5. Sept. 2004


Read this interview
in russian


«My democratic concepts attract Ilham Aliyev»

Despite of rushing to his flight Mr. Gross kindly agreed to respond some questions of Zekalo newspaper. Here it is:

Zerkalo: As you said, you met with President Ilham Aliyev several times and had long conversations with him. Did you find any significant disagreements with the Head of State as to the approaches on conceptual issues of development of democracy in Azerbaijan?

Andreas Gross: It is quite difficult to identify "in motion" what the "conceptual issues" imply. I can say that we had frank discussion. During this open debates there have been reveled some disagreements both as to comprehension of today's realities of country and the assessment of its background. Speaking frankly, for me it is difficult to say what is the conceptual democracy of Mr. Ilham Aliyev. May be he thinks that my concept of democracy or my comprehension of democracy is utopian. Of course, there were the issues on which our positions met and vice-versa. I have to confess that when Mr. Ilham Aliyev was a Member of Parliament he was less disposed to meet with me. Meanwhile, as I see for the last months Ilham Aliyev is trying to talk with me and discuss these issues. For instance, he asked me how I would have acted in some situations. I submitted to him some proposals and he liked them. I suppose, he is satisfied with results of our meetings. I see as well that my democratic concepts, which are based on ideas of republicanism and civil society, attract Ilham Aliyev.

How do you predict the relations between Azerbaijan authorities and Council of Europe in case if next parliamentary elections in our country are held the way they had been held before?

I think that in this case the relations between Azerbaijan and Council of Europe would stay in next years very difficult because in this Organization there are people who are ready to grimly criticize a country. At the same time, Azerbaijan authorities would complain that Azerbaijan was exposed to excessive and frequent criticism. And the authorities would think that Council of Europe does not understand the processes which take place in Azerbaijan. We have come here to help each other to develop and protect, hand-in-hand with Azeri authorities, the democracy. I do my best that the municipal elections would be held better than presidential ones. I will do also my best that the parliamentary elections would be held even better than the municipal ones. If I and my colleague Heykel fail then we would think what can and should be done afterwards.

Very concrete and probably boring question: are there the political prisoners in Azerbaijan?

Of course, they are. It is inadmissible that in beginning and underdeveloped democracy the people are imprisoned for political reasons. Only those who commit the robbery, theft, kill people and make to people other damages can be deprived of freedom. Generally, I would like to clarify the notion "criminal" because along with the cases of obvious terrorism or mafia this category is sometimes unclearly used in different situations. I am convinced that the declaration of anybody as criminal only because he/she does not agree with somebody's political views is nothing but a crazy guiding line of totalitarian society.

How would you explain the statement of some high officials of Council of Europe saying that the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan has been "almost resolved"?

Some people try to be very optimistic and polite. At the same time they refrain from deep and thorough understanding of situation. Especially, when the matter concerns the situation in countries which are situated 2000 km far from their European offices. Of course, it is admissible that we would do these statements in authoritarian order. But these statements are done made by ordinary people and should not be perceived by society as admonitions of Rome Pope and God's word.

Thank you for sincere catholic reply ...

I am not a catholic, originally I am adhere to protestant church. However, I have my own religious views. I cannot say that I am atheist, but I hardly look like a frequent visitor to church. I deeply respect every human personality: should he/she be Christian, Jew, Muslim or Buddhist - the more important is that the nature of his/her attitude must the respect to personality of other human beings. And, by the way, all above mentioned and non-mentioned religions contain sufficient respect to human personality.

As we walking on the path of philosophy, can I ask your opinion regarding the thoughts of contemporary German philosopher Jürgen Habermas?

The democratic thoughts of Jürgen Habermas concerning state system conform to Swiss system. However, substantiating his thoughts he does not mention Switzerland. I do not believe that this thinker shares the interpretation of his democratic views in the spirit of republicanism. I agree with Habermas that the national state can no longer be the central and universal institution that personifies and covers all the spectrum of democracy. The national state as institution is already weak for this role and I agree that it is necessary to pass to the stage of ex-national state. And to achieve this the single European and perhaps the global constitution is required.

Have you ever tried to anatomize the possible model of overcoming of consequences of the crisis of national state?

I have been working for twenty years over constitutional concept of European model. As a Swiss I easily understand as follows: the democracy as a whole or some its basic elements can exist on all three levels: communities (local level - region, district, territory) national state and transnational state. However, for this it is necessary that sovereignty would be uniformly extended distributed among these levels. For us, the habitants of federal Switzerland, where this distribution has been successfully implemented it is easy to perceive this formula of democracy. Meanwhile, for instance for French such cosmopolitan doctrine of democratic system is not usual. I have to state that also on the level of transnational state the national state continues to play an important role in implementation of democracy i.e. every level contributes to democracy. The true art is to find the optimal volume of participation of levels in maintaining of democracy.

Where do you find the wider frames of comprehension of world, where are more resources of Weltanschauung for social and psychological adaptation of a personality to conditions of cosmopolitan democracy - in Christianity or Islam?

I am unable to respond this question exhaustively. I can only express my confidence that both the Muslims and Christians can conceive the essence of cosmopolitan democracy. Perhaps, the Christian environment has got some progressive aspects. And first of all as to separation of powers the Christian communities has got progressive signs. At the same time, I think that the conscience of Muslims is less materialistic and the Islamic societies the family solidarity is stronger.
I am deeply convinced that the religion is not an obstacle on the way of essential comprehension of democracy and perception of basic democratic norms. Simply, some people try to argue by religion. But it is not an argument.

Andreas Gross

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