| Programme by Vladimir Baburin. Andrei Shariy
interviews the leader of the faction of Liberals, Democrats and Reformers
in the European Parliament Mr. Graham Watson.
Vladimir Baburin: The Liberal International , the international
organisation of the liberal parties, called the leader of the YABLOKO
party Grigory Yavlinsky a
prize-winner of its annual prestigious Prize for Freedom. The prize has
no material dimension, however, according to the leader of the faction
of Liberals, Democrats and Reformers in the European Parliament Mr. Graham
Watson, it demonstrates a high assessment of the work if the YABLOKO party
for development of the civil society in Russia. The liberal democrats
is an influential faction of the European parliament which, in particular,
joins together the representatives of the German party of the Free Democrats
and the party "Margarita" of the present Chairman of the European
Commission the Italian Romano Prodi. My colleague Andrei Shariy talked
with Mr. Graham Watson about the liberal ideas in Russia.
Andrei Shariy: Mr. Watson, whether the Western ideas of
political liberalism coincide with the Russian interpretation of this
Graham Watson: Here in Russia "liberal" is
considered to mean libertarian free-market right-wing. We are actually
a group whose philosophical base draws on the three strands of liberalism:
the classical liberalism which is concerned for human rights and human
dignity and fundamental citizens' freedoms; the economic liberalism which
says that free markets generally deliver the best solution; but also the
social liberalism that recognises that you have to have freedom from huger
and freedom from poverty if you are to fulfill your potential as an individual.
And I would say that we believe in free markets except where the free
market fails to deliver the social policy or the environmental policy,
as we need to have a healthy society which is when the state should intervene.
In my own country it is the Liberal Democrats the party led by Charles
Kennedy, in the Netherlands we have the VVD, in Denmark we have both the
Venstre Party and the Radikale Venstre Party, in Germany we have the Free
Democrats, in Italy - the Margarita, which is Romano Prodi's party. We
are actually quite strong across the European Union, if you look across
the Union and the candidate states - we have four liberal Prime Ministers,
we are in government in 11 countries, we have the President of the European
Commission and the President of the European Parliament within our liberal
family. Here in Russia we have had very good cooperation for a number
of years now with the YABLOKO party. And we a keen to develop closer links,
we have a great respect for Grigory Yavlinsky and also many of his colleagues
in the Duma and in the YABLOKO party. We believe that they are developing
the kind of broad liberalism which we believe Russia needs if it is to
move from a society in transition to a society in which civil rights are
truly respected, a society in which there are free media, a society in
which there is true separation between the judiciary and the legislative
power - all of these are classical liberal things which Grigory Yavlinsky
has been advancing tirelessly and courageously here in Russia.
Andrei Shariy: And how this free liberal society can be
created in Russia? Do you have any advice?
Graham Watson: It is very difficult for me as an outsider
to talk to Russians about how their society works, but it seems to me
that you are still a society in transition, it's a society which emerged
from communism, which is in a sense a capitalist society, but a rather
autocratic capitalist society, and which could develop in one of two ways:
you could go on to become a Western-European style, if I say in broad
terms, a social-democratic or a liberal-democratic country, or you could
go more the way of authoritarian capitalism, such as they know in Singapore
or in Chile under Pinochet.
Andrei Shariy: How would you assess the election campaign
Graham Watson: One of the things that worries me in
this election campaign is that I think that the state controls the media
which should be in a liberal democracy free of preferences. And it seems
to me that the media have been used almost exclusively to support the
United Russia, and Mr. Putin's own political ambitions. It seems to me
too that the state apparatus has been used to support the current government.
I regret this. And I hope that the Russian people will react by returning
a good bunch of liberals, in YABLOKO into parliament, to work for a society
where the apparatus of government is independent of the political colour
and the President and the Prime Minister.
Andrei Shariy: The western-European countries have recently
weakened their criticism of those aspects of the Russian policies that
seemed inadmissible for Western Europe before. And the European Union
chosen not very democratic but stable Putin, did not it?
Graham Watson: I think it is a fair criticism of the
Western Europe which at a time of great international tension is interested
to have stability in Russia and weakened its criticism of that aspects
of Mr. Putin's policies that had to be criticised. Some Western-European
politicians that Mr. Putin represents stability, and of course he does
in a sense, but certainly not the kind of hope of development toward a
liberal democracy which I would like to see.
Undoubtedly a Western European economic agenda which seeks much greater
cooperation with Russia and is prepared to limit Europe's criticism of
example, the appalling situation in Chechnya or problems with the freedom
speech. There is almost a race between the American companies and the
European companies to do business with Russia and European companies press
onto European cabinets saying "now let's keep quiet about human rights
democratic freedoms about because we want to do business with Russia".
party and the liberal family in Western Europe is very much opposed to
because we believe that we must be engaged in straight talking with Mr.
Putin about the way we believe Russia should develop. We were very angry
that Silvio Berlusconi representing the European Union failed to do that
the recent summit in Rome.
Andrei Shariy: What do you think about the prospects of
development of cooperation between Russia and the European Union?
Graham Watson: I think that there is a great desire
in Western Europe to be close to Russia, to have much more cooperation
with Russia. At the moment that is hindered by the difficulty for foreign
investors to come and make investments here with any legal certainty by
the difficulty of having a kind of open and transparent dialogue we would
like to have. I hope that developments in Russia will make it easier for
us to have these contacts because undoubtedly we have great common interests
in dealing with big common problems facing the humankind, we have to be
sure that we have common values - between the European Union and Russia
- and it is not always evident to us yet from the current Russian government.