Poland EPP; Joachim Zeller, Germany EPP; Evgeni Kirilov, Bulgaria S & D; Norica Nicolai, Romania ALDE; Milan Cabrnoch, Czech Republic, European Conservatives and Reformists; and Fiorello Provera, Italy, Europe of Freedom and Democracy) about their mission in Azerbaijan and argues that "like so many other authoritarian regimes in the region, also the one leaded by the President Ilham Aliyev seeks the international legitimacy and invite as observers to its pseudo-elections people who are close to the regime, so that they can speak positively ".

"Such observers - European Voice continues - may be motivated by various interests, political or economic ones, or even honored with gifts such as the famous Azeri caviar", which seems to be distributed in large quantities in Brussels. In short, the magazine does not nitpick and throws openly corruption charges, while not providing any confirmed evidence. The European Parliament attends embarrassed and for the first time in its history in the next few days it will be called to decide on disciplinary action against Arlacchi and the other six members of Parliament.

Meanwhile, the OSCE continues to disseminate data on Azerbaijani elections: 1 million and eight hundred thousand voters more than the registered ones and a "curious" application for mobile phones that sent the election results to journalists and observers on the day before the polls’ opening. And this is nothing compared to the rest. Of course to define these elections "fair, free and transparent" really requires a very good imagination.


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