Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 144

The OSCE is probably the only international institution in which Russia has the statutory power to veto a country’s advance toward democracy. At the OSCE’s year-end meeting in Sofia on December 6-7, Russia vetoed part of the political declaration relating to Ukraine, claiming that it interfered in Ukraine’s internal affairs.

The Ukrainian delegation had cosponsored, and an overwhelming majority of the delegations supported, that text. It “welcomed the implementation of the December 3, 2004, decision of Ukraine’s Supreme Court” [which invalidated the fraudulent November 21 presidential election runoff], “noted the valuable assistance provided by international facilitators” [the Presidents of Poland and Lithuania, the European Union’s High Representative, OSCE’s Secretary-General, and the Russian Duma’s chairman], “called on all parties to implement agreements reached” [regarding the December 26 repeat runoff], and “noted with appreciation the continuous close cooperation between the Government of Ukraine and the OSCE Election Observation Mission.” Leading that mission is the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which specializes in election monitoring and is one of the few OSCE agencies not constrained by Russia’s veto power. (However, Moscow-proposed reforms of the OSCE would subject ODIHR to the veto rule).

Moscow’s action shook the European Union out of its usual collective complacency. The EU twice declared that it “deplored” that veto, particularly “given the fact that the government of Ukraine supported the text.” The EU’s concluding statement, delivered by the Dutch chairmanship, urged “all OSCE participating states to heed ODIHR’s call to send election observers and to make available the necessary resources.” Even the French and German ministers of foreign affairs, Michel Barnier and Joschka Fischer, in their national statements reaffirmed the Russian-vetoed text, warned against falsification of runoff election returns, called for a large number of international observers to be sent to Ukraine, and pledged financial support for the election observation mission. The European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, defending ODIHR against strong Russian criticism, commended “ODIHR’s very useful work on Ukraine . . . It is absolutely essential that its recommendations are fully taken on board in order to prevent irregularities [from] recurring.”

In a French press interview during the conference, Georgia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Salome Zourabichvili underscored the meaning of Ukraine’s election throughout the post-Soviet area: “Ukraine has considerable weight to promote the advance of democratization in the region. This should invite Russia to reflect on its own future. Prior to the developments in Ukraine, we [Georgians] were alone. The situation changes completely if we have with us another democratic state with a 50-million population. This also means that the Black Sea basin would become democratic territory” (Le Monde, December 7).

Ukraine’s former minister of foreign affairs Borys Tarasyuk, a confidant of challenger Viktor Yushchenko, flew to the Sofia conference to appeal for the OSCE to send up to 2,000 observers to observe the repeat presidential election runoff on December 26. ODIHR alone is set provide more than 1,000 observers, up from 600 for the November 21 vote.

(Documents of the OSCE’s 2004 year-end ministerial conference, Vienna and Sofia, December 1-7, 2004).