Energy rich states in the EU’s eastern neighborhood
demonstrate an "alarming decline in democracy and accountability,"
according to a new study - a development which is expected
to also impact religious minorities, including evangelicals
and other Christians.
by Freedom House - a well known organization lobbying for
the expansion of freedom throughout the world, the study Nations
in Transit 2006 suggests that states such as Azerbaijan,
Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan, "while increasing
their economic power based on energy resources, are plagued
by weak institutions, deteriorating governance standards,
worsening media and judicial freedom, and rising corruption."
study researchers urged German and other European
as well as American leaders to keep pressuring the
former Soviet republics to improve "good governance
and regional reliability" amid fears energy needs
will become more important for Western politicians
seeking strategic partners than promoting democratic
study researchers urged German and other European as well
as American leaders to keep pressuring the former Soviet republics
to improve "good governance and regional reliability"
amid fears energy needs will become more important for Western
politicians seeking strategic partners than promoting democratic
House Europe (FHE), a Budapest-based group dedicated to promoting
democratization in the greater European region which was involved
in releasing the report, says that "as those states'
energy resources are becoming more strategically important
for Europe, this trend suggests uncertainty ahead both for
the energy providers and consumers".
Orban, deputy director of the International Center for Democratic
Transition (ICDT) in Budapest, who supported the study, says
that countries that are involved in democracy promotion may
favor countries less than democratic to secure their own energy
the next decade one of the biggest enemies of democracy will
be energy," she said in a statement to BosNewslife.
in Transition editor Jeannette Goehring added that national
leaders in the countries named "appear not to understand
that improving accountability will provide what citizens want
- prosperity and rule of law - and would give their states
more options internationally"
they are taking advantage of high energy prices by building
authoritarian regimes that are unresponsive to their citizens
and unreliable in the international sphere," she claimed.
She stressed that the study data "clearly shows a multi-year
trend for these countries of moving away from democratic governance
and toward authoritarian practices. Leaders are limiting or
extinguishing freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom
of assembly, freedom for citizens to have a say in the structures
that govern their lives."
The report comes at a time when religious rights watchers
fear authorities in these nations are attempting to control
groups deemed dangerous to their power base, including evangelical
Religious rights group Forum 18 said in recent reports that
Azerbaijan "tries to restrict" minority faiths,
"including Evangelical Christians" as well as Jehovah’s
Witnesses and the Hare Krishna community.
religious communities have been denied registration,"
the group said.
Kazakhstan, Forum 18 report, "religious communities -
notably Protestant Christian and Hare Krishna religious minorities,
as well as non-state controlled Muslims - continue to experience
state hostility and attacks on their freedom to carry out
peaceful religious activity. They added that the passage in
2005 of new "extremism" and "national security"
laws has significantly worsened the de jure religious freedom
Meanwhile Forum 18 report that in Russia, "symbolic appearances
of solidarity between President Putin and Russian Orthodox
Moscow Patriarch Aleksi II - sometimes with representatives
of the other 'traditional' confessions (Islam, Judaism and
Buddhism) - often translate into regional state officials
taking decisions in the interests of only these faiths, to
the detriment of other confessions."
"This even takes place in areas, such as eastern Siberia,
where Protestants have a longer tradition than some 'traditional'
Freedom House is concerned over developments across
the region, its latest report makes clear that "Russia
warrants special attention because it has enormous
implications for the former Soviet region".
group said it was "unclear how deeply the symbiotic relationship
between the state and 'traditional' confessions will develop".
a state policy against 'non-traditional' confessions be pursued,
Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostals are likely targets."
Ivan Krastev, the chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies
in Sofia, who contributed to the Nations in Transit 2006
report, suggested that "oil nationalism" in oil-rich
Russia also added to the trend.
Russia, the new oligarchy is state officials. The transition
has been from a one-party state to a one-pipeline state,"
In Turkmenistan, a country also prominently mentioned in the
secular Freedom House study, Forum 18 says there are an "increasing
number of Turkmen residents banned from leaving the country,
because the authorities do not like their religious activity."
are frequent victims of the exit ban policy, but others known
to have been banned from exit are Hare Krishna devotees and
Jehovah's Witnesses. The number of Muslim hajj pilgrims is
also severely restricted."
The group said there had been an increase in attempts to impose
a "state religious personality cult of President Niyazov"
and added that Baptist and other churches and groups have
been raided by security forces.
While Freedom House is concerned over developments across
the region, its latest report makes clear that "Russia
warrants special attention because it has enormous implications
for the former Soviet region".
The Nations in Transit 2006 study rates national
and local governance, media and judicial independence, electoral
process, civil society, and corruption for 29 countries and
territories in the EU and its eastern neighborhood, the authors
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