Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
I am Laima Andrikienė, Chair of the European Parliament Election Observation Delegation and also Vice-President of our standing Delegation for relations with Central Asia, and it is my pleasure to have this opportunity to speak to you today.
The European Parliament, the only directly elected body of the EU, represents 500 million European citizens and is committed to strengthening democracy all over the world. Election observation is one of our key foreign policy instruments in this process.
Prior to Election Day, we met in Bishkek with both your Prime Minister and your Foreign Minister, as well as with the election authorities, political parties, media and civil society and of course with our ambassadors. In these meetings we familiarised ourselves with the situation ahead of the elections.
On Election Day we observed voting in various polling stations across the country, from the opening to the closing of activities, as well as the vote count. We divided into three teams, deployed in Bishkek, Balykchy and Kara Balta, visiting both urban and rural areas.
I would like to make some specific remarks:
- As a Delegation, we were integrated within the framework of an International Election Observation Mission. I would like to thank my colleagues from the OSCE/ODIHR, from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of the Europe and from the Venice Commission for our excellent cooperation during the Mission.
- The European Parliament delegation fully supports and endorses the preliminary findings and conclusions of the Observer Mission.
- I fully agree with the statements of my colleagues; the European Parliament has been observing elections in your country since 2005. This is a clear sign we think Kyrgyzstan is a unique example in the region, and that its democratic course should be encouraged.
- I would therefore like to focus on a number of issues we saw in the campaign and on Election Day: we were concerned at the reports of undue restrictions being placed on media freedom, in particular the defamation claims against journalists, which adversely affected public debate and resulted in self-censorship. Even though TV debates were organised, which contributed to greater pluralism, overall television did not provide sufficient and unbiased news coverage of the campaign.
- We welcome the important role played by civil society in civic and voter education, which increased the transparency of the electoral process. However we also heard reports of increasing pressure being placed on civil society in recent years; speaking for the European Parliament, we are deeply concerned about several criminal cases and imprisonment of members of the opposition.
- Turning to EU Kyrgyzstan relations, I would like to stress that these elements are part of our regular dialogue with Kyrgyzstan, also under the EU’s special incentive for sustainable development and good governance (GSP+).
- We further welcome the adoption of a mandate in order for the EU to enter into negotiations leading to a new Comprehensive Agreement with Kyrgyzstan. Our principled engagement must be based on a commitment to undertake reforms strengthening democracy, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary: in order for the EP to ratify the future agreement, progress on such issues will therefore be needed.
- In this context, we look forward to the final OSCE/ODIHR report and the recommendations it will contain. The EP attaches great significance to them and will pay full attention to their implementation.