Welcome remarks from the opening plenary session
founder, Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom
I would like to thank Mr. Verhofstadt and Mr. Schulz for their presentations. I’m very happy to be in this forum in the European Parliament representing the Boris Nemtsov Foundation. This is the third event run under the name of my father, the second in the European Parliament and the third in Europe, because on the day of my father’s birthday we had an event in Berlin. The people who help to organise this Forum are very important and I’m very thankful to ALDE, to EED, to Open Russia and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
Our efforts would be less important if we were not united in the name of Boris Nemtsov, so I would like to tell you about my father, the politician.
As you well know, he was a liberal politician in Russia and he made his liberal views very clear. In Russia anyone who speaks critically of Putin is described as a liberal. Members of parliament or the government working against monopolisation or violations of human rights are branded as liberals. But my father was a very balanced politician who adhered to the Russian constitution. Liberalism is currently rather out of fashion, and this is perhaps not only in Russia. My father was, of course, concerned with that, but for him convictions and principles were much more important than popularity. He was very popular in the 90s as governor of Novgorod Region, and as a man who contributed to stopping the war in Chechnya. He actually spoke out against Mr Yeltsin at the time, risking his career. He was the first Prime Minister in Russia to fight against the power of the oligarchs. He headed a faction in the Duma that voted for laws extending business relations, and he also initiated negotiations with people in the Dubrovka theatre during the Nord-Ost terrorist attack. He was in opposition but he was never in favour of the annexation of Crimea. He knew that more than 80% of people in Russia were in favour of this annexation, but he never wanted to follow the majority because he appreciated its consequences and as result he became a symbol of democratic Russia. He in fact unites all of us and I’m sure his name will unite us in the future.
In conclusion, Mr Schultz spoke about the investigation of my father’s assassination. It’s ongoing, but encountering great difficulties. The only thing we can do is to ask the European Parliament to appoint a special rapporteur to help expedite this investigation. I asked about this in the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, but nothing has happened so far. So I should like to repeat my appeal, to step up the pressure to appoint a rapporteur, because the Council of Europe parliamentary assembly’s mandate is to defend human rights. I hope that, jointly with the European Parliament, we will achieve this. I understand that being so low profile may be a mistake, but I hope that in future the situation will be rectified.