Hon. Alcee L. Hastings, Chairman
Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
June 3, 2008
HELSINKI COMMISSION CO-CHAIRMEN COMMENT ON THE CHALLENGES FACED BY MINORITY COMMUNITIES IN KOSOVO
Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), commented at a Commission hearing on the challenges minority communities face in Kosovo.
Testifying before the Commission was Ambassador Knut Vollebaek of Norway, High Commissioner for National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The hearing entitled, “The Challenges to Minority Communities in Kosovo,” examined Ambassador Vollebaek’s work regarding Kosovo and his recommendations for action by the Kosovar authorities as well as by Serbia, other OSCE States and the OSCE itself. Copies of all the statements and an unofficial transcript will be posted on the Commission’s website http://www.csce.gov
“It has been one year to the day since I first visited Kosovo,” Chairman Hastings noted. “I did so in order to decide for myself whether or not to support the Ahtisaari plan. I met with the Prime Minister at the time and many other prominent Kosovo leaders, but I also traveled to Serb communities in the south and to Mitrovica in the north. I also visited one of the UN-operated camps for displaced Roma in the north, which had essentially been condemned as a health hazard, as well as a temporary camp for the Roma and their rebuilt neighborhood in south Mitrovica. I came away with the view that the Ahtisaari plan not only reflected the will of the majority in Kosovo, but also provided the best possible deal for the minorities. While the visit gave me reason for hope, it also gave me reason for concern.”
Co-Chairman Cardin added that, “in the last year, from the unveiling of the Ahtisaari plan through Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February, we were compelled to focus on status...It is my hope, however, that with this hearing we can return to our focus on standards, and specifically the rights and privileges for minority communities in Kosovo. Even for those of us who have supported the recognition of Kosovo’s independence, implementation of the Ahtisaari provisions regarding minorities was part of the package.”
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.
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