“We are very concerned about political rights and civil liberties in Eurasia and in the Middle East.” Arch Puddington, Vice President for Research at Freedom House, made this statement at the start of the presentation of the annual “Freedom in the World” report (PDF) at the Körber Foundation’s Berlin office. The “Freedom in the World” rankings evaluate political rights and civil liberties in all the states in the world on an annual basis, and constitute a central point of reference with regard to human rights issues. The report pointed out that for the eighth consecutive year there has been an overall erosion in global freedom. Moreover, the number of countries classified under the headings “free,” “partly free,” and “not free” has remained virtually unchanged since the year 2000.
When asked to explain the extent to which Europe should become involved in global politics, Jürgen Trittin, member of the German Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, replied by saying that it ought to assume more global responsibility. However, first and foremost this meant more civil involvement, not greater military engagement. He said that there was a direct link between the degree of freedom, good governance and economic development. Trittin was convinced that his assessment was similar to the views expressed by Federal President Joachim Gauck, who at the Munich Security Conference called for a more active kind of German foreign policy. When it came to Europe, Arch Puddington pointed out that Central Europe and the Balkans were the regions which over the last few decades had made more progress with regard to democratization than any other parts of the world. “Here the EU has enforced a set of standards, and for this the United States is very grateful.”
In the ensuing discussion with representatives of ministries, non-governmental organizations, think tanks and embassies, Vanessa Tucker, the Vice President for Analysis at Freedom House, talked about developments in the Middle East. Ever since President Mursi was ousted, the scores for political rights in Egypt had declined. Mursi’s government clearly had exhibited authoritarian tendencies, but this trend was very worrying. The only bright spot in the region was Tunisia, where the Islamist government resigned at the beginning of the year to make way for a government of independent technocrats.