Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: The Honorable George V. Voinovich
Commissioner - Helsinki Commission

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I would like to thank the chairmen for scheduling this hearing today to examine U.S. policy toward the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). I am glad to have the chance to be here, and I look forward to hearing the testimony of our witnesses.

I continue to believe that the OSCE does crucial work to promote human rights and democracy in Europe and Eurasia. I have been pleased to participate in the annual meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly during the last four years.

While the Parliamentary Assembly meetings are just one part of the OSCE’s overall agenda, I believe they serve as a vital forum where we, as United States lawmakers, are able to come together with our counterparts in 54 other OSCE Participating States to discuss pressing human rights issues facing the international community.

At the meeting this year in Berlin, we examined the role that the OSCE can play in the global war on terrorism. We also discussed items that have been on the OSCE’s agenda for many years --- such as organized crime, corruption, money laundering and the trafficking of arms, drugs, and human beings. The significance and urgent need to pay attention to these growing problems has been heightened in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.

Also on the agenda in Berlin was a separate session to highlight an alarming increase in anti-Semitic violence in Europe. At the meeting, co-chaired by Germany and the United States, members of the international community came together to call attention to the growing problem, and to call on OSCE Participating States to take action. In addition, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution on anti-Semitic violence in the OSCE region, which condemned the escalation of anti-Semitism, recognized the danger of anti-Semitic violence to European security, and urged participating states to bolster the importance of combating anti-Semitism --- by taking action to direct law enforcement to complete thorough investigations of anti-Semitic criminal acts, holding follow-up seminars to explore effective measures to prevent anti-Semitism, and condemning anti-Semitism in their countries and in regional and international forums.

Many of us believe this issue must stay on the front burner. I encourage the OSCE to devote one of the three supplementary Human Dimension meetings next year to the subject of anti-Semitism in the OSCE region. I am also hopeful that at next year’s session of the Parliamentary Assembly, delegates can report back on the action they have taken to combat anti-Semitism in their respective countries.

Additionally, I have continued to pay close attention to the work that the OSCE is doing in southeast Europe. In Berlin, the Parliamentary Assembly passed a resolution, which I sponsored, that recognized continued challenges in the region and urged the international community to remain engaged to promote peace and stability in southeast Europe. It expressed support for ongoing democratic reforms, and recognized progress that has been made in countries in the region, including Macedonia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and others. It also called on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to cooperate fully and unreservedly with the War Crimes Tribunal.

I am pleased that the OSCE remains active in efforts to promote stability in the region. In May, I had the opportunity to visit with the Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Pascal Fieschi, during a trip to Pristina. We talked about the “benchmark goals” released by the UN Mission in Kosovo, which call for continued efforts to promote respect for human rights in Kosovo. I encouraged Ambassador Fieschi to monitor progress on the implementation of these goals, and to use them as a guide for assessing where we should redouble our efforts.

During my meeting with Ambassador Fieschi, we also discussed the vital work that his team is doing to promote democratic reform and respect for human rights in Kosovo. They were encouraged with voter participation in parliamentary elections last November, when members of Kosovo’s minority communities came to the polls to cast their ballots. Right now, the OSCE team in Kosovo is focused on the October 26th municipal elections, and they have been working hard to again encourage all eligible voters to exercise their right to vote. They are also engaged in efforts to promote respect for human rights and to improve the situation for all of Kosovo’s citizens, including minority groups. I believe their work is a crucial component of the international community’s efforts to promote security and democracy in Kosovo.

I also spent time in Macedonia this spring, where OSCE staff members are monitoring the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which was signed by the Macedonian government and ethnic Albanian political parties in August 2001. The OSCE was also present for the parliamentary elections that took place on September 15, 2002, resulting in the peaceful transfer of power from Prime Minster Georgievski to Branko Crvenkovski. This is a major accomplishment, and it is important to the stability of Macedonia that the OSCE continue to monitor progress on efforts to uphold the Framework Agreement.

These initiatives are just a sampling of the OSCE’s involvement around the world, but I believe they make crucial contributions to efforts to promote human rights and the merits of democracy. I will continue to stay on top of the OSCE’s work in southeast Europe, as well as efforts to combat the perils of organized crime, corruption, and anti-Semitism in the OSCE region.

I am pleased that one of our former Ohio state troopers, who spent time working with the U.N. police force in Kosovo, has just joined the OSCE Special Police Matters Unit. His team is working to coordinate police missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and other places in the world, and hopes to improve upon them.

At the Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Berlin, we passed a resolution which urged the OSCE, working with the international community and regional initiatives such as the Southeastern European Cooperative Initiative (SECI) and the Stability Pact to prioritize the problems of organized crime, corruption and trafficking in human beings, arms and drugs, and to increase coordination to more fight these realities. I believe the work of the OSCE and this special unit is crucial in this effort. Sharing information and building upon best practices will go a long way in the world, and I believe it is crucial that the OSCE, working with the United States and the European Union, as well as groups like SECI and the Stability Pact, continue these important endeavors.

As a member of the Senate, I will continue to remain engaged with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. I am thrilled that our Ambassador to the OSCE, Stephan Minikes, has been very involved and active, and I look forward to working with our colleagues at the State Department and in the international community to promote respect for human rights at home and abroad.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.