Media Contact: Ben Anderson
(Washington) - The leadership of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) today welcomed the decision by the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to close its missions in Estonia and Latvia, effective December 31, 2001.
“The governments of Estonia and Latvia have demonstrated their commitment to the principles embodied in their respective mission mandates, and this decision is an acknowledgment of that fact,” said Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO). “Closure of the missions will allow the OSCE to spend its limited resources in countries that need more assistance in fulfilling OSCE commitments.” Chairman Campbell has met with high-level officials from both countries and argued for closure of the missions.
“This is a welcome and timely decision,” said Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ). “Any fine tuning that remains to be done, and I understand this is the case with the Latvian mission, can be accomplished through appropriate consultations and monitoring. I urge the Latvian Government to take care of that detail.”
“The seriousness with which the governments of Estonia and Latvia took their OSCE obligations and their willingness to work with the OSCE missions is another indication of their commitment to democracy, human rights, and rule of law,” said Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD).
The OSCE missions to Estonia and Latvia were established in the early 1990s to assist in resolving problems associated with the thousands of former Soviet citizens, primarily Russian speakers, who did not qualify for citizenship in the respective countries.
The Russian Government opposed closure of the missions and continues to claim that the non-indigenous population suffers discrimination as a result of Estonian and Latvian domestic policies. In a statement at the OSCE Permanent Council session on the Latvian mission, the Russian delegation claimed that the OSCE is “bankrupt” in the human dimension sphere and that henceforth Russia would put its efforts into the Council of Europe.
The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce. More information about the Commission is available on its web site, http://www.csce.gov