Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Alcee L. Hastings
Co-Chairman - Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe


I would also like to welcome our eminent witnesses to today’s hearing. I am extremely pleased that we are able to have this distinguished panel of experts addressing such a timely and pressing subject. This is an extremely complex topic and I will be listening with an open mind.

The issue we’re addressing today is of tremendous salience, really, throughout the OSCE region. Unfortunately, it is not possible in the course of a few hours to do justice to each and every country or region where inter-ethnic relations are of interest. I want to pay homage to the breadth of geographical expertise represented by our witnesses. At the same time, let’s be clear that there are countries or minority groups or inter-ethnic issues we cannot cover today, simply for lack of time. Nevertheless, we are interested in how this issue plays out throughout the whole OSCE region – whether we manage to talk about every nook and cranny today or not.

I do want to flag one particular concern which, I believe, exacerbates tensions within, between and among participating States: the practice of one country extending its citizenship to citizens of another country. I hope this will be discussed in the course of our hearing today, especially considering that the leadership of the newly elected Hungarian government has suggested it may seek to extend Hungarian citizenship to hundreds of thousands of citizens of other countries. We recall that some other OSCE participating States have gone down this path – sometimes leading to or at least contributing violent outcomes.

The war between Russia and Georgia in August 2008 had many causes, proximate and longstanding, including ethnic tensions However, the mass issuance of Russian citizenship to Georgian citizens exacerbated the tenuous relations between the two countries, as Ambassador Tagliavini makes clear in her report. . The High Commissioner on National Minorities has cautioned against the conferral of citizenship upon groups within another state, stressing that exercise of extra-territorial jurisdiction over populations in another state violates the principle of sovereignty.

The unresolved conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as the Transnistria region of Moldova, also continue to be fed by ethnic tensions. There is still pervasive fear and the threat of ethnically-based violent incidents in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. While there is no uniform means of resolving these situations, a genuine commitment to OSCE principles and the exercise of political will on the part of the stakeholders would further efforts toward an acceptable resolution to each conflict.

I look forward to hearing your views on these issues and your perspectives as to whether the ongoing Corfu Security Dialogue in Vienna has affected progress toward resolving inter-ethnic conflict in the region. I would also appreciate your views on whether the OSCE field mission in Georgia could have done more to mitigate the 2008 conflict. Thank you.