Floor Debate of H. Con. Res. 49 Condemning Anti-Semitism in Europe

Floor Debate of H. Con. Res. 49 Condemning Anti-Semitism in Europe

Hon.
Christopher Smith
Washington, DC
United States
House of Representatives
108th Congress
First Session
Congressional Record, Vol. 149
No. 95
Thursday, July 03, 2003
EXPRESSING SENSE OF CONGRESS THAT ESCALATION OF ANTI-SEMITIC VIOLENCE WITHIN PARTICIPATING STATES OF OSCE IS OF PROFOUND CONCERN AND EFFORTS SHOULD BE UNDERTAKEN TO PREVENT FUTURE OCCURRENCES

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution (H . Con . Res . 49 ) expressing the sense of the Congress that the sharp escalation of anti-Semitic violence within many participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is of profound concern and efforts should be undertaken to prevent future occurrences.

The Clerk read as follows:

H . Con . Res . 49

Whereas the expressions of anti-Semitism experienced throughout the region encompassing the participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have included physical assaults, with some instances involving weapons or stones, arson of synagogues, and desecration of Jewish cultural sites, such as cemeteries and statues;

Whereas vicious propaganda and violence in many OSCE States against Jews, foreigners, and others portrayed as alien have reached alarming levels, in part due to the dangerous promotion of aggressive nationalism by political figures and others;

Whereas violence and other manifestations of xenophobia and discrimination can never be justified by political issues or international developments;

Whereas the Copenhagen Concluding Document adopted by the OSCE in 1990 was the first international agreement to condemn anti-Semitic acts, and the OSCE participating States pledged to “clearly and unequivocally condemn totalitarianism, racial and ethnic hatred, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and discrimination against anyone as well as persecution on religious and ideological grounds”;

Whereas the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly at its meeting in Berlin in July 2002 unanimously adopted a resolution that, inter alia, called upon participating States to “ensure aggressive law enforcement by local and national authorities, including thorough investigation of anti-Semitic criminal acts, apprehension of perpetrators, initiation of appropriate criminal prosecutions and judicial proceedings”;

Whereas Decision No. 6 adopted by the OSCE Ministerial Council at its Tenth Meeting in Porto, Portugal in December 2002 (the “Porto Ministerial Declaration”) condemned “the recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the OSCE area, recognizing the role that the existence of anti-Semitism has played throughout history as a major threat to freedom”;

Whereas the Porto Ministerial Declaration also urged “the convening of separately designated human dimension events on issues addressed in this decision, including on the topics of anti-Semitism, discrimination and racism and xenophobia”; and

Whereas on December 10, 2002, at the Washington Parliamentary Forum on Confronting and Combating anti-Semitism in the OSCE Region, representatives of the United States Congress and the German Parliament agreed to denounce all forms of anti-Semitism and agreed that “anti-Semitic bigotry must have no place in our democratic societies”: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of the Congress that--

(1) officials of the executive branch and Members of Congress should raise the issue of anti-Semitism in their bilateral contacts with other countries and at multilateral fora, including meetings of the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Twelfth Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to be convened in July 2003;

(2) participating States of the OSCE should unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism (including violence against Jews and Jewish cultural sites), racial and ethnic hatred, xenophobia, and discrimination, as well as persecution on religious grounds whenever it occurs;

(3) participating States of the OSCE should ensure effective law enforcement by local and national authorities against criminal acts stemming from anti-Semitism, xenophobia, or racial or ethnic hatred, whether directed at individuals, communities, or property, including thorough investigation and prosecution of such acts;

(4) participating States of the OSCE should promote the creation of educational efforts throughout the region encompassing the participating States of the OSCE to counter anti-Semitic stereotypes and attitudes among younger people, increase Holocaust awareness programs, and help identify the necessary resources to accomplish this goal;

(5) legislators in all OSCE participating States should play a leading role in combating anti-Semitism and ensure that the resolution adopted at the 2002 meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Berlin is followed up by a series of concrete actions at the national level; and

(6) the OSCE should organize a separately designated human dimension event on anti-Semitism as early as possible in 2003, consistent with the Porto Ministerial Declaration adopted by the OSCE at the Tenth Meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in December 2002.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) each will control 20 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith).

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, anti-Semitism is a deadly disease of the heart that leads to violence, cruelty, and unspeakable acts of horror. The anti-Semite is, as Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel grimly wrote last week, an ideological fanatic and pathological racist: “An anti-Semite is someone who never met me, never heard of me, yet he hates me.”

While we all are aware and deplore the hate crimes and cowardly acts that are committed routinely by Hamas and their like-minded murderers, what is new, Mr. Speaker, is the enormous surge in anti-Semitic acts and the resurgence of hatred for Jews in Europe, the United States, and in Canada.

Just a brief look, Mr. Speaker, of some of the startling statistics makes the point. In France, for example, there was a 600 percent increase in anti-Semitic acts from the year 2001 to the year 2002. Thankfully, the French have moved with new legislation designed to not only chronicle and get a better handle on how often these hate crimes are occurring, but they are also trying to stop them.

The Anti-Defamation League, Mr. Speaker, did a survey that also showed a spike in five other countries of Europe. They found that 21 percent of the people in those five countries had strongly anti-Semitic perspectives or views. The ADL also looked at the United States and found that 17 percent of our own people in the United States had strong anti-Semitic views. If you extrapolate that, Mr. Speaker, that is about 35 million Americans. That is up 5 percent from just 5 years ago.

H . Con . Res . 49 recognizes this dangerous and alarming trend, condemns this ancient-modern scourge, and calls on each of the 55 countries that make up the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to take concrete steps to eradicate anti-Semitism. The resolution before us today is an unequivocal condemnation of violence against Jews and Jewish cultural sites, racial and ethnic hatred, xenophobia and discrimination, as well as persecution on religious grounds wherever it occurs.

The resolution calls on all the states of the OSCE to ensure effective law enforcement and prosecution of individuals perpetrating anti-Semitic violence as well as urging the parliaments of all those states to take concrete legislative action at the national level. We are encouraging, Mr. Speaker, the creation of education efforts to counter these anti-Semitic stereotypes and the attitudes that we are seeing increasingly among younger people. We are calling for an increase in Holocaust awareness programs, and seeking to identify necessary resources to accomplish these goals.

Mr. Speaker, as chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I chaired a congressional hearing and three international summits on anti-Semitism within the last year alone. Joined by my good friend and colleague from the German Bundestag, Gert Weisskirchen, at the three special summits, and my good friend and colleague, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cardin), who I thank as well for his good work on this, these summits have focused on this rising tide of anti-Semitism.

The summits, Mr. Speaker, were held in Berlin, in 2002; in Washington, in December of 2002; and in Vienna, earlier this year, in February. We heard from world renowned leaders, including Rabbi Israel Singer, President of the World Jewish Congress; Ambassador Alfred Moses, Abraham Foxman and Ken Jacobson of the Anti-Defamation League; Mark Levin from the NCSJ; Rabbi Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee; Dr. Shimon Samuels, director of the Weisenthal Center located in Paris; and many others, Amnesty International and other human rights’ organizations, all of whom made very powerful statements about this alarming rise of hate directed towards Jews.

Let me just quote for my colleagues what Dr. Samuels said, very briefly: “The Holocaust, for 30 years, acted as a protective Teflon against blatant anti-Semitic expression. That Teflon has eroded, and what was considered distasteful and politically incorrect is becoming simply an opinion. But cocktail chatter at fine English dinners can end as Molotov cocktails against synagogues. Political correctness is also ending for others, as tolerance for multiculturalism gives way to populist voices in France, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Portugal, and the Netherlands. These countries’ Jewish communities can be caught between the rock of radical Islamic violence and the hard place of a revitalized Holocaust-denying extreme right. Common cause must be sought between the victimized minorities against extremism and against fanaticism.”

Dr. Jacobson pointed out, and I quote, “Sadly, some European leaders have rationalized anti-Jewish attitudes and even more violent attacks against Jews as nothing more than a sign of popular frustration with events in the Middle East. Something to be expected, even understandable, they say.”

Mr. Speaker, we have been hearing more and more about this idea of pretext; that there is a disagreement with the policies of the Israeli Government, that somehow that gives license and an ability and permission for some people to hate the Jews themselves. We can disagree, as we do on this House floor. The gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cardin), and I have been working on this for years, and of course the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos). We disagree on some issues, but anti-Semitism? We do not hate. We do not use that as a pretext, as a front to promote hatred. That is exactly what is happening in Europe, in the United States, and in Canada.

Let me point out too that, as a result of these summits, we have come up with an action plan. Mr. Weisskirchen and I have signed it, it has been agreed to by our commissions, and we are trying to promote it among all our States. Again, education, trying to get parliaments to step up to the plate, and trying to make a meaningful difference to mitigate and hopefully to end this terrible anti-Semitism.

Last week, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings) and I joined Rudy Giuliani in Vienna for an OSCE assembly focused on anti-Semitism. We have been doing it in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, but now the OSCE itself has taken up this important cause. And it will be followed up with a meeting, most likely in Berlin next year, to focus on anti-Semitism so that we rally the troops all over the world, starting with Europe, the U.S., and Canada to say “never again.”

Let me also point out to my colleagues, and I thought his statement said it all, when Abraham Foxman, who gave riveting testimony at our Berlin conference, pointed out just recently in the Jerusalem Post, just a couple of days ago, and I would like to close with his statement, he said “Anti-Semitism is surging in the world to the extent unprecedented since the end of World War II. Europe must take seriously the ideology of anti-Semitism coming out of the Arab and Islamic world. It must denounce the deliberate targeting of Jews by terrorist groups, whether it be al Qaeda or Hamas. It must denounce the vicious anti-Semitic material in the Arab press and educational systems and call on Arab leaders to do something about it. It must understand that the Holocaust happened not only because Germany was taken over by the Nazis, who developed a massive military power to conquer most of Europe, but also by the complicity--active and passive--of other Europeans. Today, the great threat comes from the combination of the ideology of hatred with Islamic extremists to acquire weapons of mass destruction.” And then he bottom lines it and says, “Let Europe never again be complicit in developments of this kind.”

Mr. Speaker, this Congress needs to go on record in a bipartisan way, Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, Moderates, and Liberals to say anti-Semitism, never again, and we need to do it strongly today.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I rise in strong support of the resolution.

First, I want to commend my dear friend, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith), the chairman of our delegation to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, for his lifelong indefatigable and passionate advocacy of human rights, and his powerful opposition in all fora to anti-Semitism. We are all in his debt.

I also want to thank the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde), of the Committee on International Relations, for moving this legislation so expeditiously to the floor. And I want to thank my good friend, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cardin), the ranking Democrat on our OSCE delegation, for his outstanding work on behalf of all of the causes that the human rights community is interested in.

Mr. Speaker, as the only survivor of the Holocaust ever elected to Congress, I am acutely aware of the dangers of allowing anti-Semitism to go unchecked. The horrors of the Holocaust in World War II began with anti-Semitism. Growing up in Europe in the 1930s, I saw firsthand the horrendous results of anti-Semitic rhetoric, leading to the nightmare of anti-Semitic violence, and, ultimately, to the mass murder of 6 million innocent men, women and children.

Mr. Speaker, today, anti-Semitism in Europe, as well as in a number of other places in this world, is approaching the appalling levels that I personally experienced in the 1930s.

We cannot, we must not, and we will not sit idly by and ignore the sharp escalation of anti-Semitic rhetoric and anti-Semitic violence.

Our resolution notes that expressions of anti-Semitism in some European countries range from vicious propaganda to physical assaults, from the burning of synagogues to the desecration of cemeteries. Since the 1990 Copenhagen Concluding Document, a number of resolutions have been adopted by OSCE condemning anti-Semitism. In that spirit, I welcome this effort.

Our resolution urges officials of our executive branch and Members of Congress to raise the issue of anti-Semitism in their bilateral and multilateral meetings with all foreign government officials where appropriate and to condemn in the strongest possible terms not only anti-Semitism but racial and ethnic hatred, xenophobia, discrimination and religious persecution of all types. We urge all member countries of the OSCE to ensure effective law enforcement by local and national authorities against criminal actions stemming from anti-Semitism and other types of racial hatred.

Most importantly, our resolution calls upon all States to promote educational efforts to counter anti-Semitic stereotypes and attitudes and to dramatically increase Holocaust awareness. Our best ammunition in this fight against anti-Semitism is education.

Mr. Speaker, the battle against this age-old and horrendous mental sickness will not be easily won, but I believe the recognition of the problem and the call for actions to deal with it is the first critical step. I urge all of my colleagues to support this important legislation which serves to eliminate the outrage of hate-filled anti-Semitism.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as she may consume to the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen), the chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia.

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I am honored to be in the company of the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) in cosponsoring this resolution. I rise in support of its passage and ask my colleagues to vote in its favor as well.

Mr. Speaker, one of the essential lessons of the Holocaust is that words lead to murder, that the teaching of contempt and acceptance of bigotry and anti-Semitism can lead to genocide. Today, over 50 years after the horrors of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism has again become a disease spreading throughout the world. In recent years I have witnessed its resurgence, particularly through my work relating to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and legislative efforts concerning religious freedom in Europe.

At the commission, resolution after resolution, statement after statement are filled with the rhetoric of hatred, using the international fora to further promote and generate support for an anti-Semitic agenda, an agenda which condemns a freedom-loving people and a democratic nation, while many times legitimizing those regimes that torture, oppress, and subjugate their own people.

As the previous chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and as the current chair of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, and as cochair along with my colleague and friend the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) of the Congressional Task Force on Anti-Semitism, I have pressed European officials to take concrete steps to monitor, investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law crimes that are borne out of hatred for the Jewish people.

In January of this year, for example, Jewish leaders in France came to me with concern and anxiety about the increasing example of vandalism and personal attacks against rabbis in that country. I immediately called on the French foreign ministry officials and French parliamentarians to address this grave matter.

The situation in France, however, is only a microcosm of a growing problem that is sweeping throughout many OSCE states. While I will not delve into details because my colleagues, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), have already done so, I will simply note, as has been said, we must learn the lessons and the mistakes of the past, or we are condemned to repeat them.

This is why it is imperative that we take immediate action to prevent further escalation of anti-Semitism and related violence, to help ensure that the evil of the Holocaust will never again be allowed to exist.

As Eli Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace laureate has said, “A destruction, an annihilation that only man can provoke, only man can prevent.” We can help prevent a repetition of history, and we can begin here today by voting in favor of this resolution. Let us adopt House Concurrent Resolution 49 and convey the commitment of the U.S. House of Representatives to work with our allies to confront and combat anti-Semitism and eradicate it from its roots.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cardin), the distinguished ranking Democratic member of the Helsinki Commission, who has demonstrated a passionate commitment to human rights and on all of the issues that that commission works with.

Mr. CARDIN. Mr. Speaker, let me first thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos). There is no Member of this body who has done more in his lifetime to fight anti-Semitism than the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), and I congratulate him for his effective leadership against anti-Semitism here and around the world.

I also want to thank the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith), who is the chairman of our OSCE delegation. I have the honor of being the ranking Democratic member. The gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), who will be speaking shortly, is one of the commissioners. We have made the fight against anti-Semitism a top priority of our delegation. We have been effective in making it a top priority within the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

We have done that because we have seen a rise of anti-Semitism, physical assaults on individuals solely because they are Jewish, desecration of Jewish cultural sites, propaganda in the media have all been on the rise. We must have a zero tolerance policy about anti-Semitism.

The OSCE Helsinki Commission provides a unique opportunity for us to fight anti-Semitism. It not only has in its membership all of the countries of Europe, Canada and the United States, but it has the participation of our Mediterranean partners, which include Israel, Egypt and Jordan. The OSCE Helsinki Commission has had a history of effectively dealing with human rights issues, so that is why the United States leadership has been effective in bringing about the forums to deal with anti-Semitism. I know there was just a meeting in Vienna that the gentleman from New Jersey (Chairman Smith) and the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings) participated in. We adopted in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly last year a very strong resolution against anti-Semitism as a result of the U.S. leadership, and we have signed a letter of intent with Germany to spell out specific actions that we need to take in order to fight anti-Semitism.

We can never justify anti-Semitic actions by international developments or political issues. We need to have an action plan to fight anti-Semitism. We need to have strong laws that are adopted by our member states and enforced. We need to speak out against anti-Semitism as parliamentarians. Silence is not an option. As all my colleagues have expressed, we need educational programs for our children. The resolution says we need to create educational efforts throughout the region encompassing the participating states of OSCE to counter anti-Semitic stereotypes and attitudes among younger people, increase Holocaust awareness programs, and help identify the necessary resources to accomplish this goal. Our children are our future. In many of these states, we are finding there are counterproductive programs promoting anti-Semitism.

We need a proactive agenda. This resolution puts this body on record in strong support of our resolution within OSCE to continue our commitment to support action plans to stamp out anti-Semitism. I urge my colleagues to support the resolution.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Maloney), who has been a champion not only of the fight against anti-Semitism but on behalf of all human rights causes.

Mrs. MALONEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this resolution, and I thank the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) for their extraordinary leadership on this important issue and so many others.

We are experiencing the worst outbreak of anti-Semitism in Europe since the end of Holocaust in 1945. Just under 60 years have passed since the defeat of Hitler and now swastikas have reappeared in Europe. They can be found sprayed on Jewish schools, drawn on gravestones in a desecrated Jewish cemetery, painted on the wall of a synagogue, and stitched on the flags of anti-Israel demonstrators, and in the hearts and minds of the people who attack rabbinical students and Jewish athletes.

When we allow intolerance and hatred to fester and flourish, we are faced with tragic consequences. Put simply, hatred, violence and prejudice must not be tolerated. Countries must speak out against anti-Semitic acts, but rhetoric is not enough. Words will not restore the hundreds of Jewish cultural and religious sites which have been burned, desecrated and destroyed throughout Europe, and words alone will not prevent these tragedies from happening again.

Governments and institutions must condemn these acts as we do today, and they must ensure effective law enforcement against them. They must also promote tolerance education for their children. There is no question teaching children about the horror and tragedy of the Holocaust and other tragedies will create a generation of youth who are less likely to commit hate crimes and who are more likely to mature into adults who will envision and work towards peaceful world relations.

When this body passes H . Con . Res . 49 , we will be spending a strong message to the world that anti-Semitism must be confronted and must be eradicated. I thank both leaders, particularly the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), for his extraordinary life commitment to ending anti-Semitism and for world peace.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), who has been throughout his congressional career and prior to that an indefatigable fighter for human rights.

(Mr. HASTINGS of Florida asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) for yielding me this time, and before I go forward, I would be terribly remiss if I did not point out that the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) has spent his lifetime in the struggle that some of us come to with equal passion, but not the clarity that he brings to the issue.

I also am happy to support the resolution offered by the chairman of the Helsinki Commission and to compliment the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) for his continuing work in the area of human rights and the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) as being a stalwart champion for human rights.

As Chairman SMITH has already mentioned, last week he and I had the privilege to represent the United States at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s conference on anti-Semitism. A footnote right there. That conference came about because the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith), the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer), the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cardin), myself and others on the Helsinki Commission along with colleagues in Europe brought it to the attention of the parliamentary assembly by way of resolution which we will introduce yet another resolution for follow-up purposes when we are in Rotterdam 1 week from now. But it was in this body that that conference’s seed was planted. The conference, which was the first of its kind, provided the OSCE’s 55 member states and NGOs with an opportunity to discuss ways in which governments can work to combat anti-Semitism within their borders and abroad.

Today’s resolution is an important symbolic statement of the House that the United States will not stand idly by while many European governments neglect a rise in anti-Semitism. We must work with our allies and not hesitate to apply pressure when needed to ensure that governments properly address increases in anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.

A few years ago, there were hopes that anti-Semitism was gradually declining and restricted to fringe elements such as neo-Nazis, white supremacists and certain conspiracy theorists. However, recent developments throughout much of Europe and the Middle East suggest that there is a resurgent anti-Semitism with a much broader base and message that resonates at an alarming level. Many European leaders have formally recognized the resurgence of anti-Semitism in their countries and have begun to take the necessary steps to stop this spreading virus. But still, more must be done to ensure that what occurred to the Jewish and minority communities in Europe during World War II will never happen again.

Sadly, Mr. Speaker, the fight against bigotry and xenophobia is an ongoing struggle as many of us know from our own personal experience. Last week when the gentleman from New Jersey and I were in Vienna, we heard from a woman whose name is Rosalia Abella of the Ontario Court of Appeals. As she noted in one of the more poignant statements made at that conference, “Indifference is injustice’s incubator.” Indeed it is.

Now is the time for the United States to be vocal and now is the time for the House to be active as it is today under the leadership of the gentleman from New Jersey and the gentleman from California. Today is not a day for complacency. If we remain silent, then there will be no tomorrow. We cannot legislate morality, we cannot legislate love, but we can teach tolerance and we can lead by example.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Shays).

Mr. SHAYS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the Smith-Cardin-Lantos resolution. I am a cosponsor of this resolution because I am deeply concerned about the surge of anti-Semitism in Europe and throughout other parts of the world, but particularly in Europe.

This is not a problem that simply can be monitored. It must be actively and aggressively dealt with, for we must never forget that just 60 years ago, Europe saw the worst scourge of systematic, government-ordained hatred, violence and murder in the history of mankind, in what was an unbelievable Holocaust.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has recognized and condemned anti-Semitic violence in its member states. At its parliamentary assembly in July 2002, the OSCE resolved to aggressively enforce laws and investigate anti-Semitic criminal acts. It is important that the United States openly support the OSCE’s resolution and actively encourage it to address hatred and prevent violence in Europe.

Mr. Speaker, there are several topics on which the United States and Europe disagree. There must be no disagreement, however, on the absolute right of the Jewish people to practice their religion freely and to live in peace and prosperity. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe should not only investigate anti-Semitic crimes but also promote and facilitate discussions that address the root causes of xenophobic hatred.

I encourage my colleagues and the administration to take advantage of bilateral meetings with our European counterparts to reaffirm our deep commitment to the prevention of violence in Europe.

I again thank the gentleman from New Jersey for bringing this resolution to the floor and urge its adoption.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Crowley), a distinguished member of the Committee on International Relations.

Mr. CROWLEY. I thank my good friend the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) for yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to strongly support this resolution, and I thank the gentleman from New Jersey for sponsoring this crucial piece of legislation. I am very aware of the danger of being inactive about the threat of anti-Semitism. It was anti-Semitism that was responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust, the most horrible crime committed against the Jewish people ever. Sadly, I have to say here today that nearly 60 years after the end of World War II, anti-Semitism in Europe, in many of the OSCE member states, is on the rise again. Once again we witness evil propaganda, physical attacks against Jews, the burning of Jewish sites and the desecration of synagogues. We must not stand aside and ignore this grave escalation of anti-Semitic violence and hatred.

This resolution addresses this threat. It particularly calls on administration officials and Members of Congress to focus on anti-Semitism in their bilateral and multilateral meetings. It calls upon OSCE member states to swiftly bring anti-Semitists to justice and to focus on educational endeavors to fight anti-Semitic stereotypes.

I would also like to point out that this piece of legislation is similar to a resolution I introduced last year. House Resolution 393 also addresses the anti-Semitic threat in the OSCE region. It urges European governments to provide security and safety of the Jewish communities, to prosecute and punish perpetrators of anti-Semitic violence, and to cultivate a climate in which all forms of anti-Semitism are rejected.

I was proud that my colleagues in Congress joined me in sending this message to the European Union, but we must go further. Anti-Semitism continues to fester throughout the OSCE region. This resolution is the right follow-up to my legislation that passed in the last Congress.

Mr. Speaker, the threat of anti-Semitism is looming large and our fight against it is far from over, but I believe that recognizing this problem and taking action is critical. I therefore urge all of my colleagues to strongly support House Resolution 49 sponsored by the gentleman from New Jersey. I would ask them all to vote for this resolution unanimously. I want to thank the gentleman from California again for his work on this resolution and all my colleagues in bringing this to the House floor.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from California (Mr. Rohrabacher).

Mr. ROHRABACHER. Mr. Speaker, I am proud to join the gentleman from New Jersey and the gentleman from California as I have over the years on many human rights issues, and this is a human rights issue. Racism, religious hatred, these are things that decent people must condemn and we must unite in our strong opposition wherever this type of vile behavior and vile thought patterns emerge. We must recognize that there are, however, people who exploit these type of negative feelings and this type of racial hatred. Anti-Semitism is perhaps the epitome of this ignorance and irrationality and mindless hatred and it is again raising its ugly head both in Europe and in the United States.

Let us note that over 10 years ago, a major political figure in the United States referred to New York City as “Hymietown.” What is important is the fact that he was winked at and that for 10 years after that statement, he still remained a recognized leader. That did tremendous harm in America’s black community. It sent a horrible message to young blacks and we are paying some of the price of an increased anti-Semitism today in our black community by mistakes that we made 10 years ago by not condemning that and other types of horrible remarks that should never have been made or accepted in our political debate.

In Europe today, we see that same kind of winking going on. Oh, yes, people are ignoring statements that are being made that are totally unacceptable to people who believe in civilized behavior and are opposed to this type of vile hatred, the vile hatred in relationship to their fellow man. This is an alarm bell today. I am very proud to stand here with the gentleman from California and the gentleman from New Jersey ringing the alarm bell. We are not going to sit idly by and wink at an increase in this level of hatred towards our Jewish friends nor towards any other minority in the Western democracies. The Western democracies, our friends in Europe, just like we in the United States, have to remain vigilant and it is up to us as leaders of this society and the democratic leaders in Europe to call to task those who would wink and would not condemn this type of vicious trend in their society. We can cut it short now. Let us stand together united against anti-Semitism and all such hatred.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to yield 2 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Frank).

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, in terms that we do not usually use on this floor but in terms that may be familiar to our friends in Europe, in the American context, I am a man of the left. I voted against the war in Iraq. I will vote for the resolution later about Israel’s right to respond to terrorism, but I will put into the Congressional Record Tom Friedman’s article urging them to think about prudence and restraint. I think the settlements are by and large a mistake. And I speak today in defense of this resolution, specifically to others on the left in Europe, many of whom have in my judgment been morally deficient in the obligation we have to speak out against prejudice and injustice across the board. Those who hold to liberal values have no moral right to put an ideological screen between victims and those values, and those on the left who use an excuse of a disagreement with the policy of the Sharon government or the Bush government or anybody else as a reason to be soft on anti-Semitism betray liberalism and betray its values.

By the way, with regard to the government of Israel, let me speak to the people on the left. I disagree with some aspects of its policy, but I staunchly defend its right to exist. But even more important, by every value that I as a liberal hold dear, the government and society of Israel is quite morally superior to any of its neighbors, and to focus only on those aspects of disagreement and to ignore its longstanding commitment to civil rights and civil liberties, in fact I think our society, the United States, has a good deal to learn from the society of Israel about how you deal with external threats and still show a respect for civil liberties.

I thank the gentleman from California and the gentleman from New Jersey for bringing this forward and the gentleman from Illinois for his support. I want to reiterate as a man on the left who shares a great deal of both general values and specific policy prescriptions with many on the left in Europe, I am appalled at those who fail to carry out our liberal principles fully and across the board. A vigorous and ongoing condemnation of anti-Semitism is a requisite part of that commitment.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

At the most recent conference that was held in Vienna, I just want to again thank the great work that Ambassador Minikes did, our Ambassador to the OSCE. He has worked very, very hard to help put together that anti-Semitism conference. He did an outstanding job. Ambassador Cliff Sobel, our Ambassador to the Netherlands, also worked very hard on it as well, as did many others in the State Department. It was a joint effort. Again I want to thank Rudy Giuliani for the good work he did in leading that.

Let me just also say that, Mr. Speaker, next week in Rotterdam we will have an OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and I plan on offering another resolution on anti-Semitism at that and hopefully we continue not only this dialogue but this outrage that we are expressing about intolerance. The more we raise our voices, the more we have mutually reinforcing policies, including good law, good law enforcement and hopefully a chronicling of these misdeeds so that law enforcement knows that they do indeed have a problem. This has been a particular problem in Europe, where hate crimes are committed and they are not attributed to the hate crimes that they represent.

The more we chronicle, the more we will see that there is an explosion of anti-Semitism in Europe. This is a good resolution. I thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), and I thank the gentleman and chairman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde) for moving this bill expeditiously through the committee and for his strong support for it.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from Nevada (Ms. Berkley), a distinguished member of the Committee on International Relations and a fighter for human rights.

Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) and the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) for putting this before our body.

I grew up hearing about anti-Semitism from my grandparents and my parents, things that I could not believe could have ever happened; but the anti-Semitism acts that they spoke of seemed like historic oddities to me, something from a distant time and a distant place. I never dreamed, never dreamed that anti-Semitism could ever rear its ugly head again during my lifetime or the lifetime of my children.

Especially after World War II, I thought Europe and the rest of the world had learned a very important and valuable lesson. I ran for Congress so that I could speak out against issues that I thought were horrific; and anti-Semitism, and its continued existence on this planet, is certainly something that I wish to speak out against. I am glad that we are condemning anti-Semitism in no uncertain terms and putting the United States Congress on record and speaking out forcefully against this horrible scourge and plague.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to reclaim my time for purposes of yielding the remainder of my time to the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer).

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Bass). Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from New Jersey?

There was no objection.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman has 1 minute.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer).

Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman of the Helsinki Commission for yielding me this time. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this very important resolution.

This is about anti-Semitism. But more broadly than that, it is about hate. It is about the human inclination from time to time to hate others who are different, to discriminate against others who are different, who have a different color of skin, who have a different religion, who have a different national origin. More human violence perhaps has been perpetrated in the name of those distinctions and prejudices and hate than any other.

It is important that we regularly and strongly and without equivocation speak out against those who would perpetrate and spread hate in our world, in our country, in our communities.

I thank the gentleman from New Jersey, and I thank my good friend, the gentleman from California, for their leadership on this issue. It is an appropriate statement for us to make as the representatives of a free and tolerant people.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Davis).

(Mr. DAVIS of Alabama asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. DAVIS of Alabama. Mr. Speaker, I do not want this debate to end without adding my voice in support of the resolution.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Nadler), a distinguished fighter for human rights.

Mr. NADLER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, many people thought that the Holocaust cleansed the Western world of anti-Semitism, that the catastrophe, the mass murder, and the genocide in the Holocaust caused the civilized world or at least the Western part of the civilized world to recoil in such horror that anti-Semitism would not be a major problem again. We now know that maybe it did that for a generation or two, but that the scourge of anti-Semitism is returning in great and terrible force in its ancient homeland of Europe and other places.

Today we have two major problems of anti-Semitism: in Europe and in the Muslim world. It is very appropriate that we adopt this resolution today to ask the governments of Europe through the OSCE and individually to crack down on anti-Semitism, to speak out against it, to act against it because many of the governments of Europe, many of the parts of the political left in Europe and elsewhere as well as the right have not done so. They ought to do so. And this resolution is fitting and appropriate to adopt today for that purpose. [Begin Insert]

Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H . Con . Res . 49 , expressing the sense of Congress that the sharp escalation of anti-Semitic violence within many participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is of profound concern and efforts should be undertaken to prevent future occurrences.

I begin by praising the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for their conference this past weekend devoted to the issues of anti-Semitism and how to combat it. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the largest regional security organization in the world with 55 participating countries from Europe, Central Asia, and North America. The OSCE has a comprehensive and cooperative approach to security, stressing preventative diplomacy and human rights.

The conference last weekend was the first high level OSCE conference devoted specifically to the issue of anti-Semitism. Over 400 government and nongovernment officials attended.

The conference took place at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace. This same location is where Hitler stood, 65 years ago, proclaiming Austria’s annexation to a cheering crowd of thousands. Sixty-five years later, what can we say about tolerance and diversity in Europe? What can we say about Human Rights worldwide? Specifically, 65 years after the beginning of the worst genocide in our time, what can we say we have learned about anti-Semitism and the horrors of racial hatred?

Much has changed since then. Yet today there are both overt and subtle versions of anti-Semitism, in the United States and abroad. Physical assaults, arson at synagogues and desecration of Jewish cultural sites are occurring. Unfortunately, government officials are not speaking harshly enough against them.

The conference on anti-Semitism opened a day after the Romanian Government retracted an earlier claim that “there was no Holocaust” on Romanian soil. In Greece, a recent newspaper cartoon had one Israeli soldier telling the other, “we were not in Dachau concentration camp to survive, but to learn.”

France has experienced a six-fold increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the space of a year. In Poland, the word “Jewish” is used as a term of abuse for Polish soccer fans. In other parts of Europe, claims are made that Jews had forewarning of the September 11th attacks at the Pentagon and World Trade Towers.

The existence of anti-Semitism has played throughout history as a major threat to freedom. Participating states of the OSCE should unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism, racial and ethnic hatred and xenophobia, and they need to be loud and clear in their message.

We cannot allow future generations to be taught a distorted view of history. Prejudice must be rooted out of textbooks, governments must speak out against these wrongdoings, and anti-Semitic actions must be classified as hate crimes. We also need to ensure effective law enforcement. Finally, we must promote the creation of educational efforts and we must increase Holocaust awareness. I abhor and stand against all forms of hatred.

If action had been taken in the 1930s, many lives could have been saved. There are so many lessons of history that need to be learned, lest they not be repeated. For that reason I support H . Con . Res . 49 .

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker: I will reluctantly vote in favor of this legislation, partly because it is simply a sense of Congress resolution. But I am concerned about this bill and the others like it we face with regularity on the floor of Congress. We all condemn violence against innocents, whether it is motivated by hatred, prejudice, greed, jealousy, or whatever else. But that is not what this legislation is really about. It is about the Congress of the United States presuming to know--and to legislate on--the affairs of European countries. First, this is the United States Congress. We have no Constitutional authority to pass legislation affecting foreign countries. Second, when we get involved in matters such as this we usually get it wrong. H. Con. Res. 45 is an example of us getting it wrong on both fronts.

This legislation refers to the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe as if it is a purely homegrown phenomenon, as if native residents of European countries are suddenly committing violent crimes against Jews. But I think we are only getting part of the story here. What is absent from the legislation is mention of the well-reported fact that much of the anti-Jewish violence in Europe is perpetrated by recent immigrants from Muslim countries of the Middle East and Africa. Reporting on a firebombing of a Synagogue in Marseille, France, for example, the New York Times quotes the longtime president of that region’s Jewish Council, Charles Haddad, as saying, “This is not anti-Semitic violence; it’s the Middle East conflict that’s playing out here.”

Therefore, part of the problem in many European countries is the massive immigration from predominantly Muslim countries, where new residents bring their hatreds and prejudices with them. Those European politicians who recognize this growing problem--there are now 600,000 Jews in France and five million Muslims--are denounced as racist and worse. While I do not oppose immigration, it must be admitted that massive immigration from vastly different cultures brings a myriad of potential problems and conflicts. These are complicated issues for we in Congress to deal with here in the United States. Yes, prejudice and hatred are evil and must be opposed, but it is absurd for us to try to solve these problems in countries overseas. [End Insert]

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) that the House suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution, H . Con . Res . 49 .

The question was taken.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. In the opinion of the Chair, two-thirds of those present have voted in the affirmative.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.

The yeas and nays were ordered.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX and the Chair’s prior announcement, further proceedings on this motion will be postponed.
 

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  • Helsinki Commission Summer 2021 Digital Digest

  • OSCE SHDM on Digital Technology and Human Rights

    OSCE Conference on Risks and Opportunities Posed by Digital Technologies On July 12 and 13, 2021, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) held the third Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDM) of the year, titled "Digital Technologies and Human Rights - Opportunities and Challenges." The virtual conference included representatives from 45 OSCE participating States; a dozen OSCE missions and institutions, including the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly; more than 140 academic, national, and non-governmental human rights institutions; and international organizations like the Council of Europe, European Union, and the United Nations. Digital technologies affect human rights, gender equality, and the rule of law, and in her opening remarks, Swedish Foreign Ministry Director-General for Political Affairs Elinor Hammarskjöld stressed the nexus between digital technologies and Swedish OSCE Chairpersonship-in-Office (CiO) priorities. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored how the digital divide disproportionately affects women and girls, she explained, and stressed the threat that widespread use of digital technologies can pose to fundamental freedoms if used indiscriminately by authorities. Panelists highlighted opportunities for digital technologies to benefit societies and human rights defenders, as well as dangers they can pose to human rights. Maia Rusakova, associate professor of sociology at St. Petersburg State University, warned that data collection technologies have facilitated online recruitment by human traffickers. However, facial recognition, artificial intelligence, and tracking blockchain financial transactions and social media activity could play a role in combatting the digital threats of human trafficking.  Susie Alegre, an associate at the human rights NGO Doughty Street Chambers, highlighted how cutting-edge data collection can raise awareness of threats to human rights, support investigations, facilitate positive social change, and support human rights defenders. Examples include Data 4 Black Lives, eyeWitness to Atrocities, Forensic Architecture, and Bellingcat. Elif Kuskonmaz, a lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, cautioned that misuse of facial recognition technology could pose threats to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech, and that it could be exploited to wrongfully detain citizens. To prevent such abuse, she recommended that participating States adopt adequate legal frameworks concerning the collection, use, storage, and sharing of personal data. She urged all participating States to review the Council of Europe's Convention 108+, which addresses personal data collection in a national security context. Other panelists explored the capacity of artificial intelligence systems to reinforce existing structural inequalities through algorithms and the subsequent human rights implications. Civil Society Concerns about Government Use—or Abuse—of Digital Technology Civil society participants shared human rights concerns related to governmental use of digital technologies. Many urged the OSCE to call out repressive behavior and help participating States establish adequate legal protections against misuse. Several urged the United States and the European Union to target sanctions against the worst offenders. Many participants also took the opportunity to raise human rights concerns directly with government officials, and alleged misuse of data collected by government agencies to persecute human rights defenders, social activists, and their families.  For example, civil society activists from Kazakhstan accused the government of conducting digital surveillance and censorship on NGOs and activists, and they complained that mandatory “security certificates” allow the government to monitor and block use of non-government-controlled social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Other NGOs raised concerns about Spain's treatment of protesters in Catalonia, Greece's treatment of Turks in Western Thrace, and Russia’s occupation of Ukraine, including Crimea. A German NGO called for the abolition of facial recognition technology due to its use by law enforcement to profile specific ethnic groups and minorities, including Roma and Sinti.  Civil society participants also expressed concerns over participating States’ use of digital technology to target dissent by deploying spyware against individuals, spreading misleading government-sponsored content, and silencing protest groups and democratic movements. Several NGOs argued that their governments exploited conditions imposed by the pandemic to use surveillance camera footage, geolocation data, and contact tracing as part of a domestic surveillance campaign to discourage public political dissent. Participants highlighted how technology has been used to spread racist messaging, including the racist abuse of English football players following the recent Union of European Football Associations Euro 2020 matches. Many voiced their dismay that social media companies do not hold accountable individuals who spread racist content. Participants recommended that social media companies implement more robust algorithms to detect racist remarks.  Participating States Respond Several participating States addressed the use of technology. The European Union recognized the importance of addressing human rights abuses that arise from the misuse of digital technologies. Turkey responded by touting its 2016 law on data protection and emphasizing its multiculturalism. The Holy See responded that it is necessary to improve education in proper use and effects of technology. The Holy See also called for international regulations to guarantee the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to private personal electronic communication.

  • Ranking Member Joe Wilson on July 2021 Congressional Delegation

    Mr. Speaker, this month, I was grateful to participate in a Congressional delegation of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly led by Senator Roger Wicker and Senator Ben Cardin. It was inspiring to see the extraordinary economic advances of Estonia and Bulgaria. In Tallinn, Estonia, we were welcomed by the dynamic Prime Minister, Kaja Kallas, and the dedicated Foreign Minister, Eva-Maria Liimets. While in Tallinn, we learned that Russian diplomats had been expelled in April across the Baltics to join the protest of the Czech Prime Minister, Andrej Babis, exposing the irrefutable evidence that two Russian GRU agents were behind the 2014 ammunition depot explosion at Vrbetice, which killed two persons. The same two Russian agents named by the Czech Republic are suspected by British authorities for poisoning former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in 2018. The Czech Republic has correctly demanded Russia pay for damages.

  • Cardin and Wicker Discuss July 2021 Congressional Delegation in Colloquy

    Mr. CARDIN. Madam President, I take this time to talk about the work of the U.S. Helsinki Commission in a recent opportunity we had to participate in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. I am joined on the floor by Senator Wicker, who is the Republican chair of the Helsinki Commission. The two of us have worked together in a nonpartisan, bipartisan manner in regards to the work of the Helsinki Commission. I just want to spend a few minutes, and then I am going to yield the floor and allow Senator WICKER to give his comments. The OSCE, as the chair is fully aware as a member of the Commission, represents the U.S. participation in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe—57 states, which includes all of Europe, all of the former Republics of the Soviet Union, and Canada and the United States. The Commission works on the principle of three buckets: one for political affairs and security, another for economic and environmental progress, and the third on democracy and human rights. But it recognizes—and I think this has been the hallmark of the Helsinki Commission—that you can’t have advancements on political affairs or security or economic or environmental progress unless you make progress on democracy and human rights, that they are interwoven. In the Helsinki Commission, the OSCE is best known for its advancements for basic human rights. So I think of the initiatives that we have had in the Helsinki Commission for dealing with trafficking in humans and the legislation that came out of that and how we led the global response to dealing with trafficking. I think about the efforts we made in regards to tolerance, dealing with anti-Semitism, racism, and intolerance and how we have made progress throughout the entire OSCE region. I think about the issues we did in regards to sanctions against human rights violators so they cannot use our banking system or visit our country, the Magnitsky-type sanctions. All of that came out of the work of the Helsinki Commission. So one of the major arms of our work is the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, which is the group of parliamentarians who meet every year and have meetings throughout the year to exchange views and to carry out the principles of the Helsinki Final Act. For the last year and a half, we have been compromised because we haven’t had an opportunity to meet in person, and it required us to meet by internet, and we have, but we had a unique opportunity during the last recess period to actually travel and meet with the parliamentarians. We had an OSCE Parliamentary Assembly annual meeting in Vienna. And we had a chance to do this in a hybrid manner. So we were able to travel 12-strong from the U.S. Congress to be at that meeting, and we were joined by five others here in the United States, including our Presiding Officer, to participate in the Parliamentary Assembly, and we were able to advance a lot of very important issues. But I must tell you, we were noticed at this meeting. The U.S. presence was critically important in dealing with some very timely issues. I know that Senator Wickerwill talk about this. He is one of the great leaders of the Parliamentary Assembly. He is Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly. We are very proud of the leadership position that he holds. By the way, his election was in Vienna to be the Vice President of the Parliamentary Assembly. We had multiple candidates and several elected to Vice-Presidents, but Senator Wicker led the ballot with the largest number of votes, which I think speaks to his well-thought-of respect among the OSCE parliamentarians. We wanted to make sure that this was a substantive meeting. Quite frankly, the leadership of the Parliamentary Assembly said: Let’s just get in there and get it over with and not bring up anything controversial. But that is not the way we operate. We have to take up current issues. So we took up the issue of tolerance. I was happy to sponsor a resolution that ultimately passed by unanimous vote that speaks to anti-Semitism, racism, intolerance, and the growth of hate in the OSCE region. But we also made sure that we considered the recent elections in Belarus and how unfair those elections were and how Mr. Lukashenko has been acting in a way that is so contrary to the human rights of the people who live there, and the election results there do not reflect the will of the people. We also had a chance to make sure we took up the issues concerning Ukraine. Once again, there was a lot of controversy on why you should bring that up during this meeting. We did. We supported that to make it clear that Russia’s aggression and its occupation of Crimea and its interference in eastern Ukraine will never be recognized as legitimate by the United States or, by that matter, the Parliamentary Assembly, because we responded in all of those areas. I am pleased to tell you that we supported Margareta Cederfelt, who is going to be the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Sweden, and we look forward to her visit here in the United States. Richard Hudson, Representative Hudson, will be the chair of the first committee. So we are going to have active participation in the Parliamentary Assembly. We had the chance to visit some other countries. But if I might, I think I am going to yield the floor and give my good friend and the leader of our congressional delegation trip an opportunity to expand on some of the things we were able to do in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. With that, I yield the floor. Mr. WICKER. Madam President, I thank my colleague from Maryland, who has been such a leader in the area of human rights and international recognition of the challenges that our world faces today. I do appreciate his leadership and his partnership. We have worked shoulder to shoulder on so many issues. Yes, I proudly rise with him this afternoon to talk about a very valuable series of meetings that our 12-member delegation had in 4 countries in Europe in recent days. This was Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate, a truly bipartisan and bicameral delegation—a very large delegation—which I think my colleague will agree made a strong statement on behalf of the United States of America and on behalf of the U.S. House and Senate about the way we view European engagement and our partnership and friendship with the 50-plus member countries of the OSCE and their Parliamentary Assembly. We visited Vienna, Austria, for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. As Senator Cardin mentioned, we met with great success. Yes, I was reelected to the position of vice president, and I appreciate the support of Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate in helping me get those votes to receive another three-year term there. Richard Hudson, our colleague from the House of Representatives, has been very active as chairman of Committee No. 1 in the Parliamentary Assembly. He is highly regarded. He was reelected without opposition. So there are two bits of success there. And then the great piece of work, actually, was with regard to Senator Cardin's initiative on the rising hate and intolerance that we are seeing all around the world, particularly among member countries of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Senator Cardin actually took the lead in challenging the leadership of the Parliamentary Assembly in saying that issues should be discussed. Even though they weren’t in an immediate, like, three-week crisis mode, they deserved to be brought forward. And Senator Cardin was able to get his resolution considered and passed overwhelmingly, and we made a strong statement on behalf of countering the rising hate and intolerance and countering the use of these things to buttress authoritarianism and to stoke conflict around the world. We also passed a very important resolution about the tragedy, the outrage that has gone on in Belarus. I can tell you, the opposition party leader from Belarus was in this Capitol building just yesterday talking about the importance of support from places like the United States Congress. I can tell you, Madam President, that Senator Shaheen and I are about to send a letter to our colleagues asking any and all of us to join a Freedom Caucus for the Belarusian people, the Belarus Freedom Caucus. We asked the opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, to tell us whether that would be helpful. She said the formation of this caucus to support the freedom movement in Belarus would be a strong signal. It would be well received and effective on behalf of the opposition leadership there in Belarus. Then, again, we reiterated our opposition to what Russia has done in Ukraine and particularly to the recent Russian military buildup and ongoing aggression in Ukraine. We did a lot there with the Parliamentary Assembly. We went on to Estonia, met with leadership there—a former President, the current Prime Minister, other leaders. And, also, we had a chance to travel to the very easternmost part of Estonia and actually travel on the Narva River and look right across to Russia and the security guards there, understanding what our Estonian allies are up against with Putin’s Russia staring right across the river at their freedom and democracy. From there, we joined the Three Seas conference in Sofia, Bulgaria. I can tell you, this is a group of Eastern European former Soviet Bloc countries that are striving to be in charge of their own infrastructure and rely less on the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. I think the fact that 12 Americans showed up, participated, met with Heads of state at that conference made a very strong statement of American support for freedom and for looking westwardly in trying to get their problems solved and their infrastructure needs met. We also had a very meaningful visit to Norway, where we saw some American-Norwegian defense initiatives. I am very proud of the partnership that this Helsinki Commission—our organ of the American OSCE PA—and the way that we joined together to express our support for freedom, for democracy, for the rule of law, for opposing corruption, both at the petty local level and also at the larger State-sponsored level. One other thing before I yield back and let my friend close. Particularly in Bulgaria, but also all during our trip, we were met with hearty thanks for the United States leadership in the global Magnitsky Act. This began as an initiative with Senator Cardin, Senator Lieberman, Senator McCain, and me several years ago directed—during the Obama administration—directed toward individual Russians who had violated human rights and individual liberty in a very outrageous and gross way, allowing us to sanction individuals rather than causing harm to the people of Russia in that case. That has been expanded now to the global level and other countries are adopting this. But I can tell you, when we arrived in Bulgaria, we were met with great thanks from people who are trying to combat lawlessness and corruption at the top level of government. I just have to say, of course, Ben Cardin has been the premier leader in this worldwide effort. It was gratifying to know and to learn firsthand on the ground there in Sofia, Bulgaria, that an initiative that began right here in this U.S. Senate years ago, and continues to this day, is having a beneficial effect on the people all across Europe and particularly in some of the countries that we visited. I yield back to the Senator from Maryland. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maryland. Mr. CARDIN. Madam President, let me again thank Senator Wicker. Thank you for your leadership on so many issues. But on this congressional delegation, for those who are not familiar, it is not easy to put together the type of opportunities to advance American values. And Senator Wicker took the responsibility as the leader of our delegation to make sure that we had the opportunities to advance American values. I thank him for all the effort he put into it. It was certainly extremely successful. I just want to emphasize a few things before closing. One, in Vienna, we did have an opportunity to meet with Rafael Grossi, who is the Director General of the IAEA. That is the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has the responsibility of monitoring the nuclear programs throughout the world. Obviously, it has played a bigger role in regard to the program in Iran, and it was monitoring exactly what was happening in Iran under the JCPOA. They now don’t have the same access, and we had a chance to talk with the Director General as to the challenges with the Iranian program. And I think it was helpful for all of us to understand exactly the role that the IAEA can play in regard to getting us information about what is happening on the ground in Iran. Senator Wicker talked about our visit to Estonia, a strong ally partner, NATO partner. We showed our support by going to Narva, which is on the Russian border. It is a town that has a majority of Russian-speaking Estonians. It is an interesting community. But we could see across the river, very clearly, the Russian patrol boats. We know and heard firsthand of the concern of the Estonians. They saw what happened in Ukraine and they worry that same thing could happen in Estonia with Russian aggression. I must tell you, our presence to reinforce the NATO commitment, I think, was an extremely important message that we gave to the Estonian people. Mr. WICKER. Would the gentleman yield on that point? Mr. CARDIN. I would be glad to yield. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Mississippi. Mr. WICKER. If I might add, people in Narva, Estonia, and people in the city across the river have access to each other across a bridge there. And it is clear to the people on the Russian side that their cousins and friends in Narva, Estonia, live a better life and have a better standard of living in this free country, this NATO ally called Estonia, than the Russian cousins and friends have on the other side. I just thought I would add that to the discourse before Senator Cardin moves on to discussing Norway and Bulgaria. Thank you. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maryland. Mr. CARDIN. Madam President, let me move onto Bulgaria very briefly. Senator Wicker did cover Bulgaria. The Three Seas Initiative, I wasn’t that familiar with it before traveling to Bulgaria. It is an initiative by twelve states that are basically part of the Eastern European Coalition, states that are developing democratic institutions and democratic economies after the fall of the Soviet Union. They need to build up their resilience as a collective entity in energy, transportation, and digital infrastructure. The Three Seas Initiative is to attract investment to connect the twelve countries together on infrastructure needs. It is for many reasons. It is for its own economic strength and growth, but also for resiliency against the efforts of China on its Belt and Road Initiative, which is trying to infiltrate these countries and convert their way of economy to more of the Chinese system. The Three Seas Initiative is an effort to have their own independent way of attracting capital. The United States is participating in the Three Seas. We are not a member, but we are participating and providing resources for the fund that is being developed that would be leveraged for these type of investments. While we were in Bulgaria, we had a chance to have bilateral meetings. There were twelve heads of state there. We had bilateral meetings with the President of Poland, Bulgaria, Latvia, and Romania. We had very constructive discussions about what is happening in their country. We raised Helsinki issues with all these countries. Senator Wicker already talked about how we were welcomed by the Bulgarian leadership in regards to the imposition of the Magnitsky sanctions. We are heroes. They feel like they have a second chance to try to develop the type of anti-corruption mechanisms that they desperately need. Our visit to Varna, which is on the Black Sea, was very educational to see how Russia is trying to dominate the Black Sea area and one of the reasons why they are so aggressive in Ukraine and the Crimea. I think that was extremely helpful for us to understand the security risks and how we have to work with our NATO partners to protect the Black Sea area, particularly from the potential aggression—not potential—from the aggression of Russia. Also in Bulgaria, we had a chance to visit a Roma village. It is not my first visit to a Roma village. I have visited over the years. It is a real tragic situation. The Roma population have been in Europe for centuries. They lived in communities for hundreds of years, yet they do not have property rights. They have lived in their homes, and yet they do not have the opportunity to have their homes registered. And at any time, the government can come in and take away their property without compensation. They rarely have reliable utilities. The village we visited did not have water systems, so they had to use outhouses, et cetera. They had limited availability of fresh water. Their utility service is not reliable. And they go to segregated schools. They don’t have the same employment opportunities. So we, once again, will raise the rights of the Roma population as part of our commitment under the Helsinki Commission, and we are following up with the local officials to try to help in that regard. Then, lastly, on our way back, we visited Norway. I learned a lot because I did not know about the pre-positioning program. I know my friend Senator Wicker already knew about this from his Armed Services service, but it is where we pre-position equipment so that we can respond rapidly to a circumstance anywhere in the world. The Norway pre-positioning is actually used to help us in regard to the Middle East and our needs in the Middle East. So it was an extremely, extremely, I think, productive visit to these countries. I think we did carry out our commitment under the Helsinki Commission, and we advanced American values. I think we represented our country well, and we were very well noticed. With that, I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Mississippi. Mr. WICKER. Madam President, one other thing that our colleagues might not understand about the OSCE is their role in election observation. As we were leaving Sofia on the morning of July 11, we crossed paths with some other representatives from the OSCE from European countries who were there to observe the parliamentary elections being held in Bulgaria that very day. Also, on the same day, Moldova, another member of the OSCE, was having parliamentary elections.  We have every hope that the results of these elections will be a further resolve in those two nation members to counter the corruption at the highest level, and we want to congratulate both of those member states of the OSCE for free and fair elections in Europe. With that, I thank my colleague. I yield the floor.

  • Helsinki Commission Delegation Advances Priority Issues at First OSCE PA Annual Session Since Onset of Covid-19 Pandemic

    WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) last week led a U.S. delegation to the 2021 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) Annual Session in Vienna, Austria. The assembly was the first major gathering with an in-person component since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The 2021 OSCE PA Annual Session was held in a hybrid format, with most of the approximately 250 delegates participating remotely and others convening in Vienna. The United States had more representatives to the in-person meeting of the OSCE PA Standing Committee—comprising the heads of national delegations and other OSCE PA leaders—than any other participating State: Chairman Cardin, as the head of the U.S. delegation; Sen. Wicker, who serves as a vice-president of the OSCE PA; and Helsinki Commissioner Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08), who chairs the OSCE PA General Committee on Political Affairs and Security. Other members traveling to Vienna included Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02), Commissioners Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-04) and Rep. Marc Veasey (TX-33), Sen. John Cornyn (TX), Sen. Thom Tillis (NC), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Rep. Andy Harris (MD-01), and  Rep. Trent Kelly (MS-01). Remote participants in the Annual Session included Commissioners Sen. Tina Smith (MN), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04), and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), along with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) and Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04). During the Annual Session, the American legislators engaged in debates on political affairs and security, economic and environmental matters, and democracy and human rights. The U.S. legislators also played key roles in the adoption of three resolutions reflecting the major issues confronting the OSCE today: rising hate and its use to bolster authoritarianism and conflict, a call for democratic change in Belarus, and continued opposition to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Chairman Cardin, who also serves as the OSCE PA Special Representative on Racism, Anti-Semitism, and Intolerance, sponsored the first resolution, urging OSCE participating States to adopt an OSCE Anti-Discrimination, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan, to strengthen the efforts of law enforcement, civil society, and others to tackle discrimination and extremism. In addition, parliamentarians held the first Assembly elections in two years, with both Sen. Wicker and Rep. Hudson easily retaining their leadership posts. Sen. Wicker received the most votes of any of the nine vice-presidential candidates, while Rep. Hudson was elected by acclamation. While in Vienna, members also met with OSCE Secretary General Helga Schmid and other senior OSCE officials, along with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi. The in-person delegation also traveled to Estonia, where they met with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets, former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, and Chair of the Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson to demonstrate the strong U.S. support for the bilateral security relationship. During a visit to Narva, delegation members engaged with representatives of the local Russian-speaking community and visited the Russia-Estonia border to gain a better understanding of the security situation. “The American alliance with Estonia is based on shared democratic values. We appreciate our bilateral relationship and mutual efforts to support the democratic opposition in Belarus and independent voices in Russia,” said Chairman Cardin. “Across the 57 nations that are part of the OSCE, rising challenges to democratic norms require a sober and sustained response from those committed to the rule of law and the defense of human rights. Estonia and the United States are staunch allies in this effort.” “As the Baltic region faces serious and continuing security challenges, the United States is proud to support our steadfast NATO allies,” Sen. Wicker said. “This visit by a bipartisan and bicameral delegation is representative of the strong consensus in the U.S. Congress to push back against the Kremlin’s malign activities in the region. We also appreciate the important and growing contributions of Estonia and our other regional allies and partners as we work to address global security challenges.” Members then traveled to Bulgaria for the Three Seas Initiative Summit, designed to promote transparent and sustainable investments in energy, transportation, and digital infrastructure that contribute to an undivided, free, prosperous, and resilient Europe. While at the summit, they held bilateral meetings with President Andrzej Duda of Poland, President Rumen Radev of Bulgaria, and President Egils Levits of Latvia to discuss a broad range of security and human rights issues. The delegation also traveled to Varna to examine Black Sea regional security issues; visited a Roma community to better understand the current situation of Roma in Bulgaria and underscore U.S. support for the rights of Bulgaria's Roma population; and met with journalists of the recently re-established Bulgarian service of Radio Free Europe. “We brought a dozen members from the U.S. Congress to Sofia to demonstrate support for the Three Seas Initiative and also to engage with Bulgaria’s leaders and its people about our shared values and basic human rights,” said Chairman Cardin. “Protecting civil and human rights is an essential component of every democracy and we look forward to hearing more about how Bulgaria is safeguarding fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.” “The Black Sea region has seen a troublesome rise in tension recently,” said Sen. Wicker. “Our visit to the area was intended to keep us abreast of the situation and to demonstrate our strong, enduring, and bipartisan support to Bulgaria and our other NATO Allies and partners in the region.” En route back to the United States, the delegation visited the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program Norway, a cooperative effort with a stalwart NATO ally that reinforces regional security and offers direct support to U.S. deployments as far away as Iraq.  

  • 45th Anniversary of the U.S. Helsinki Commission

    I take this time as the Chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, better known as the Helsinki Commission, as we celebrate our 45th anniversary. The Helsinki Commission is the vehicle for U.S. participation in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), representing 57 states that have come together under the OSCE, all the countries of Europe, all the countries of the former Soviet Union, including those located in Central Asia, the United States, and Canada. Mr. President, this is a unique body in that it represents both the executive and legislative branches of government. The executive branch has representatives on the Helsinki Commission, and both the House and Senate have Senators and Representatives that serve on the Helsinki Commission. I am very pleased to have as my co-leader Senator Wicker from Mississippi as the Republican leader in the Senate on the Helsinki Commission. The Helsinki Commission has been responsible for elevating our moral dimension to U.S. foreign policy. Its principles point out very clearly that you cannot have security without dealing with good governance and human rights; you cannot have economic progress unless you have governance that respects the rights of all its citizens. That is why I was so pleased when President Biden announced that his foreign policy would be value-based, that as we participate in our foreign policy challenges, it will always be wrapped in our values, and his recent trip to Europe underscored that important lesson. And then he issued, not two weeks ago, the statement that corruption is a core national security threat and that we have a responsibility to fight corruption in order to protect our national security. I am so pleased of the accomplishments of the Helsinki Commission, particularly from the human rights and human dimension. I go back to my early days in the House of Representatives, when the Soviet Union still existed and the challenges of Soviet Jews trying to emigrate from the Soviet Union. It was the Helsinki Commission that was one of the leading voices to help deal with Soviet Jews. I think about trafficking-in-persons, modern-day slavery, and the efforts that the United States did in leading that effort, including passing landmark legislation in trafficking in persons and establishing a rating system where every country in the world is rated on how well they are dealing with fighting trafficking. Now this has become the model, and so many countries have acted. It was the U.S. Helsinki Commission that led the effort for what Congress was able to pass and the international effort in order to fight trafficking-in-persons. I think about the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity and genocide, and recognize that it was the Helsinki Commission that pushed to hold those who were responsible for these atrocities accountable, particularly as it related to the Balkan conflict. Then I think about the landmark legislation that was passed in the Congress that deals with sanctions against human rights violators, first the Magnitsky sanctions and then the Global Magnitsky sanctions. It came out of hearings from the Helsinki Commission and legislation that we authored. It is not only the standard here in the United States. It has been adopted as the standard in Europe, in Canada, and in other countries, to make it clear that human rights violators will not be able to hide their illicit funds in our banking system or visit our country. Perhaps our strongest contribution is the oversight hearings that we hold. We also passed the Elie Wiesel Atrocities Prevention Act. But just last week we had a hearing in the Helsinki Commission on how we can prevent atrocities from occurring in the first place. So I am very proud of the accomplishments of the commission. Part of the responsibilities of every member state of the OSCE is that we have the right to challenge any State’s compliance with the Helsinki Final Act Accords. So it is our responsibility to challenge when Russia violates those provisions or when we see violations in Turkey—any member State, we can challenge. But we also have to do our own self-evaluation. As Chairman of the commission, I have been using that opportunity to question conduct in our own country when it does not match the responsibilities that we should have. We saw that in the past in regard to the torture issues in Guantanamo Bay. My participation in the Helsinki Commission goes back to my early days in the House of Representatives and some of my proudest moments of representing our country on the international stage. Let me just give you a few examples. In February 1991, I joined a fact-finding mission to Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. That is when the Soviet tanks were in Vilnius. That is when the Soviet Union was demonstrating oppression against the people of the Baltic States. It was a very sad moment of oppression, and we went there to stand up for the people of the region, to let them know that the United States never recognized the Soviet’s occupation of the Baltic States, and that we stood with the people and their independence. It was very interesting. We went from there to Moscow, and Mikhail Gorbachev didn’t want to have anything to do with us. He wouldn’t have a meeting with us, and he wouldn’t acknowledge that we were there. But we had a meeting with Boris Yeltsin, who at that time was the chair of the parliament, and we got great visibility. And Yeltsin supported our efforts to condemn the Russian use of force. I have been to Germany several times. My first trip on behalf of the Helsinki Commission was when it was a divided country, and we went to East Berlin. We were the voices for those oppressed people whose voices could not otherwise be heard, and we gave them hope that one day they would see freedom. I then returned when we were literally taking down the Berlin Wall, and I joined in taking down part of the Berlin Wall. I have part of that as a prized possession in my home. I have returned to Germany as a united country and see what a democratic Germany means and the work of our commission to bring down the Iron Curtain. Germany is now a leading democratic state and a great ally of the United States. I have been to Kyiv, Ukraine, on several occasions. I was there during the Maidan protests, where the people demanded democracy. And then I had a chance to return and monitor the elections in Ukraine with Senator Portman—again, a country that has been able to rid itself of the oppression of the Soviet Union. I have been very active in the Helsinki Commission in regards to the Parliamentary Assembly. I chaired one of their three standing committees. I had a chance to become Vice-President at the Parliamentary Assembly. Today, I acknowledge Senator Wicker, who is Vice-President. It points out the bipartisan nature of the Helsinki Commission and our work on the international platform.

  • Tribute to Erika Schlager

    I want to acknowledge one individual who recently announced that she is retiring, Erika Schlager, after 34 years of service to the Commission and to the global community. Erika received her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, where she graduated magna cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her A.M. degree from Harvard University in Soviet Union studies and her juris doctor degree with honors from the George Washington University Law School. She studied at Warsaw University as a Fulbright fellow and received a diploma from the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Quite a record. She used that academic preparation to make a difference in the world—and what a difference she made. Erika has been an unfailing professional in her dedication to doing whatever is necessary to ensure that the commission meets its mandate and defends human rights abroad. Her deep expertise, which she has honed over decades of work, is renowned both among policy professionals in the United States and in the countries of Central Europe that she followed for the commission. Erika is one of our nation’s top experts on Europe’s most vulnerable communities. She is a leading voice on Roma rights—Europe’s largest minority, with significant populations also in the United States. I have joined Erika in the crusade to speak up for the Roma population, a group that has been denied citizenship in so much of Europe. What a difference she has made in their lives. Erika has worked with Members of Congress, the Department of State and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to address issues ranging from the enslavement and sterilization of Roma to a permanent memorial in Berlin dedicated to the Sinti and Roma victims of the Nazi regime, to annual recognition of International Roma Day. She has brought to my attention the candidacy of Ethel Brooks to be the first Roma board member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. I know that Erika will continue to bring Roma perspective and history on the Holocaust to further the tolerance, education, and human rights work of the museum. I have the honor of representing the Senate on the Holocaust Memorial Museum board, and I can tell you that Erika is so deeply respected by the professionals at that museum for the work she has done in furthering the goal of that institution to prevent atrocities against any groups of people. Erika has long been one of my top advisers on the Holocaust restitution and Europe’s Jewish community. She has worked closely with me over the years to raise concerns about the rise of Holocaust revisionism in countries like Hungary and Poland; to foster implementation of the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets measures to right the economic wrongs that accompanied the Holocaust; and to hold accountable a French railway that transported thousands of Holocaust victims to their deaths. She worked on all of these issues and made significant progress. Erika has been instrumental in ensuring that the Helsinki Commission works to hold the United States accountable for our own human rights record, examining U.S. policies and conduct concerning Guantanamo Bay detention camps and U.S. policy regarding torture. Erika’s counsel greatly assisted me in my role as the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE’s Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance, where I was focused on human rights and justice here at home and across the expanse of the 57 participating States of the OSCE. From the plight of African Americans and Muslims to migrants and refugees, Erika has been integral to the Helsinki Commission’s mandate of upholding the myriad of human rights commitments defined in the Helsinki Final Act and subsequent OSCE agreements. In addition to her many professional milestones and achievements, Erika retires from the commission having left a deeply personal mark on those she worked with, from diplomats and civil servants to the staff of the Helsinki Commission. She is a natural teacher with a gift of taking a complex issue and distilling it in a way that makes it both relevant and accessible. Erika has taught our diplomats at the Foreign Service Institute and spoken at international meetings and at universities across the nation and around the world. She displayed her exceptional teaching ability at the Department of State’s annual training program on Roma rights, and she has ensured that Roma civil society groups could also participate. She has actively sought out dialogue and collaboration with new colleagues to help deepen their understanding of the Helsinki Commission’s role, of the challenges the commission could usefully seek to address abroad, and of the unique tools at its disposal to do just that. Erika is always quick to ask about a colleague’s well-being or inquire after a family member’s well-being. She has fostered collegiality among the Commission’s staff through her unfailing kindness and good nature. In so doing, she has repeatedly demonstrated how deeply she cares, not just for the work she has dedicated her career to, but also for the people whose great privilege it is to call her a colleague and a friend. I will say on a personal basis that I have benefited so much from her friendship, from her understanding, from her strategic thinking, from where we can make a difference. We know there are a lot of problems around the world. We know we can’t settle all the issues. But Erika helped us focus on areas where we can make a difference, and thanks to her input, we have made a difference. I know I speak on behalf of all Helsinki Commission members and staff and scores of other individuals—many who may not know her name—and groups concerned about advancing human rights around the globe and here at home when I say how we will miss Erika. Henry David Thoreau said: ‘‘Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.’’ Erika has embodied that maxim in her professional career and in her life. She has made an enormous difference, and she will continue to do so. I wish her all the best with respect to her future endeavors. I know we will continue to hear from her. Thank you, Erika, for the way you served the commission, our country, and the global community.

  • Sweden's Leadership of the OSCE

    In 2021, Sweden chairs the world’s largest regional security organization—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—which comprises 57 participating States stretching from North America, across Europe, and to Central Asia and Mongolia. Even as the OSCE begins to emerge from the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is tackling other critical challenges, including Russia’s ongoing aggression in Ukraine, protracted conflicts in Moldova and Georgia, and the pursuit of a lasting and sustainable peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through the framework of the Minsk Group. Meanwhile, several countries are deliberately spurning their OSCE commitments to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Participating States including Russia, Belarus, and Turkey not only stifle dissent in their own countries but also seek to undermine the OSCE’s work defending fundamental freedoms and curtail civil society’s participation in OSCE activities. Other shared challenges include combating human trafficking, countering terrorism and corruption, and protecting vulnerable communities, including migrants, from discrimination and violence. At this virtual hearing, Swedish Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Ann Linde discussed Sweden’s priorities for 2021 and addressed current developments in the OSCE region. Related Information Witness Biography

  • Helsinki Commission Leadership Joins Inter-Parliamentary Discussion on Human Rights

    On May 25, 2021, the U.S. Helsinki Commission joined the House Foreign Affairs Committee and European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights at the launch event for the EU - US Strategic Inter-Parliamentary Consultation on Human Rights. The inter-parliamentary discussion focused on global human rights sanctions regimes, values-based foreign policy, and opportunities for transatlantic cooperation. Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) emphasized the impact of the Global Magnitsky Act in facilitating accountability by sanctioning the world’s worst human rights abusers, preventing them from entering the United States, and freezing their U.S. assets. Sen. Cardin congratulated the European Union for passing a global human rights sanctions regime and suggested two modifications: first, that sanctions target corruption, which tends to fuel human rights abuses; and second, that the European Union pursues individuals that materially assist human rights abusers, including lawyers, accountants, money launderers, and reputation launderers. Sen. Cardin also identified the need to consider diplomatic measures outside of sanctions, such as a mechanism to evaluate countries’ progress in combatting corruption, similar to the U.S. Trafficking in Persons regime. U.S. Helsinki Commissioner Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09)—who also serves as chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties—advised that U.S.-EU cooperation will further strengthen the Magnitsky Act and the effectiveness of human rights sanction regimes. Cohen also emphasized the bipartisan support for human rights in the United States. Members of the European Parliament expressed optimism that increasing U.S.-EU coordination on human rights protections will strengthen overall impact. Rep. Bill Keating (MA-09) recognized that the democratic values shared between the United States and European Union can help fight rising authoritarianism and democratic backsliding. Greens Member of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs and of the EP Subcommittee on Human Rights Jordi Solé (Spain) emphasized the importance of consistency in the U.S. and EU approach to promoting human rights in order to ensure the sanctions mechanism is credible and useful. He also raised the importance of examining the role of the private sector in supporting human rights. U.S. Helsinki Commissioner Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-04) affirmed the importance of supporting emerging democracies and addressing corruption in private industry. Moore acknowledged the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and noted that the United States should not raise human rights concerns abroad in foreign policy without examining its own adherence to those principles. Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA-11), President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, suggested that NATO should actively prioritize democracy promotion, democratic values, and human rights. To close the discussion, Chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights Maria Arena (Belgium) and Rep. Moore highlighted possible initiatives for future U.S.-EU cooperation: coordinated response to human rights abuses in Belarus; cooperation with private industry to protect human rights; cooperation with Afghan NGOs and women’s associations as the U.S. military withdraws from the country; determination of parliamentary diplomacy’s role in addressing human rights abuses; and implementation of measures within the participating States to mitigate democratic backsliding in the West, which would include addressing systemic racism.

  • COVID-19 Vaccination Rollouts Expose Underlying Inequalities, Underscore the Need for Equitable, Coordinated Response to Global Health Crises

    By Michelle Ngirbabul, Max Kampelman Fellow, and Shannon Simrell, Representative of the Helsinki Commission to the U.S. Mission to the OSCE More than one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, over 169 million cases and nearly four million deaths have been reported worldwide. The development and rollout of mass vaccination campaigns have proved to be the most effective, and most important, tools in combating the deadly virus. However, supply chain issues and geopolitical struggles have plagued vaccine rollout efforts, and subsequent delays have exposed and exacerbated existing social, health, and economic inequalities within and among OSCE participating States. To control the ongoing pandemic and prepare for the threats of future global health crises, governments must rely on extensive cooperation and coordination to ensure that vaccination programs and relevant policies are equitable among States. COVID-19 Vaccinations are the Key to Ending the Pandemic Vaccines always have been an important part of managing public health crises. During the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmaceutical companies based in the United States, Germany, China, India, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Sweden rapidly developed the nine leading approved or authorized coronavirus vaccines using various approaches. Vaccines produced by Pfizer, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson have been approved or authorized for wide use either in Europe or the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in December 2020 and to Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine in February 2021. Likewise, the European Medicines Agency authorized Pfizer for use in December 2020 and Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen in early 2021. The highly effective vaccines inspire hope that an end to the pandemic may soon be within sight both at home and abroad. Systemic Challenges Hampered Effective Vaccination Rollout Despite the number of approved vaccines available, systemic challenges have impeded vaccine procurement and rollout. For example, in the weeks following the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines’  EUA, vaccine supply shortages, bottlenecks in distribution by manufacturers and production errors, and bureaucratic challenges complicated distribution amid a surge in demand globally. While Moderna and Pfizer expanded production, in the absence of a clear national strategy, confusion, delays, and shortages plagued early U.S. vaccination efforts. Across the Atlantic, the European Union’s stuttering vaccination rollout was beset by vaccine shortages, partially due to its insistence on a joint EU vaccine procurement strategy and related bureaucratic delays. Unlike the United States and other countries that rushed to secure agreements with vaccine producers as early as August 2020, the EU’s 27 Member States were caught in lengthy price negotiations, forcing the region to wait at the back of the line to receive shipments. Shortly thereafter, the region’s vaccination efforts were dealt a massive blow when AstraZeneca, the company with which EU leaders signed a contract for at least 300 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, informed leaders in January that it was unable to meet agreed supply targets for the first quarter. Despite missteps, at least 12 of the EU’s 27 countries remain confident they will reach targets to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the adult population by the end of summer 2021. Pre-existing socioeconomic inequalities within countries have further complicated early vaccination rollouts. In the United States, the lack of a coordinated, federal response led to the significant disparity of access to vaccinations, varying widely depending upon one’s location, age, occupation, and underlying health conditions. Similarly, the United Kingdom reported lower vaccination rates among Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups.  Additionally, inequalities among countries also severely impacted efforts to control and end the pandemic. Vaccine Nationalism and Inter-State Competition Vaccine shortages also disproportionately affected certain countries in the EU, leading to inter-state competition for vaccines and varied vaccination rates among states. Frustrated with slow vaccine deliveries, authorities have coordinated restrictions on exporting vaccines—Italy, for example, had blocked a shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine bound for Australia and warned of possible vaccine export restrictions to non-reciprocating countries outside the bloc. In March 2021, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that the EU would not consider donating vaccine supplies to developing countries until they have “a better production situation in the EU,” as the bloc struggles to maintain its own supply of vaccines EU unity was further challenged as leaders from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Slovenia complained to Brussels that vaccines were not being proportionately delivered as originally agreed in the EU’s joint vaccine strategy. Under the modified agreement, less wealthy EU states that could not afford the more expensive Pfizer or Moderna vaccines were forced to wait for AstraZeneca vaccines amid ongoing shortages. The protesting states were also those that had received the lowest number of vaccines at that time, which raised concerns about individual states’ progress to vaccinate their populations and reach herd immunity. Despite early concerns of sustained and widening disparities, technical specifications agreed in April have charted a course for the bloc’s Digital Green Certificates—a digital COVID-19 vaccination record program to be launched in June 2021. Emerging Vaccine Diplomacy Political, economic, and logistical challenges created an opening for Russian and Chinese influence in the region through so-called “vaccine diplomacy.” Amid shortages and uncertainty, Russia and China have filled the vaccine gap by offering exclusive deals or free vaccines in dozens of countries globally. In August 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russian regulators had licensed Sputnik V, the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine, and claimed that clinical trials demonstrated an  efficacy rate of over 90 percent. In December 2020, approximately one month after Pfizer and Moderna received approval in the United States and the European Union, China-owned Sinopharm also brought its vaccine to market, claiming a 79 percent efficacy rate. Global experts in vaccine immunology and epidemiology have since criticized Moscow’s and Beijing’s lack of transparency, questioned the reliability of clinical trial data, and raised safety concerns. Despite such skepticism, Russia and China are determined to implement an elaborate international rollout of their vaccines to strengthen their  influence abroad, even at the expense of their domestic vaccinations.  Between the two countries, China and Russia have secured deals to supply more than 800 million vaccine doses in 41 countries. Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia were among the first European countries to forego waiting for Sputnik V’s and Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine’s full approval or authorized emergency use from the European Medicines Agency. In mid-February, 500,000 doses of the initial batch of five million Sinopharm vaccines arrived in Hungary, making it the first member of the EU to receive the Chinese vaccine and authorize emergency use within the country. As of May 2021, nearly 60 countries have registered to administer the Sputnik V vaccine, including OSCE participating States Azerbaijan, Belarus, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Moldova, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Austria seemingly used negotiations with Russia for one million doses to bolster its bid for a greater portion of the EU’s pool of bloc-approved vaccines.  Although Sputnik V is not approved for use in the EU and received negative ratings by Russia’s own domestic drug regulating body, Slovakia authorized the vaccine for use in late May and followed Hungary as the EU’s second country to administer the Sputnik V vaccine.  In Hungary, which leads the EU in COVID-19 deaths per capita, demand remains high for EU-approved doses despite a pervasive government-supported campaign to increase interest in Russia’s jab. As countries attempted to procure vaccines, the Russian Direct Investment Fund was reaching deals with various companies in Italy, Spain, France, and Germany to produce Sputnik V, pending approval by the European Medicines Agency, promising to deliver vaccines for 50 million Europeans from June 2021. China has also signaled further investments in vaccine donations, particularly in countries in or near the Western Balkans—as they turn towards Russia and China for COVID-19 vaccine doses amid the EU’s struggles, intensifying the EU’s geopolitical problem. Adapting Approaches to Meet Emergent Challenges The emergence of varied and highly transmissible mutations of the virus risk in late 2020 and early 2021 outstripped the ability of vaccines to contain the virus, led to the extension or reintroduction of lockdowns, hampered economic recovery, and overburdened health care systems. Emergent variants have further highlighted the need to prioritize vaccination rollouts amid spiking case numbers. Also underscored is the role that effective vaccination programs can play to limit threats against democracy and misuse of global crises by corrupt leaders. Across the globe, challenges posed by the pandemic have provided governments with pretexts to consolidate power and restrict civil and human rights through measures such as imposed lockdowns, allegedly to curb high case counts or deaths. For example, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán assumed extraordinary emergency powers with no sunset clause to seize unchecked power.  While Orbán eventually opted to remove the most widely-condemned feature of his emergency powers in January 2021, the other elements of the measure remain in place. Systemic challenges also exist in inequities among countries as wealthier countries stockpiled batches of vaccines despite the efforts of COVAX—a global program led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI), GAVI, the WHO, and UNICEF that aims to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19—to help prevent vaccine stockpiling and subsequent inequities. However, there is hope. An EU summit in March 2021 led to an agreement to improve vaccine production and distribution to its Member States and abroad.  As of mid-May 2021, COVAX has shipped more than 59 million vaccines to 122 countries. In the United States, the Biden administration launched a campaign to improve cooperation among industry rivals, increase vaccine production and distribution, promote access to reliable information, enhance cooperation with the EU, and waive vaccine patents. Increased U.S.-EU cooperation could alleviate vaccination shortages, secure supply chains, successfully and safely develop vaccine passports, and achieve widespread resistance to the virus and its powerful variants to save lives and reopen the global economy.  Lessons Learned for a More Equitable and Secure Future Vaccines have the potential to mitigate the spread of the virus and help orient the world within a “new normal” post-COVID-19, but only if they are sufficiently deployed. The pandemic illustrated that political leaders, scientists, and citizens cannot operate in silos during health crises. Rather, health emergencies must be viewed as global security crises that require coordination and cooperation among all stakeholders. To reap the full health, societal, and economic benefits of vaccines, programs must be coordinated, inclusive, and equitable. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the enduring importance of the OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security: none are safe until we all are safe.

  • Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde to Appear at Helsinki Commission Online Hearing

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following online hearing: SWEDEN’S LEADERSHIP OF THE OSCE Priorities for 2021 Friday, June 11, 2021 9:15 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. Watch Live: https://www.youtube.com/HelsinkiCommission In 2021, Sweden chairs the world’s largest regional security organization—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—which comprises 57 participating States stretching from North America, across Europe, and to Central Asia and Mongolia. Even as the OSCE begins to emerge from the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is tackling other critical challenges, including Russia’s ongoing aggression in Ukraine, protracted conflicts in Moldova and Georgia, and the pursuit of a lasting and sustainable peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through the framework of the Minsk Group. Meanwhile, several countries are deliberately spurning their OSCE commitments to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Participating States including Russia, Belarus, and Turkey not only stifle dissent in their own countries but also seek to undermine the OSCE’s work defending fundamental freedoms and curtail civil society’s participation in OSCE activities. Other shared challenges include combating human trafficking, countering terrorism and corruption, and protecting vulnerable communities, including migrants, from discrimination and violence. At this virtual hearing, Swedish Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Ann Linde will discuss Sweden’s priorities for 2021 and address current developments in the OSCE region.

  • Helsinki Commission Commemorates 45 Years of Advancing Comprehensive Security in the OSCE Region

    WASHINGTON—To commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, on June 3, Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and commission leaders Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following statements: “The Helsinki Commission has played a vital role in elevating the moral dimension of U.S. foreign policy and prioritizing the protection of fundamental freedoms in our dealings with other nations,” said Chairman Cardin. “From fighting for fair treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union, to developing landmark legislation to address human trafficking, to demanding sanctions on human rights violators and kleptocrats, and so much more, the commission consistently has broken new ground.” “For 45 years, the commission has flourished as a bipartisan and bicameral platform for collaboration within the federal government. Its purpose is not to support a specific party or administration, but instead to advance transatlantic cooperation, promote regional security and stability, and hold OSCE participating States accountable to their promises,” said Sen. Wicker. “Our commissioners’ united front against threats to democracy and human rights worldwide has become a pillar of U.S. international engagement.” “I am grateful to have experienced the crucial role played by U.S. engagement in the Helsinki Process, both as an election observer in Bulgaria in 1990, and later as a lawmaker and commissioner,” said Rep. Wilson. “The Helsinki Commission is unique in its ability to adapt to evolving global challenges. The defense of human rights and democracy looks different now than it did during the Cold War, but we continue to unite over the same resilient principles and commitment to fundamental freedoms.” On June 3, 1976, U.S. President Gerald Ford signed the Helsinki Commission into existence through Public Law 94-304 to encourage compliance with the Helsinki Final Act of 1975—the founding document that lays out the ten principles guiding the inter-state relations among today’s OSCE participating States. The agreement created new opportunities to engage with European partners on human rights, cooperative security, economic opportunities, and territorial disputes, and the commission played an integral role in ensuring that human rights became a key component of U.S. foreign policy. Forty-five years after its founding, the Helsinki Commission continues to engage with participating States to confront severe and persistent violations of human rights and democratic norms. Since its establishment, the Helsinki Commission has convened more than 500 public hearings and briefings. It regularly works with U.S. officials in the executive branch and Congress to draw attention to human rights and security challenges in participating States, including racism, anti-Semitism, and intolerance; corruption; human trafficking; and Russia’s persistent violations of the Helsinki Final Act in its relations with Ukraine and other OSCE countries.

  • Cardin, Hudson Pledge Support to Ukraine in Bilateral Call Between OSCE PA Delegations

    WASHINGTON—In response to increased Russian aggression against Ukraine, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and Commissioner Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08) initiated an exceptional bilateral meeting with members of the Ukrainian Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) on April 30.  Chairman Cardin, who serves as Head of the U.S. Delegation to the Assembly, and Rep. Hudson, who is a member of the delegation and chairs the OSCE PA’s General Committee on Political Affairs and Security, sought the meeting to express the support of the United States for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and to solicit the Ukrainian lawmakers’ perspectives on the ongoing crisis. Ukrainian participants included parliamentarians Mykyta Poturaiev (Head of Delegation) and Artur Gerasymov (Deputy Head of Delegation).  The exchange, which focused on the recent massing of Russian forces on Ukraine’s eastern border and in occupied Crimea, and the closure by Russia of parts of the Black Sea and the Azov Sea, also covered topics including: The militarization of occupied Crimea and widespread violations of fundamental freedoms there, with particular persecution directed toward Crimean Tatars The Crimean Platform, a Ukrainian diplomatic initiative to mobilize world leaders to raise the cost of Russia’s occupation of the peninsula, with the ultimate goal of de-occupation The effects of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline on Russian influence in Europe  The importance of continued reform processes in Ukraine, including in ensuring the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary and of Ukraine’s anti-corruption bodies Chairman Cardin and Rep. Hudson reiterated Congress’ strong and bipartisan support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Chairman Cardin underscored that the United States stood with Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, which “violated every principle of the Helsinki Final Act,” he stated. He added that the Ukraine Security Partnership Act unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 21 codified the U.S. security commitment to Ukraine and support for the Crimean Platform initiative, among other measures designed to strengthen the bilateral relationship. The United States remained “strongly and firmly united in our support for Ukraine,” Rep. Hudson said, pledging continued resolve in ensuring this message was clear to Russian authorities. Hudson, recalling a statement issued in his capacity as OSCE PA committee chair on April 7, also expressed readiness to engage fully in the parliamentary dimension of the Crimean Platform. In addition, the U.S. and Ukrainian delegates discussed plans for the 2021 Annual Session to be held remotely in late June and early July. 

  • Helsinki Commission Digital Digest: April 2021

  • Helsinki Commission Leaders Commemorate International Roma Day with Senate and House Resolutions

    WASHINGTON—Ahead of International Roma Day on April 8, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), commission leaders the late Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) and Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY-04) introduced resolutions in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives celebrating Romani American heritage. Chairman Cardin, Sen. Wicker, and Rep. Meeks issued the following joint statement: “Romani people have been part of every wave of European migration to the United States from the colonial period to today.  They enrich the fabric of our nation and strengthen the transatlantic bond.  “Through this resolution, we celebrate Romani culture and pay tribute to our shared history. We applaud the efforts to promote transnational cooperation among Roma launched at the historic First World Romani Congress on April 8, 1971.” In addition to recognizing and celebrating Romani American heritage, these resolutions support International Roma Day, recognized around the world on April 8, and the robust engagement of U.S. diplomats in International Roma Day activities throughout Europe.  The resolutions also commemorate the destruction of the Romani camp at Auschwitz when, on August 2-3, 1944, Nazis murdered between 4,200 and 4,300 Romani men, women, and children in gas chambers in a single night, and commend the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for its critically important role in promoting remembrance of the Holocaust and educating audiences about the genocide of Roma. Chairman Cardin serves on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, the governing board of trustees for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Former Helsinki Commission Chairman Hastings, who died on April 6, was a longtime champion of Roma rights. In addition to regularly meeting with Roma from across Europe, he supported efforts in Romania to address the legacy of Roma enslavement; criticized the mass expulsions of Roma from France, fingerprinting of Roma in Italy, and destruction of the historic Romani neighborhood Sulukule in Istanbul; and condemned proposals to restrict births of Roma in Bulgaria and racist violence against Roma wherever it occurred. Rep. Hastings supported the work of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in its scholarship and education about the genocide of Roma and the museum’s acquisition of the unique Lety concentration camp archives.  The Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe works with national and local governments, civil society and international organizations to promote equal opportunities for and the protection of the human rights of Roma. 

  • Helsinki Commission Leaders Mourn Death of Former Chairman Alcee L. Hastings

    WASHINGTON—Following the death of former Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) earlier today, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and Helsinki Commission leaders Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following statements: “Alcee Hastings was a fighter and an incredible survivor. He never gave up—not when facing racism as a young man in the Jim Crow south, not when defending civil rights as a lawyer and jurist, not when championing human rights worldwide as chairman of the Helsinki Commission, and not in his long battle with pancreatic cancer,” said Chairman Cardin. “Alcee was committed to ensuring that America’s foreign policy reflects our enduring commitment to democracy, that fundamental freedoms are protected at home and abroad, and that all people can live in a society that is safe, inclusive, and equitable. Even as we mourn his passing, we celebrate a life well lived and a world made better by his service. Alcee was not just a colleague; he was a dear friend. Myrna and I extend our sympathies to his family at this difficult time.” “As chairman of the Helsinki Commission, Alcee Hastings was a powerful partner in advocating for the United States, human rights, democracy, and international cooperation,” Sen. Wicker said. “He broke barriers on the international stage as the first American elected to lead the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly while championing the interests of his constituents in Washington. Even as he battled cancer, he was never distracted or deterred from his public service. Gayle and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and staff during this difficult time.” “Roxanne and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Congressman Hastings,” said Rep. Wilson. “I will always treasure our time working together on the Helsinki Commission and I am grateful for his friendship and service to his country.” Rep. Hastings, who most recently chaired the Helsinki Commission in the 116th Congress, joined the commission in 2001. In 2007, he became the first African American to lead the Helsinki Commission.  Rep. Hastings remains the only American to have ever served as President of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), where he also was the former Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs. Rep. Hastings' Obituary at Legacy.com  

  • Senator Ben Cardin Returns to Lead Helsinki Commission

    WASHINGTON—The Presiding Officer, on behalf of the Vice President, yesterday announced the appointment of Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) as chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, throughout the 117th Congress. "For 45 years, the Helsinki Commission has tirelessly defended human rights and democratic institutions at home and abroad. It has promoted the enduring value of multilateralism and fought to ensure that the United States lives up to our core values, remaining a beacon of hope to those who are oppressed. However, the most trying time in our history may be ahead of us,” said Chairman Cardin. Over the past year, the world has suffered the crippling impact of COVID-19, which has disproportionately affected our most vulnerable citizens and allowed some governments to exploit the pandemic to limit fundamental freedoms. Racist violence has once again reared its ugly head in many OSCE participating States, including our own. Corruption threatens peace, prosperity, and human rights across the region, and the Kremlin remains intransigent in its overt violence against its neighbors as well as its covert attempts to undermine democratic institutions elsewhere. These challenges may seem daunting, but my fellow commissioners and I will always fight to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, encourage tolerance within societies, battle corruption, and defend the principles of liberty and sovereignty.” Chairman Cardin has been a Helsinki Commissioner since 1993 and previously chaired the commission in the 111th and 113th Congresses. He is an outspoken champion for human rights and throughout his career in public service has advocated for accountability and transparency measures to promote good governance and to combat corruption. Since 2015, Chairman Cardin has served as the Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Chairman Cardin is the lead author of the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a law that imposes sanctions on Russian individuals and entities responsible for the death of Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, as well as individuals who commit gross violations of human rights against rights defenders in Russia. He also authored the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability Act, which gives the United States the power to deny travel and banking privileges to individuals worldwide who commit gross violations of human rights against rights defenders and dissidents, and leaders who commit acts of significant corruption. Most recently, Chairman Cardin and Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) introduced the Countering Russian and Other Overseas Kleptocracy (CROOK) Act, which would establish an anti-corruption action fund to provide extra funding during historic windows of opportunity for reform in foreign countries and streamline work strengthening the rule of law abroad. Chairman Cardin also is one of the lead authors of Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act, also known as the Cardin-Lugar Energy Security Through Transparency Act. The provision requires extractive companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges to disclose, in their SEC filings, payments made to governments for oil, gas and mining. Revenue transparency increases energy security and creates U.S. jobs by reducing the operating risk U.S. companies face. It also provides information so that people in resource-rich countries can hold their leaders accountable for the money made from their oil, gas and minerals.

  • Helsinki Commission Leaders Commemorate International Day Against Racial Discrimination

    WASHINGTON—Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, 2021, U.S. Helsinki Commission leaders Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02), and Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) released the following statements: “Events of the past year have highlighted the harsh reality of what it means to be Black in America and in many countries around the world.  We must do more to address the global violence plaguing communities of color and dismantle the ideologies and structures that reinforce racial hierarchies,” said Rep. Hastings. “I have been greatly encouraged by the stand youth have been taking against racism with the hopes that their efforts will lead to a future where skin color, gender, religion, and other characteristics are no longer a determinant of one’s value or access to rights, protections, and opportunities.” “Every person deserves equal protection under law, regardless of race, color, or creed,” Sen. Wicker said. “I stand with those who are working to end the blight of racial discrimination in every country.” “We have witnessed terrible tragedies prompted by racism,” said Rep. Wilson. “The global community has a responsibility to root out discrimination and remove barriers to equal education, employment, and political participation.” “The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed long-standing racism both at home and abroad. As the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance, I am actively cooperating with our European partners to strive for peace, equality and equity,” said Sen. Cardin. “Impactful U.S. legislation, such as the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act of 2021 I recently introduced that would prohibit law enforcement from discriminatory profiling, will bring us closer to breaking the cycle of systemic racism.  I am pleased that my ERRPA legislation has passed the House as part of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which is now under consideration in the Senate.  I urge my colleagues to join me in commemorating this important day that reminds us that the fight for justice is far from over.” The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on March 21, following the UN General Assembly’s 1966 recognition of the deaths of 69 demonstrators who were killed by police when protesting apartheid in South Africa on March 21, 1960. The Helsinki Commission has hosted youth leadership initiatives and racial justice efforts, including a joint meeting with the European Parliament on combating racism and systemic discrimination and an event highlighting the world’s biggest data set of hate crime statistics, compiled by the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights for participating States, civil society, and international organizations.

  • The Ongoing Importance of the Work of the U.S. Helsinki Commission

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to discuss the work of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission and its continued importance in addressing challenges in our country and abroad. For over four decades, the Helsinki Commission has championed human rights, democracy, and comprehensive security across the 57 North American, European, and Central Asian countries that make up the region of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). As Chair of the Helsinki Commission during the 116th Congress, I worked with my House and Senate colleagues to continue the Commission's longstanding efforts to monitor participating States compliance with the Helsinki Accords. The importance of election observation in our country and abroad, restorative justice, the safety of journalists, and the global impact of George Floyd's tragic death on racial justice efforts were just some of the issues the Commission addressed last Congress, in addition to our continued focus on Russia, Ukraine, the Balkans and continued democratic development in the region. As we continue our work of the 117th Congress, I invite you to review the report: "Retrospective On The 116th Congress'' at https://www.csce.gov/international-impact/retrospective-116th-congress and http://www.csce.gov/sites/helsinkicommission.house.gov/files/116th%20Congress%20Report%20Final.pdf. This report summarizes the Commission's activities, as well as recommendations critical for the continued promotion of democracy and U.S. national security. Madam Speaker, I look forward to continuing this critically important work during the 117th Congress.

  • U.S. Election Practices: An International Perspective

    Madam Speaker, this chamber recently passed H.R. I, the "For the People Act,'' significant legislation making it easier for American citizens to vote in U.S. elections and improve transparency and accountability in our election process. The White House also recently announced a new executive order to assist this effort. These are positive developments that I welcome and support, but, as we all know, not everything regarding the conduct of elections can be done at the federal level. Unfortunately, many state legislatures are now undertaking efforts that would make it more difficult for eligible Americans to participate in the electoral process and vote. As Chair and in the leadership of the Helsinki Commission, I have supported the positive steps we are trying to take on this issue, yet I remain deeply concerned about those who want to move our country backward. Perhaps it would help our debate to look at the conduct of the 2020 U.S. elections from an international perspective, including the conduct of elections in conformity with international commitments first proposed and advocated by the United States more than 30 years ago. The United States has been one of five countries thus far where the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has observed elections during the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, and a German parliamentarian reported on its findings on February 26. He did not point fingers at us and accuse. He mentioned the positive as well as the negative. He is clearly a friend who cares, as most of the OSCE observers undoubtedly were. As a previous election observer in the OSCE region, I can also attest, that the code of conduct makes it is extremely unlikely that the OSCE election observation could be steered in support of any particular agenda other than better democracy. I therefore want to commend to my colleagues the full OSCE Final report "United States of America General Elections, 3 November 2020, ODIHR Limited Election Observation Mission," which can be found at https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/7/7/477823_2.pdf. It offers an important perspective on our elections from persons who rightly care about the process, not the result. They have observed not only our elections since 2002 but elections in dozens of other countries on a regular basis. The issues raised in the report are the same issues we Americans debate here in Washington, in our state capitals and through the media. I take the conclusions and recommendations, including criticisms, in this election observation report seriously. It serves as a helpful guide on what next steps we should take to improve our electoral system. I believe our election officials and state legislators should read this report; indeed, I recommend it to any American who cares about his or her country. It is a broad snapshot of our entire, complex electoral system. Several of the priority recommendations in the report deal with voting rights and voter identification. Specifically, it says that "authorities should review existing measures to further reduce the number of unregistered voters, including addressing burdensome procedures and obstacles faced by disadvantaged groups.'' It also says that "states should make every effort to ensure that voter identification requirements are equally accessible to all voters.'' It also makes specific recommendations regarding specific groups of American citizens. We do not need to agree about every conclusion and recommendation in this report to take it seriously. It is a contribution to our debates from a unique perspective. Moreover, our acceptance of international observation serves a useful function in our foreign policy. OSCE election observation has encouraged practices giving voters a real choice in numerous other countries, many of which were once repressive, one-party communist states but are now our friends and even, in some cases, allies. The United States initiated this effort with the OSCE and contributes significantly to election observation missions elsewhere, providing the expertise that comes with our experience. If we are to encourage other governments to take this effort seriously and implement recommendations, we need to set the example ourselves. Unfortunately, several U.S. states greatly restrict or even prohibit international observation. This is something which must change as we prepare for mid-term elections in 2022 and general elections in 2024.

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