Parliamentary question by Maurizio Turco (NI) to the Commission and answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission
WRITTEN QUESTION E-2257/03
by Maurizio Turco (NI) to the Commission
(27 June 2003)
Subject: Violations of religious freedom with regard to Pentecostal Church evangelists in Georgia
On 15 June a demonstration organised by the Orthodox priest Father David Isakadze blockaded a Pentecostal church in Tbilisi for seven hours, preventing worshippers from attending a special Whitsun service. The pastor Nicolai Kalatsky received death threats. The demonstrators were brought in by ten or more vehicles between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and one of them admitted that the protest had been organised by the Orthodox priest Father David Isakadze.
The blockade by sixteen Orthodox vigilantes took place on the same day that a Baptist church was set on fire in the village of Akhalsopeli in eastern Georgia. In recent years Georgia has been the scene of violence against religious minorities perpetrated by "Orthodox vigilantes", who seem to receive the full support of the authorities. Although there have been hundreds of acts of violence nobody has been tried or convicted. All over Georgia the authorities continue to attack religious minorities. On 1 June the police chief Levan Chokheli raided a private home in the city of Gori and ordered a meeting of around 600 Jehovah's Witnesses to be suspended.
In view of the excellent economic and commercial cooperation relations between the European Union and Georgia, can the Commission say:
- whether it is aware of the facts outlined above;
- what measures, in the context of cooperation, might constitute a serious and effective way of persuading Georgia to respect religious freedom?
Answer given by Mr Patten
on behalf of the Commission
(12 September 2003)
The Commission is concerned by the problem of increased violations of religious freedom in Georgia. The Commission welcomes the participation on 14 March 2003 of President Eduard Shevardnadze in an Ecumenical service in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. At this service, which was also attended by representatives of the Commission’s Delegation and Member States, President Shevardnadze said for the first time that violence against religious minorities must be prosecuted. Nevertheless, the Commission regrets that violent incidents continue, including the burning down of the Baptist church in Akhalsopeli, eastern Georgia. On 8 May 2003 the Greek Presidency on behalf of the EU made an official statement to the OSCE deploring the assault on an Organisation on Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observer at the trial of Mkalavishvili on 29 April 2003. The Commission will continue to follow this issue closely.
The Commission would like to reiterate that it attaches great importance to the rights of freedom of religion, belief and expression. The Union has repeatedly affirmed that human rights and democratisation must form an integral part of all political dialogues with third countries. In its regular political dialogue with Georgia, under the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement, the Union inter alia systematically raises human rights issues, including the question of how to protect religious minorities. The Commission for its part will aim to increase the effectiveness of the dialogue on these issues.
As regards the provision of assistance and as outlined in its May 2001 Communication on the Union's role in the promotion of Democracy and Human Rights in third countries , the Commission is committed to mainstreaming Human Rights and democratisation issues in all Community assistance programmes. Country Strategy Papers are used as a tool to take a more coherent and consistent approach to the promotion of human rights and democratisation, using the various financial instruments available to third countries, in addition to the assistance that is being provided through the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights.
Moreover, the Commission has prepared a new Country Strategy for the Union's relations with Georgia and, in this context, is currently redirecting its technical assistance towards the strengthening of governance and the promotion of human rights and civil society there. This should help to create better conditions for the respect of religious freedom. The new Tacis Indicative Programme 2004 to 2006 for Georgia in particular proposes co-operation to support institutional, legal and administrative reform and addresses the social consequences of transition and assistance to social reconstruction.
Georgia is also one of 31 "focus countries” of the "European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights" (EIDHR) for the period 2002-2004. One of the four thematic priorities of the EIDHR is the combating of racism and xenophobia and discrimination against minorities and indigenous peoples. On 11 July 2003 the Commission launched a new Call for Proposals for microprojects under EIDHR for projects to be implemented by Georgian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with a budget of between €3,000 and €50,000. One of the priority themes of this call will be “Support for measures to combat racism and xenophobia and to protect religious and ethnic minorities”. The deadline for applications is 15 September 2003.
Members and contributors 2013
|Giuseppe R. Roma||590 €|
|Salvatore P. Capistrello||200 €|
|Giancarlo B. Torino||30 €|
|Marco B. Merano||20 €|
|Davide B. Prato||50 €|
|Giuseppe P. Grottammare||50 €|
|Maurizio T. Roma||1.000 €|
|Rosa A. Firenze||590 €|
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|Sergio Pasquale R. Cremona||500 €|
|Total SUM||326.746 €|
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