Saturday

26th May 2018

Estonia says Interpol notice interfered in election

Estonia has complained to Interpol about what it sees as Russia's use of the police agency to interfere in a vote in Tallinn.

The complaint comes after Interpol published a "red notice" on Eerik Kross, an Estonian politician, describing him as a wanted man on Russian charges of "organisation of piracy."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Interpol's motto is: 'Connecting Police for a Safer World' (Photo: interpol.org)

The notice came out on the eve of mayoral elections in Tallinn last weekend, where Kross, long-disliked by Russia, was up against Edgar Savisaar, an Estonian-born Russian darling, who made his career by cheerleading the interests of ethnic Russians moved to Estonia in Soviet times.

It was immediately taken up by pro-Savisaar media and used for Kross-bashing.

In the end, Savisaar won and nobody is contesting the result.

But for Estonia's interior minister, Ken-Marti Vaher, Interpol's role in the process was inexcusable.

"We are protesting this so that Interpol changes a subcommittee's decision and discontinues internationally mediating the request [on Kross] from the Russian federation, which is clearly politically motivated," he told Estonian media.

Asked by EUobserver if Estonia will seek EU help to change Interpol's mind if it ignores Vaher, an interior ministry spokesman said: "It is difficult to speculate on our further steps at this time."

Interpol itself declined to comment.

But even if EU countries or institutions sympathise with Estonia, there is little they can do.

Interpol, based in Lyon, France, is a unique intergovernmental body with no political or judicial oversight.

Its EU equivalent, Europol, based in The Hague, is concerned that Interpol is open to political abuse. But it does not want to speak out for fear of harming police co-operation.

The mounting allegations against Interpol are damaging its reputation despite the official silence, however.

Kross himself - an enemy of the Kremlin for helping Estonia to join Nato and for helping Georgia in its 2008 war with Russia - told this website: "How is it possible that a respected international police organisation is giving a tool to Russia and other non-democratic states for violating human rights and for meddling in other countries internal affairs?"

James Kirchick, an analyst at the Washington-based think tank, the Foreign Policy Initiative, said: "Such low tactics are characteristic of Russian interference in its 'sphere of privileged interests,' that is, the independent countries of the former Soviet space which the Kremlin considers to be its imperial playground."

20 minutes per case

For his part, Ted Bromund, a researcher at an another US-based NGO, The Heritage Foundation, has calculated that, based on 2011 figures, if Interpol works eight hours a day for 365 days a year, it has just 20 minutes to consider the merits of each notice filed by its member states.

He said Interpol director Ron Noble "is determined not to recognise that some Interpol member nations systemically seek to abuse it, and that more regular public monitoring of Interpol is necessary if it is to fulfill its functions without becoming complicit in these abuses."

Russia's request on Kross claims he masterminded the hijacking of a Russian ship, the Arctic Sea, in Swedish waters in 2009.

But for Estonia's interior ministry, the evidence against Kross, which was examined and rejected by a joint investigation team from several EU states, "does not provide an adequate basis for suspecting that Kross was involved."

Interpol is facing accusations that it also helped Belarus to intimidate dissidents who sought shelter in EU states.

The Polish NGO, Open Dialog Foundation, has documented Kazakhstan's use of the police body to hunt its political opponents in Europe.

Meanwhile, Interpol secrecy gives its member states another way of using it to settle scores.

Belarus, in its ongoing battle with Russia over the ownership of a multi-billion-euro fertiliser firm, recently said Interpol had issued notices on Russian oligarchs linked to the dispute.

Interpol quickly issued a press release to say it is not true.

Little people

But it is less keen to react when it comes to what Kross calls "little people."

Earlier this week, the Russian interior ministry said Interpol issued a notice for member states to seize Peter Silaev, a Russian journalist and environmental campaigner who fled to Finland.

There is no red notice on Silaev on Interpol's website.

But when EUobserver asked Interpol if the Russian statement is true, an Interpol spokeswoman said only that it may or may not be the case, because some red notices are not published "for operational reasons."

The European Parliament, the Finnish government and the UN have all said that Silaev is a genuine political refugee.

But a previous Russian Interpol request saw him snatched by Spanish police and pinned face-down in a car for seven hours in an incident in 2012, before a Spanish court let him go.

"If that claimed fact [the new Russian statement] is approved and Interpol has really concluded that I'm a dangerous criminal … I find my life and my future really endangered by that regretful and obvious mistake," he told this website.

Estonian commissioner criticised for political campaign

A group of MEPs has written to EU commission chief Barroso asking for the resignation of the Estonian commissioner, Siim Kallas, who is leading political negotiations for the Prime Minister post back home.

Opinion

The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations