The European Parliament and the Commission in support of Alexandr Nikitin

Publish date: November 22, 1999

Written by: Theemu Lehtinen

The European Parliament held its Plenary session in Strasbourg, France, on 15-19 November. The forthcoming trial of Alexandr Nikitin was one of the items for urgent debate on the parliamentary agenda. For the fourth time the European Parliament expressed its strong support to Alexandr by voting a resolution in his favour.

During the debate, Elisabeth Schroedter, a German Green Group MEP – and a long-standing friend of Bellona, emphasised the importance of Alexandr’s work at Bellona to the great public. She also called on the European Commission, via its Mission in Moscow, to closely monitor the trial as they did last year, and to engage the Commission in a political debate to get Alexandr finally free of criminal charges.

Bernd Posselt, German Christian-Democrat, stated that the matter is not an internal affair of Russia, but belongs to a wider arena. He pointed out that human rights violations are in the competence of the Council of Europe, and the 15 Member States of the European Union form the heart of that institution. Mr Posselt referred to the EU-Russia partnership agreement, which includes a specific clause on human rights, and called on the Russian authoritities to follow the Rule of Law in Alexandr’s case. For acting in favour of us all, Mr Posselt ended his speech, "the European Parliament should award a prize for Mr Nikitin".

Giles Chichester, UK Conservative Member and a respected energy affairs expert, felt unacceptable that "addressing a matter of public interest, of environmental interest of the whole of Europe" would lead to a charge of high treason. He asked the European Parliament to send a very powerful message to Russia that it should rethink the case and drop the charges against Alexandr Nikitin.

On behalf of the European Commission, Commissioner Pascal Lamy confirmed that the Commission is indeed greatly worried about the case and the forthcoming trial. The Commission representatives were present at the St. Petersburg City Court both in October 1998 and at the Supreme Court deliberations in February 1999. Mr Lamy told MEPs that the European Commission has made it clear that Russia must respect the internationally agreed principles and standars of justice and human rights. Mr Lamy also promised to MEPs in the Chamber that the Commission will remain vigilant to ensure that Alexandr is granted an impartial and public trial based on the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Russian Constitution.