Double Standards?

by Andrew Stuttaford

I am not a fan of the European Arrest Warrant, which is a peculiarly insulting affront to national sovereignty, but it’s hard to read this story in the EU Observer without thinking that it may be example of double standards at work: 

Austria’s release of a former KGB general allegedly responsible for the deaths of 14 people during Lithuania’s independence protests in 1991 has outraged the Baltic state, which says the decision could affect future EU-level judicial cooperation.

“Imagine if Ratko Mladic [the Bosnian Serb general on trial for war crimes] was not extradited to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, due to a decision by a member state. Could that even be possible?” Lithuanian foreign minister Audronius Azubalis told this website on Monday (18 July) on the margins of a foreign affairs council in Brussels. On Friday, the Austrian authorities released ex-KGB general Mikhail Golovatov less than 24 hours after he was arrested on a European arrest warrant issued by Lithuanian prosecutors. Golovatov was a former commander of the KBG’s Alpha Group. Lithuanian prosecutors accuse him of organising his unit’s storming of the state television studios on 13 January 1991, in which 14 people died. The minister said he talked with his Austrian colleague, saying it’s “a little bit unfair” of him to claim that the Lithuanian authorities did not provide sufficient information to arrest ex-KGB general Mikhail Golovatov.  

The Economist’s Eastern Approaches has a good summary:  

It is tempting to ask how Britain would react if Andrei Lugovoi, a suspect in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, would be arrested at Vienna airport and released within hours. The Austrian Green MP Peter Pilz is furious and says Austria was blackmailed by Russia because of its gas-dependency (link in German). The mayor of Salzburg, which is twinned with Vilnius, has apologised for his country’s actions (link in Russian). Estonia’s main paper Postimees has a nastily pointed cartoon (you don’t need to read Estonian to understand it but the date should be 1938 not 1940). The EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, says that Austria acted correctly.  

Of course she does. Reding once famously compared France’s 2010 deportations of Roma migrants to Nazi-era deportations. Her sense of indignation seems more subdued on this occasion. Interesting.