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Britain should offer more support to prodemocracy protesters in Ukraine

February 18, 2014 11:19 AM
By Issan Ghazni in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Liberals have common cause with pro-democracy protestors in Ukraine

While UKIP and the Tory Right want to take Britain out of Europe other nations are clamouring to join the EU, not least in the Ukraine where pro-EU protests have been taking place for several months now. They want to be 'in' for the same reason as the Liberal Democrats, to boost jobs and investment. Europe is not a threat to national sovereignty but a guarantor of democratic and economic stability across the continent.

As Ukraine protesters are seeking to free their country from Kremlin interference so too the collective influence of European nations can protect the human rights of British citizens.

Britain needs to trade with America and Russia as much as the other BRIC countries of China, Brazil and India, not to mention the rapidly developing African economies. But it makes simply good business sense to negotiate trade deals as a bloc because a free-for-all leaves the door ajar to low-wage exploitation and corruption.

Europe's rules governing open and transparent trade would benefit Ukraine's taxpayers as it benefits ours'. UKIP supporters who hate the EU should look at regions of the world where lack of transparency has built up tin-pot dictators.

The EU, that was established after the Second World War to prevent further conflict, can and should play a more positive role in stopping the Ukraine sliding into civil war.

Britain, as part of the European Council of Ministers, needs to take a lead in supporting the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine, and I call on William Hague, the foreign secretary, to move from warm words to real action.

Nick Clegg's recent election broadcast, with the theme "Why I Am In", perfectly articulated why a positive approach to Europe can deliver jobs for the UK and extend our influence on the continent to promote human rights and democracy.

Ukraine has a population of 46 million and their addition to the European trading zone would be an enormous asset to both.

For me, being 'in' is about getting more investment in regions like the East Midlands where I am a Euro candidate but also standing up for concepts like the European Convention on Human Rights which don't just benefit other countries but also uphold essential rights, like the right to family life, in the UK.

The Immigration Bill, currently making its' way through Westminster, proposes a severe reduction in the scope of this European Convention when it comes to appeals by asylum seekers against Home Office deportation notices on the question of the 'right to family life.'

The European Convention on Human Rights may be a continent-wide treaty but it enshrines British Liberal values of fairness.

The EU is essentially a union of values. This is what Ukraine wants, and what I and the Liberal Democrats want.

When Ukraine detains thousands of protesters they want a European Court of Human Rights to appeal to. And when British citizens feel they have been denied their rights they want the same option.

We have common cause with the pro-democracy protesters in Kiev. We have to fight to be in.

* Issan Ghazni is Chair of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and former National Diversity Adviser for the Liberal Democrats. Issan blogs here

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