Trend interviews Andreas Gross, the co-rapporteur of the PACE monitoring committee on Azerbaijan.
Question: PACE officials have numerously voiced their dissatisfaction with the situation of media in Azerbaijan. Which steps should the Azerbaijani government take for the resolution of the problem? Is this problem linked with the changes to the Azerbaijani legislation?
Answer: IвЂ™d hope that the Azerbaijani government will give the guarantee for the existence of three independent public TV and Radio Stations, which will be governed by people elected by the citizens in three different regions of Azerbaijan.
Besides, the Azerbaijani government has to guarantee the existence of a national Printing House and a national distribution organization, which will be open to every body desiring to print and distribute newspaper through paying the bills at the average costs. Moreover, the government should encourage all officials to use court procedures against papers, or TV, or radio stations only in the absolutely last resort and renounce on financial fees. Any step in this direction would be helpful. However, legal reforms can be judged after they are implemented and the real daily program appears on the public TV. In Moldova the public TV is still a governmental TV; in Britain and Germany the public TV is a real contribution for a democratic public that Azerbaijan needs so much.
Question: How do you estimate the last statement by the Azerbaijani law-defenders on positive result of the talks at the President's Apparat? In particular, the agreement on the signing of a decree on pardon and opportunities for the resolution of the problem 'political prisoners' in Azerbaijan are meant. What is the CE's position on this issue?
Answer: I only know statements by the Human Rights defenders. The law defenders are the Courts and unfortunately, you donвЂ™t hear from them many encouraging statements. The agreement is a positive contribution to the democracy building process in Azerbaijan, not because of its substance - which is rather governmental - but because it is a product of a common dialogue between groups and people who did not hold joint discussions before. The CoE is an institution comprised of different bodies and I am not speaking for all of them, but only for the monitoring team of the PACE. I welcome this dialogue and the statement, although I disagree with some of its results. This is not a problem, but the expression of a free society in which different people may disagree in different political issues. In this sense, I will engage myself for the debate on the functioning of the democratic institutions in Azerbaijan, as the problem of political prisoners is part of it.
Question: How efficiently will the results of talks between the Azerbaijani government and the Venice Commission affect on the position of the international community and situation in Azerbaijan? Will the issue become a topic of discussions at the summer session of the PACE?
Answer: Of course. I am unaware of what the international community is doing, because it is composed of many different parts and elements. I think such talks are always good; the outcome could be improved because Azerbaijan needs urgently a better Electoral Code, the issue that the PACE has raised numerously. The election committees are to be really independent body, accepted by all participants, but not an instrument of the majority in order to defend the majority, which is not its function in a democratic elections process.
Question: Are there any plans on the establishment of a monitoring group of CE experts, which will be involved in Azerbaijan in the pre-elections campaign of the monitoring is carried out only by the CE Representative Office in Azerbaijan?
Answer: The two Azerbaijani parliamentary representatives, Mr Herkel and I will spend a whole week in July (after 5 July) on observing and monitoring the preparations for the elections in Baku and some regions. In September we a 5-member pre-electoral mission of the PACE comprised will come to Azerbaijan for about 3 or 4 days. And at the elections day probably about 30 MPs of the PACE will be present together with many other observers from the OSCE, the EU and NATO Parliamentary Assembly. They are the most effective and authoritative organizations. Over the past 11 years I personally observed more than 35 elections held in from Florida to Baku and from Iran to Odessa. Such experience gives me a large knowledge and a respected credibility. In this sense we donвЂ™t need new institutions because the established ones are doing their job well.
Question: When do you plan to visit Azerbaijan next?
Answer: As IвЂ™ve already mentioned after observing the Albanian elections I will arrive in Baku on 5 July and will stay until Saturday morning. It will come as my 19th visit to Azerbaijan in 4.5 years. I donвЂ™t think you find a West European who has been more often in Azerbaijan than me. I am very grateful for the privilege of speaking so intensively with so many Azeris in this difficult time.