By Alex T. Johnson, Policy Advisor, U.S. Helsinki Commission
Marlene Kaufmann, General Counsel, U.S. Helsinki Commission
Troy C. Ware, Policy Advisor (CBCF Fellow), U.S. Helsinki Commission
Christian Sy, Legislative Assistant, Office of Congressman Alcee L. Hastings
United States Representative Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Co-Chairman of the United States Helsinki Commission (CSCE) and Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), recently convened the “CSCE Seminar on OSCE Mediterranean Partner Engagement,” July 22 and 23 at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. The seminar hosted more than 50 participants from the OSCE Mediterranean Partner States of Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia, as well as Members of the United States Congress, U.S. government officials, non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives, and special guests.
Delegations of the Mediterranean Partner States consisted of parliamentarians and representatives from their Washington-based diplomatic corps. Special guests included representatives of Greece, the current Chair-in-Office of the OSCE, and delegates from Kazakhstan which will chair the OSCE in 2010, staff representation of the OSCE and OSCE PA International Secretariats, as well as representation of the Swedish Presidency of the European Union.
Congressman Hastings opened the seminar with words of welcome for the Mediterranean Partners and special guests, and challenged them to use the event for a frank discussion and exchange of ideas on how to strengthen the OSCE’s partnership with its Mediterranean neighbors. He also chaired each session of the two-day event. Presentations were also given on the first day by OSCE PA President João Soares of Portugal, OSCE PA President Emeritus Göran Lennmarker of Sweden, OSCE PA Vice President Jerry Grafstein of Canada, Director of the Office of the OSCE Secretary General Paul Fritch, and Barry Pavel of the National Security Council. Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer hosted the delegation for a reception to conclude the first day of proceedings. The second day’s sessions included presentations by Dalia Mogahed of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, Ian Lesser of the German Marshall Fund, OSCE Personal Representative on Mediterranean Affairs Sotiris Roussos and additional contributions by OSCE PA President João Soares.
The opening session consisted of a panel discussion which began with remarks from Representative Alcee L. Hastings and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and OSCE PA Vice President. OSCE PA President João Soares, OSCE PA President Emeritus Göran Lennmarker, and OSCE PA Vice President Jerry Grafstein delivered keynote presentations for this panel. In sum, the presentations established a framework for the proceedings of the seminar by characterizing the historical developments of Mediterranean Partner engagement in the OSCE and identifying key priorities for enhanced engagement with the partners.
Representative Hastings stressed the importance of convening the seminar, specifically to return due prominence and functionality to the OSCE Mediterranean Dimension, which he has long advocated in the OSCE PA and during his recent tenure as its president. Hastings noted that similar goals have been recently prioritized by other multilateral institutions. Senator Cardin noted the considerable work of Helsinki Commissioners in the realm of OSCE Mediterranean Partner engagement through Congressional delegation visits to both current and potential partners as well as hearings in Washington. Cardin also emphasized what he sees as an opportunity to strengthen the OSCE’s relationship with its Partners for Cooperation by the addition of new regional partners in both the Mediterranean and in Asia, namely Lebanon, Syria, and Pakistan.
President Soares commended the emergence of several formal documents and proposals for empowering the partnership submitted by the Mediterranean Partners. Soares’ remarks centered around the importance of the OSCE as the most qualified international organization to address challenges within the OSCE region and its partners, proven through its successes in Central Asia and the Caucuses. He also emphasized the importance of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly which perpetuates that spirit of dialogue embodied in the Helsinki Final Act, whose principles he asserted will help achieve the goals of the countries of the Mediterranean region.
President Emeritus Lennmarker explored how the OSCE, as a key mechanism through which Europe engages its own persisting challenges, could serve as a powerful model for mitigating the tremendous economic, human, and political costs of conflicts in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. The President Emeritus cautioned against protectionism in the region and offered the enhancement of the OSCE Mediterranean Dimension as a vehicle to promote prosperity. The Opening Session concluded with remarks by Vice President Grafstein who urged the creation of regional trade agreements to spur economic growth and promote political stability in the region.
Working Meeting on OSCE Mediterranean Partner Engagement
OSCE Mediterranean Partner States continue to be actively engaged in the activities of the OSCE and send strong delegations to ministerial level gatherings and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly events. Mediterranean Partners also send delegations to OSCE election monitoring missions and participate in technical exchanges to build capacity. Recent years have seen an increase in opportunities for engagement by the Mediterranean Partners, but there are still a number of challenges to overcome. The working meeting of the seminar sought to explore methods to improve participation by the Mediterranean Partners and expand engagement in OSCE activities. Topics of discussion included prioritizing implementation of OSCE agreements related to the Mediterranean Partner States, identifying uses for the OSCE Partnership Fund, and procedures to increase engagement in the executive structures of the OSCE. Guiding questions for the discussion included:
- How can we prioritize implementation of the OSCE agreements and initiatives related to Mediterranean Partner States?
- What should be the priorities for the OSCE Partnership Fund?
- How can Mediterranean Partner States become more engaged in the executive structures of the OSCE and other tangible partnerships?
Paul Fritch of the OSCE Secretariat guided the working meeting by describing the mandate of the OSCE Partners for Cooperation and characterizing the current level of engagement by the Partner States. He identified key considerations and challenges that should be addressed, as well as the successes of Mediterranean Partner Engagement with the OSCE on matters of tolerance, anti-terrorism cooperation, and migration management.
Participants made the following recommendations:
- The Mediterranean Partners must translate their valued relationship with the OSCE into engagement across the entire span of work in all three dimensions of the OSCE – political-security, economic, and human – building on their successful contributions in anti-terrorism cooperation, migration management, and tolerance.
- The OSCE Partnership Fund should continue to be utilized to inspire ownership of the process of partnership. Specifically, the Fund should foster civil society engagement in the activities of the Mediterranean Partners and be used to promote Partner participation in all activities of the OSCE.
- The OSCE must build synergy with other regional cooperation mechanisms such as NATO, the European Union, and others, as well as promote cooperative initiatives affiliated with these institutions. The OSCE must clearly negotiate its role and articulate its contributions to the States engaged in the Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation. Currently, extensively overlapping mandates with other international initiatives inhibits the potential for tangible achievements of the Partnership.
- Expectations of engagement from Mediterranean Partners States must be clearly defined, especially the role of parliamentarians. Appropriate measures should then be taken to facilitate further engagement. Inversely, the OSCE must clearly define what it gains from the engagement of the Mediterranean Partners States.
- Efforts should be made to promote appropriate diplomatic exchanges with the OSCE through a formalized mechanism, internship, or fellowship to offer training to the diplomatic corps and civil service of Mediterranean Partner States regarding the principles of the Helsinki Process, the organization and functions of the OSCE and the potential to use OSCE institutions and mechanisms to promote economic development and political stability.
- Opportunities for support and consultation from the various institutions and offices of the OSCE should continue to be explored. Such partnerships should include (but are not limited to) engagement with the Office of the Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, ODHIR, Strategic Police Matters Unit, Gender Unit, Office of the Coordinator for Environmental and Economic Activities, Office of the High Commissioner on National Minorities, and the Office of the Special Representative on the Freedom of the Media.
- Increased Mediterranean Partner engagement in the Environmental and Economic Dimension of the OSCE should be further explored, particularly with respect to water security and water management, as well as trade enhancement. Mechanisms to promote regional food security should also be examined.
- Cooperation among the Mediterranean Partners must be strengthened prior to consideration of additional States for entry as partners of the OSCE; specifically, the Partnership could be utilized for the implementation of confidence building mechanisms.
- Efforts should be made to galvanize the potential of the OSCE Mediterranean Partnership as a forum to expand political will for reconciliation of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Session 1: Expert Seminar on Security in the Mediterranean
The engagement of OSCE Mediterranean Partners in the activities of the OSCE has largely emphasized opportunities for cooperation and capacity development on hard and soft security matters. The most recent 2008 OSCE Mediterranean Conference in Amman emphasized the importance of increased public diplomacy efforts, further cooperation with civil society in counter-terrorism efforts, and enhanced cooperation with other regional cooperation mechanisms. Barry Pavel of the National Security Council engaged participants on the regional security priorities of the Obama Administration and the outlook for regional initiatives. Points for this discussion included:
- What developing transnational trends (environmental, economic, demographic, energy/resource scarcity) are of most concern to Mediterranean Partner States from a broad security perspective?
- What particular challenges and opportunities arise from the blurring between clearly foreign and domestic policy security issues?
- How can engagement with other regional cooperation mechanisms, such as NATO and the European Union, increase the security of the Mediterranean Partner States?
Key recommendations and themes emanating from this session included:
- President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech was recognized as a noteworthy start to the United States’ relations with the countries of the Middle East. However, quick action is required for the momentum to be maintained. The speech expressed many concerns shared by people in the Arab world. More specifically, the time frame for peace talks is critical for a number of reasons. In January, 2010 the term of the current Palestinian Authority Chairman ends. Moreover, experience has shown that the first year of an American presidency is the time for action. Afterwards, other items on the President’s agenda will demand more attention.
- Food security, the financial crisis, immigration, and development are priority issues for the region that must not be neglected. Answers must be sought as to why people are risking their lives to leave their countries.
- The Obama Administration should not reverse course on free trade with the region. Prior U.S. leadership in free trade compelled other nations to engage the Middle East in trade.
- The OSCE should be used to assist in the peace process and economic development for the region. The U.S. must appoint an ambassador to the OSCE quickly.
- Europe has a critical role to play. Economic engagement must be stepped up and protectionist urges resisted. The rise of Islamophobia is also a problem Europe must address to promote mutual understanding and security in the Mediterranean Region and beyond.
Session 2: Expert Seminar on Current Issues in the Mediterranean: “Youth of the OSCE Mediterranean Partners: Assets, Challenges, and the Way Forward”
Youth throughout the OSCE Mediterranean Partner States are often seen as a demographic time bomb, making up a 40-60% of their nation’s population. This session of the seminar emphasized the solidarity of the Mediterranean Partners in addressing the current demographic needs. Dalia Mogahed of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies helped the participants conceptualize the young men and women of the region as its greatest resource and defined strategies for harnessing their energy to promote prosperity. Questions addressed in this session:
- What are the main assets of this group on which to build?
- What challenges do they face in contributing to their society?
- What recommendations does the research suggest will best unleash their potential?
Key recommendations and themes emanating from this session included:
- Conduct studies throughout the OSCE Mediterranean Partner region to further investigate issues relevant to youth and identify challenges and country-specific solutions to providing a quality education, requisite job training, essential computer skills, access to capital for entrepreneurship, student exchanges, and opportunities for dialogue with government leaders while ensuring freedom and democracy.
- Strengthen the relationships between OSCE Mediterranean Partner States, the Arab League, and organizations that conduct these studies, e.g. the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt, and share findings and recommendations in the Arab League’s Annual Report.
- Address the inadequacies of the education system in each of the OSCE Mediterranean Partner States and make comprehensive reforms to ensure that all graduates have the education necessary to attain jobs that maximize their potential, utilize their assets, allow them to contribute to their societies, and help realize their personal and professional goals.
- Increase access to job training while reevaluating its role in respect to education.
- Consult and engage youth in the OSCE Mediterranean Partner States about issues important to them, especially concerning conflict, through youth councils and provide them with opportunities for continuing dialogues with government leaders.
- Listen to the concerns and recommendations of other countries within the OSCE and around the world concerning issues of mutual interest and share innovative ideas.
- Consider declaring 2010 a “world year” and hold a youth conference under the auspices of the United Nations to affirm global values.
- Invest in programs together with the private and public sectors to provide cell phones, computers, and Internet access to communities and schools to increase computer literacy and close the digital divide.
- Bring computers, computer skills, Internet connectivity, job training, and jobs to rural areas in the Mediterranean.
- Reduce government and market corruption, as well as nepotism in each of the OSCE Mediterranean Partner States.
- Simplify the bureaucratic process for entrepreneurship and increase access to capital.
- Address different levels of freedom and democracy in each of the OSCE Mediterranean Partner States.
- Continue to collect accurate and useful data that reflects the needs and desires of youth in the OSCE Mediterranean Partner States in order to drive effective policy development by governments and practical engagement with the private sector.
- Promote student exchange programs for students of all ages to foster understanding, solidarity, and the sharing of ideas between the youth of the OSCE Mediterranean Partner states and the world.
Session 3: Expert Seminar on Current Issues in the OSCE Region
In recent years, OSCE Mediterranean Partner States have had an opportunity to contribute to ministerial documents and proposals on reform of the OSCE. However, appropriate venues for the Mediterranean Partners to offer their perspectives on challenges, conflicts, and priorities within the OSCE region remain infrequent. Topics explored in this session included:
- What experiences in security cooperation among the Mediterranean Partners inform current initiatives in the OSCE region?
- What partnerships and exchanges within the OSCE and beyond can be prioritized to offer expertise from Mediterranean Partners to confront challenges within the OSCE region?
Ian Lesser of the German Marshall Fund of the United States facilitated this session to provide an opportunity for Mediterranean Partner delegations to offer their expertise and experience to assist in confronting challenges within the OSCE region. He specifically characterized shared challenges in security between the OSCE region (consistency of capitalization) and Mediterranean Partners, as well as the outlook for their combined geopolitical region. This outlook consisted of future challenges in maritime security, migration, resource conflicts, cascading nuclear and arms proliferation, as well as environmental degradation. The discussion evolved into further exploration of mechanisms for cooperation between the Mediterranean Partners and the OSCE participating States, building on the themes of the Working Meeting on the first day of the seminar.
Key recommendations from this session included:
- Capacity development for institutions facilitating cooperation must be prioritized. Frequent opportunities for dialogue exist within the multiplicity of “Mediterranean” frameworks affiliated with the European Union, NATO, and other international organizations. Capacity development for institutions affiliated with these international organizations should focus on avoiding a duplication of efforts and extensive competition over resources.
- New institutions for cooperation do not need to be developed. Existing institutions must be utilized in a more rational and effective manner throughout the OSCE region.
- Increased commercial activity and resource exchanges among the OSCE participating States and with their Mediterranean Partners would promote regional stability.
- The participating States of the OSCE should recognize the unique expertise of the Mediterranean Partners in thwarting challenges to maritime security and generate alliances and technical exchanges to address piracy and other security concerns.
Participants in the CSCE Seminar on OSCE Mediterranean Partner Engagement synthesized their perceptions of the seminar during the final session of the seminar. Conclusions offered by the participants included:
- The success of cooperative initiatives between the OSCE and the Mediterranean Partners will require greater leadership and agenda development from the Mediterranean Partners.
- Distinguishing appropriate and distinct roles for the various regional cooperation mechanisms in the Mediterranean region will be contingent on robust participation from the Mediterranean Partner delegations in the meetings and planning discussions of the different entities.
- More tangible progress toward cooperation will be made between the OSCE and the Mediterranean Partners if events and conferences have a singular focus, rather than attempting to address all aspects of human security. Fewer priorities that are clearly articulated will make conferences more manageable and implementation more effective.
- A platform should be developed for closer OSCE institution interaction with regional cooperation mechanisms for the Southern Mediterranean and the Middle East.
- Micro-institutions or taskforces must be developed for the implementation of agreed upon initiatives and recommendations emanating from conferences.
U.S. Helsinki Commission Hearing – “Future of the OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation”
Following the CSCE Seminar on OSCE Mediterranean Partner Engagement, an official hearing of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe was convened. This hearing established an official record in the United States Congress for the proceedings of the seminar, with a particular emphasis on how participation mechanisms for OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation can be optimized and improved to promote greater regional cooperation. Ambassador William Hudson, Deputy Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Mr. Sotiris Roussos, Personal Representative on Mediterranean Affairs to the Greek Chair-in-Office of the OSCE, and the Honorable João Soares, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, all testified before the U.S. Helsinki Commission during this hearing. Commissioners participating included Chairman Benjamin L. Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman Alcee L. Hastings (FL-23), Representative Robert Aderholt (AL-4), Representative Darrel Issa (CA-49), and Representative Mike McIntyre (NC-7). Representative Gwen Moore (WI-4) of the Committee on Financial Services and Committee on Small Business also participated in the hearing.
The hearing reiterated the recommendations emanating from the CSCE Seminar on OSCE Mediterranean Partner Engagement within the context of U.S. policy toward the region and priorities of the current leadership of the OSCE and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Witness recommendations included:
- Recognition of the role of the OSCE and its Mediterranean dimension for its potential to develop capacity for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East. The activities and events of the OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation generate one of the few spaces in which Israeli and Arab officials can convene open dialogue and consistently cooperate.
- The United States government looks forward to engaging the Mediterranean Partners on the reintegration of Iraq into the community of nations and on ways to resolve tension over oil and gas supply and demand issues in Eastern Europe.
- The United States government looks forward to further partnership with the Mediterranean Partners on migration, counter-terrorism, economic cooperation, and regional security.
- The United States government has contributed to the OSCE Partnership Fund to support NGO involvement in Mediterranean Partner events and Mediterranean Partner delegation and government training on human rights work in Warsaw through the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Support for similar efforts should continue.
- The prospect of a separate Helsinki Process for the Middle East or an Organization for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East has been an idea circulated in recent years, but the use of a consensus process like that of the OSCE might not be optimal for the region.
- The Mediterranean Partners and other countries in the region have been involved in various regional organizations and processes revolving around similar core issues of the political military environment, the regional economy, and human development. More diverse priorities must be articulated by any division of labor that might be negotiated among international organizations and process.
- A mechanism or standing committee to facilitate coordination and collaboration among the principal international organization processes and dialogues in the Mediterranean region should be developed to prevent the duplication of initiatives and counter diminishing regional interest.
- A renewed focus on the environment and the economy in the Mediterranean region through the OSCE framework would help build capacity for cooperation and common ground for a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict and other Middle East security challenges.
- The expansion of markets, global communication infrastructure development, and improved educational access within the Mediterranean Partner States present greater opportunities for regional economic cooperation.
- The Arab-Israeli conflict greatly influences Mediterranean Partner engagement. Thus, regardless of outcome, a prompt response on the request of the Palestinian Authority’s request to join the OSCE Mediterranean Partner should be prioritized. Some believe that inclusion of the Palestinian Authority would expand a paradigm of confidence building and conflict resolution.
- The visibility of the OSCE Mediterranean Partnership should be enhanced and coupled with an expansion of initiatives to engage young leaders and young diplomats from the Mediterranean region.
- OSCE Partnership Fund initiatives should be coordinated for tangible results and mutual benefit of OSCE participating States and Mediterranean Partners.
- The flexibility and capacity for adaptation makes the OSCE one of the best international instruments for conflict resolution and it should be further utilized in the Mediterranean region.
- OSCE engagement can help advance the role of parliamentarians within Mediterranean Partner States.
- The OSCE Partnership Fund should be utilized for initiatives to empower women and promote entrepreneurship.
- Mediterranean Partner delegations should continue to be engaged in OSCE region election observation efforts and consider more frequent reciprocal exchanges.
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe Seminar on OSCE Mediterranean Partner Engagement achieved its intended purpose of generating a space in which the delegations of the Mediterranean Partner States could frankly engage the current and future leadership of the OSCE and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on ways to enhance participation in events, processes, and initiatives. The seminar also served as a forum for Partner State delegations to discuss potential collaborative opportunities with the U.S. Administration and Members of Congress. Congressman Alcee L. Hastings, Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Chairman of the Helsinki Commission committed to working with the OSCE and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly leadership and international secretariats to implement the recommendations of the seminar. Congressman Hastings also committed to travelling once again in the coming year to the Mediterranean Partner States to follow up on the discussions of the seminar.