Clinton Warns of Backsliding in Eastern Europe, Central Asia

Posted December 6th, 2012 at 12:25 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued sharp criticism for a number of Eastern European and Central Asian nations, saying they are backsliding on democratic reforms.

In a meeting with human rights activists in Dublin Thursday, Clinton warned that Russia is trying to “re-Sovietize” Eastern Europe and Central Asia by creating a regional trade bloc known as the Eurasian Union. She said the project is really an effort to re-assert Soviet-era controls on the region, and that Washington is working to “slow down or prevent it.”

Among the activists at the meeting were representatives from Russia, Turkmenistan, Belarus and Ukraine. She called Ukraine – site of roundly criticized elections earlier this year – “one of our biggest disappointments.” Later, she called the election “a step backward for democracy.”

Speaking later to members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Clinton said she has a growing concern for the future of the OSCE, which has played a key role in promoting human rights since its founding during the Cold War.

She accused the government of Belarus of systematically repressing human rights. She said Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan have restricted freedom of expression and religion, and cited limits to judicial independence, unfair elections and attacks on journalists.

And Clinton cited the persistence of anti-Semitism and discrimination against such groups as immigrants, Roma and homosexuals in Eastern Europe. She noted what she called “democratic backsliding” in Hungary and “challenges to constitutional processes” in Romania.