By Chadwick R. Gore
CSCE Staff Advisor
An eight-member bipartisan congressional delegation participated in the Twelfth Annual Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA). The annual meeting was hosted by the Parliament of The Netherlands in Rotterdam, July 5-9. The theme for the Rotterdam Assembly was "The Role of the OSCE in the New Architecture of Europe."
United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) led the U.S. Delegation. Other Commissioners among the delegation participants included Ranking Member Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA), Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY), Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (R-AL), and Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL). House Minority Whip Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Diane E. Watson (D-CA) were also members of the delegation.
The U.S. Delegation--authorized by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL)--participated fully in the critical debates on a wide range of human rights and security issues. The delegation's active presence demonstrated the continued commitment of the U.S. Congress to our relationship with Europe and the mutual interests and threats which we face.
At the opening Standing Committee meeting, Chairman Smith presented to OSCE PA President Bruce George of the United Kingdom an invitation from Speaker Hastert for the Assembly to meet in the United States in July 2005. The offer to host the Assembly was warmly and enthusiastically received.
Commissioner Hastings continued his responsibilities as one of the Assembly's nine Vice Presidents. One highlight for the U.S. Delegation was the election of Commissioner Cardin as Chair of the General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment. The Ad Hoc Committee on Transparency and Accountability, chaired by Rep. Hoyer, heard reports from President Bruce George and Ambassador Andreas Nothelle, OSCE PA Special Representative in Vienna, on developments in the working relations between the governmental and parliamentary dimensions of the OSCE.
Members of the U.S. Delegation held bilateral discussions with colleagues from numerous delegations, including the Russian Federation, Hungary, and Israel. Chairman Smith participated in a roundtable discussion on "Combating Anti-Semitism" as well as a session focused on supporting embattled democratic forces in the Republic of Belarus. The U.S. Delegation also met with leading opposition figures from Central Asia. Ambassador Stephan M. Minikes, Chief of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE, briefed Members on the importance of congressional involvement in advancing democracy, human rights, and the rule of law within the framework of the 55-nation Organization.
This year's Assembly brought together nearly 270 parliamentarians from 52 OSCE participating States, representatives from four Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation and two Partners for Cooperation. Representatives from a host of inter-parliamentary bodies, including the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, European Parliament, and the Interparliamentary Union of the CIS, also were present. Seven countries, including Germany, Georgia and the Russian Federation, were represented at the level of Speaker of Parliament or President of the Senate.
Prior to the Inaugural Plenary Session, the Standing Committee gathered to hear reports on various upcoming Assembly activities as well as reports by the Treasurer and the Secretary General. The opening plenary included welcoming addresses by the President of the Dutch Senate, the President of the Dutch House of Representatives, Dutch Vice-Prime Minister Gerrit Zalm, and OSCE Chairman-in-Office Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The President of the Assembly, OSCE PA President George, presided.
Members of the U.S. Delegation actively participated in the work of the three committees, and the delegation was successful in securing adoption of several supplementary items and amendments. U.S.-sponsored resolutions were: Combating Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century (Rep. Smith); Combating Trafficking and Exploitation of Children (Rep. Smith); Renewing the OSCE Partnership (Rep. Hoyer); Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation (Rep. Cardin); and, Welcoming Afghanistan as a new Partner for Cooperation (Rep. Cardin).
Two supplementary items were particularly contentious for U.S. Delegation members: one on the International Criminal Court and another concerning the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. Both offered the possibility for severe criticism of the U.S. policy in these matters, an opportunity that was taken with great relish by some European and Canadian parliamentarians.
Work in the Assembly's three General Committees--Political Affairs and Security; Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment; and Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions--focused on the central theme with debate on the Supplementary Items assigned to the respective committees. Members of the U.S. Delegation actively participated in the work of the three committees, and the delegation was successful in securing adoption of several U.S.-sponsored amendments concerning internally displaced persons, property restitution, and fighting corruption through organizations such as the Southeast Europe Cooperative Initiative.
The General Committee on Political Affairs and Security addressed Supplementary Items on Belarus (Zapf, Germany); Peace in the Middle East: The Protection of the Holy Basin of Jerusalem (Pacini, Italy); and, OSCE Peacekeeping Operations (Kessler, Italy). Commissioner Cardin, who had worked extensively over the past year in an attempt to address fundamental concerns with the text of the Holy Basin resolution, was successful in having the measure tabled until next year. The other two resolutions were passed. The Committee elected Chair Göran Lennmarker (Sweden), Vice-Chair Panayotis Kammenos (Greece), and Rapporteur Clifford Lincoln (Canada).
The General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment addressed the Supplementary Items on Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation (Rep. Cardin); Combating Trafficking and Exploitation of Children (Rep. Smith); and, The Role of the OSCE towards the Great Europe (Pacini, Italy). The Committee elected as Chair Rep. Cardin, Vice-Chair Monika Griefahn (Germany), and Rapporteur Leonid Ivanchenko (Russia).
The General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions addressed the following Supplementary Items: Combating Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century (Rep. Smith); Moldova (Kiljunen, Finland); International Criminal Court (Tingsgaard, Sweden); and, Prisoners Detained by the United States at Guantanamo Base (Søndergaard, Denmark). The Committee elected as Chair Elena Mizulina (Russia), Vice-Chair Svend Robinson (Canada), and Rapporteur Nebahat Albayrak (Netherlands).
Throughout the Session the Assembly's Ad Hoc Committees on Transparency and Accountability, Belarus, Moldova and Abkhazia held side meetings to discuss current and upcoming activities. President George also chaired a Special Meeting on the Mediterranean, attended by Members of the PA, parliamentarians of the OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation, and Ambassador Ivo Petrov, Chairman of the OSCE Contact Group with the Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation in Vienna.
On the final day of the Annual Session, the Assembly unanimously re-elected Bruce George, the Chair of the Defense Committee of the British House of Commons, as its President for a second and final one-year term, and Senator Jerry Grafstein of Canada as Treasurer for a second two-year term. The Assembly elected four new Vice Presidents: Nino Burjanadze (Georgia), Giovanni Kessler (Italy), Tone Tingsgaard (Sweden), and Nevzat Yalcintas (Turkey). Vice President Tingsgaard was appointed by President Bruce George as the new OSCE PA Special Representative on the Gender Issue.
Finally, the Standing Committee agreed that the Thirteenth Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will be held next July 5-9 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
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.