The news that members of the LGBT community in Azerbaijan are being rounded up and held in detention on what appears to be entirely spurious grounds triggers the obvious concern that events in Chechnya, where gay men are being hunted down and killed, are spilling over into other parts of the Caucasus. In response, members of the Federal International Relations Committee have drafted a resolution to be considered at the ALDE Party Congress in Amsterdam, calling for action.
It has to be said that, usually, I would leave such things to those more expert than I am. On this occasion though, I have intervened.
For, interestingly, the European Union is in the midst of negotiating a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan and whilst I do wonder about the wisdom of signing such an agreement with a country whose leadership are alleged to be pretty corrupt, with a 'first family' who are seem to be incredibly successful in their business deals, it does open up a route through which the Azeri government might be persuaded to mend their ways.
And so, I proposed, and had accepted, the following additional clause under "Congress call for";
A suspension on talks between the European Union and Azerbaijan on the proposed agreement on a strategic partnership until the rights and freedoms of all citizens of Azerbaijan are fully restored.
One of the whole points of being a player on the world stage, and the European Union aspires to being just that, is to use our influence to change things for the better. if Azerbaijan feels that a partnership with the European Union is valuable, it will change its ways. If the European Union believes that its values mean more than just fine words, it will seek change in Azerbaijan in return for that partnership.
Our values as Europeans are important, and not conditional. Liberty should apply to those whose activities do not cause hurt or offence to others, and this is a concept that needs defending, not compromising.
Hopefully, some external pressure will send a message to the Azeri leadership that they can't get away with mistreating their citizens.