Russia 110908 Basic Political Developments

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Tariffs from behind bars
Published: 8 September, 2011, 02:21
Edited: 8 September, 2011, 02:27
Vladislav Kulikov

The Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia is introducing a new practice: fees are now being collected from detainees for their stay in a detention center.

Prices, of course, differ from hotel rates and are a lot cheaper. And yet, people sitting in jail expect to have a free stay.

As was reported by the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia, the first to be charged a fee were detainees from Tyumen Region. The three offenders must pay the jail a total of 52,000 rubles. Each of them had spent five years behind bars. The precedent is now in place. This experience could possibly be applied in other regions.

However, the Federal Penitentiary Service, as often happens, has some good and some bad news. The bad news has already been stated. The good news is that not everyone will be subject to the fines, but only those who persistently avoid work. If they don’t want to earn money willingly, they’ll be giving it away by force.

“Recently, the Federal Penitentiary Service of Tyumen Region has been seeking compensation for the costs of housing inmates who refuse to do jobs dictated by the administration” the Federal Penitentiary Service press service told Rossiyskaya Gazeta (RG).

Penitentiary Service representatives explain that under the Code of Administrative Offenses, each person sentenced to time in jail is obliged to work in places and do jobs determined by the administration of the correctional institution. So the phrase, “I don’t want to work”, is no excuse in jail.

By law, convicts receiving remuneration pay back the cost of food, clothing, household services and hygiene products. In the event of a refusal to work, expenses are deducted from an inmate’s personal account. Such is the procedure. But previously, the government used to write off expenses if the inmate had no job or money.

Apparently, the three inmates, who served between 2006 and 2011 in Tyumen Region, were hoping to get the same treatment, believing that time would erase everything. Meanwhile, each already had some major debts which needed to be paid under a court order.

“Due to the fact that they needed to pay the claims, the administration made it a priority to offer the inmates a paid job,” say Penitentiary Service representatives. “But they refused to work.”

The inmates were recognized as persistent offenders of sentence terms for their refusal to work and placed in a unit with stringent conditions.

“The offenders were housed at the expense of the state, and the correctional facility incurred some significant losses,” say representatives of the Penitentiary Service.

Seemingly, there is not much that can be done, as it is not the first time the jail has dealt with “freeloaders”. However, the directors were able to find an unusual solution. The administration of Correctional Colony N6 drafted and directed documents to the Tyumen Prosecutor’s Office for overseeing law enforcement in prisons, in order to subsequently file a lawsuit with the court against the three slackers.

“After considering the claims, the Tyumen and Omsk regional justices fully satisfied the requirements of the Prosecutor’s Office and ordered that payment be collected from the offenders to compensate for the cost of their stay. The claims amount to a total of 52,000 rubles,” reports the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia.

Incidentally, these claims are far from being the only surprise that a person behind bars might expect. Not many are aware that the so-called free attorney presented by the state is in fact not really free. The state, having paid the counsel fees, can then seek compensation from the offender, which also happens quite often. Meanwhile, in order to make sure that debts do not accumulate, the Penitentiary Service is making some close contacts with court bailiffs.

Commission wants more EU control in energy deals
By Constant Brand

08.09.2011 / 05:19 CET

Commission to review deals with third countries, while Poland pushes for more energy transparency.

The European Commission, as part of its efforts to create a common external energy policy for the EU, wants member states to share information about energy deals with foreign suppliers. 

Announcing a proposal to boost the co-ordination of external energy policy yesterday (7 September), Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy, said that the EU should extend beyond its borders the achievements of its large internal energy market “to ensure the security of energy supplies to Europe and foster international energy partnerships”.

“When you see that 60% of natural gas is imported and 80% of oil is imported, the success of any energy policy is dependent on a successful external policy,” he said.

Oettinger is proposing a greater role for the Commission in assessing energy deals. He wants the Commission to review all oil and gas supply deals that member states reach with other countries to see whether they are in line with EU law and the EU's security-of-supply aims. Oettinger said this would include agreements that are currently under negotiation.

The plan also suggests that the Commission negotiate energy accords with countries such as Libya, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on behalf of the entire EU. “This is the right way to go,” the commissioner said.

Information exchange

Oettinger has proposed the creation of a mandatory information exchange mechanism on energy issues, to avoid conflicts between member states over supply agreements such as the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which brings Russian gas to western Europe under the Baltic Sea.

In April 2006, Radoslaw Sikorski, then Poland's defence minister, now its foreign minister, attacked Germany's support for Nord Stream, which was being promoted by Gazprom and E.ON. He compared it to the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that divided Poland between the two powers.

Nord Stream became operational on Tuesday (6 September).

Poland, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers, has made external energy policy a priority for its term in office. It wants EU leaders to agree to greater transparency in energy deals at a summit on 9 December. National energy ministers are expected to discuss the Commission's proposal at an informal meeting later this month and at a formal session in November.

Jerzy Buzek, the European Parliament president and a former prime minister of Poland, welcomed the Commission's proposal. “The European Union must present a single interface in its relations with its external partners, both the energy producer and transit countries,” he said.

The Commission announcement was also welcomed by Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, the leader of the Polish centre-right MEPs. The leadership of the Parliament's centre-right EPP group will tomorrow (9 September) discuss external energy policy at a meeting in Wroclaw, which Oettinger will attend.

Eurelectric, the European electricity industry association, welcomed the Commission's proposal but said that there should be greater prominence given to the importance of an integrated EU energy market.

‘Antiquated approach'

Claude Turmes, a Green MEP and member of the Parliament's energy committee, said that the Commission was preoccupied by an antiquated approach looking to ensure fossil-fuel deliveries to the EU through so-called partnerships with transit and supplier countries, with no attention given to forming strategic alliances with those countries looking to push forward with green energy technologies.

Giles Chichester, a UK Conservative MEP and a former chairman of the Parliament's energy committee, said that the Commission's proposal was “the worst kind of meddling”.

He said: “Our energy arrangements are Britain's own business, not the Commission's. This is an attempt to control and interfere with our individual trading interests on a new and deeply worrying scale. The Commission is up to its old empire-building tricks.”

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