Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Peace prize proposed for Yushchenko

Sunday Times (South Africa) - 6 February 2005

Five influential members of the European Union parliament have proposed Ukraine's new President Viktor Yushchenko for the Nobel Peace Prize in tribute to his "courage" in fighting for democracy.

In a letter to the Nobel Foundation in Oslo seen by a news agency correspondent, parliament vice president Jacek Saryusz-Wolski and his four colleagues called for the 2005 award to be given to Yushchenko on behalf of Ukraine's people.

The letter paid tribute to the thousands of Yushchenko's followers who camped out for weeks in protest at the rigged result of a November presidential poll that handed victory to his pro-Moscow rival Viktor Yanukovich.

"Awarding this prize would reflect not only the desire for freedom by hundreds of thousands of the people... but also the personal courage of President Yushchenko, who never failed in his duty to his people," it read.

The MEPs said that Yushchenko, having survived a poisoning episode that left his face seriously scarred, struggled physically "to conduct a clean and honest campaign" despite the "tremendous risk to his life".

"This award would act as a worldwide recognition of the deep-seated change brought about in Ukraine, now as a country set on a firm course of democracy, human rights and the rule of law," said the letter, which was dated Tuesday.

The Nobel prize would also anchor the former Soviet republic as a modern European state and "a beacon and role model for democratic reforms" elsewhere.

Yushchenko has already been nominated for the world-famous prize by a group of Ukrainian academics for his peaceful fight for democracy.

While the Nobel Institute never reveals the identities of candidates, those entitled to submit nominations for the prize - including past laureates, members of parliament and cabinet ministers from around the world and some university professors - are allowed to disclose their suggestions.

The other signatories to the MEPs' cross-party letter included Elmar Broek, the German chairman of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee, and his Estonian deputy Toomas Ilves.

Poland's Marek Siwiec and Charles Tannock of Britain, respectively chairman and vice chairman of the parliament's Ukraine committee, also signed.