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  • Chairman Cardin and Senator Wicker Colloquy on Russia

    Mr. WICKER. Mr. President, I am appreciative that I am able to join today with my friend and colleague, Senator Cardin. I appreciate his joining me today to discuss an issue of great concern to both of us and to human rights advocates around the world. That is the ongoing trial in Russia of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev. In June of last year, Senator Cardin joined me in introducing a resolution urging the Senate to recognize that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev have been denied basic due process rights under international law for political reasons. It is particularly appropriate, I think, that Senator Cardin and I be talking about this this afternoon because in a matter of days, Russian President Medvedev will be coming to the United States and meeting with President Obama. I think this would be a very appropriate topic for the President of the United States to bring up to the President of the Russian Federation.  I can think of no greater statement that the Russian President could make on behalf of the rule of law and a movement back toward human rights in Russia than to end the show trial of these two individuals and dismiss the false charges against them.  Since his conviction, Khodorkovsky has spent his time either in a Siberian prison camp or a Moscow jail cell. Currently, he spends his days sitting in a glass cage enduring a daily farce of a trial that could send him back to Siberia for more than 20 years. Amazingly, Mikhail Khodorkovsky remains unbroken.  I think it appropriate that President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have committed to resetting relations with the country. I support them in this worthwhile goal. Clearly, our foreign relations can always stand to be improved. I support strengthening our relations, particularly with Russia. However, this strengthening must not be at the expense of progress on the issue of the rule of law and an independent judiciary. The United States cannot publicly extol the virtues of rule of law and an independent judiciary and at the same time turn a blind eye to what has happened to Khodorkovsky and Lebedev.  I urge President Obama and Secretary Clinton to put the release of these two men high on the agenda as we continue to engage with Russia, and high on the agenda for President Medvedev's upcoming meeting here in Washington, DC.  Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I thank Senator Wicker for taking this time for this colloquy. He has been a real champion on human rights issues and on bringing out the importance for Russia to move forward on a path of democracy and respect for human rights. He has done that as a Senator from Mississippi. He has done that as a very active member of the Helsinki Commission. I have the honor of chairing the Helsinki Commission, which I think is best known because of its fight on behalf of human rights for the people, particularly in those countries that were behind the Iron Curtain—particularly before the fall of the Soviet Union, where we were regularly being the voices for those who could not have their voices heard otherwise because of the oppressive policies of the former Soviet Union.  So in the 1990s, there was great euphoria that at the end of the Cold War, the reforms that were talked about in Russia—indeed, the privatization of many of its industries—would at last bring the types of rights to the people of Russia that they so needed. But, unfortunately, there was a mixed message, and in the 1990s, I think contrary to Western popular opinion at the time, Russia did not move forward as aggressively as we wanted with freedom and democracy.  It is interesting that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was part of the Communist elite, led the country into privatization in the right way. He took a company, Yukos Oil Company, and truly made it transparent and truly developed a model of corporate governance that was unheard of at the time in the former Soviet Union and unheard of in the Russian Federation, and he used that as a poster child to try to help the people of Russia. He started making contributions to the general welfare of the country, which is what we would like to see from the business and corporate community. He did that to help his own people. But he ran into trouble in the midst of the shadowy and violent Russian market, and his problems were encouraged many times by the same people who we thought were leading the reform within the Russian Federation.  By 1998, with the collapse of the ruble, the people of Russia were disillusioned; they found their prosperity was only temporary. The cost of imports was going up. The spirit of nationalism, this nationalistic obsession, became much more prominent within the Russian Federation, and the move toward privatization lost a lot of its luster.  The rise of Mr. Putin to power also established what was known as vertical power, and independent companies were inconsistent with that model he was developing to try to keep control of his own country. Therefore, what he did under this new rubric was to encourage nationalization spirit, to the detriment of independent companies and to the detriment of the development of opposition opportunity, democracy, and personal freedom. We started to see the decline of the open and free and independent media.  All of this came about, and a highly successful and independent company such as Yukos under the leadership of Mikhail Khodorkovsky was inconsistent with what Mr. Putin was trying to do in Russia. As a result, there was a demise of the company, and the trials ensued. My friend Senator Wicker talked about what happened in the trial. It was a miscarriage of justice. It was wrong. We have expressed our views on it. And it is still continuing to this day. I thank Senator Wicker for continuing to bring this to the Members' attention and I hope to the people of Russia so they will understand there is still time to correct this miscarriage of justice.  Mr. WICKER. I thank my colleague.  I will go on to point out that things started coming to a head when Mr. Khodorkovsky started speaking out against the Russian Government, led by President Putin, and his company that he headed, Yukos, came into the sights of the Russian Federation.  Mr. Khodorkovsky visited the United States less than a week before his arrest. He was in Washington speaking to Congressman Tom Lantos, the late Tom Lantos, a venerated human rights advocate from the House of Representatives, who had seen violations of human rights in his own rights. Mr. Khodorkovsky told Congressman Lantos that he had committed no crimes but he would not be driven into exile. He said: "I would prefer to be a political prisoner rather than a political immigrant." And, of course, a political prisoner is what he is now.  Shortly after his arrest, government officials accused Yukos Oil of failing to pay more than $300 billion in taxes. At the time, Yukos was Russia's largest taxpayer. Yet they were singled out for tax evasion. And PricewaterhouseCoopers had recently audited the books of Yukos, and the government tax office had approved the 2002 to 2003 tax returns just months before this trumped-up case was filed.  The Russian Government took over Yukos, auctioned it off, and essentially renationalized the company, costing American stockholders $7 billion and stockholders all around the country who had believed Russia was liberalizing and becoming part of the market society. A Swiss court has ruled the auction illegal. A Dutch court has ruled the auction illegal. But even more so, they tried these two gentlemen and placed them in prison. Mr. Khodorkovsky apparently had the mistaken impression that he was entitled to freedom of speech, and we discovered that in Russia, at the time of the trial and even today, he was not entitled, in the opinion of the government, to his freedom of speech.  A recent foreign policy magazine called Khodorkovsky the "most prominent prisoner" in Vladimir Putin's Russia and a symbol of the peril of challenging the Kremlin, which is what Mr. Khodorkovsky did.  I would quote a few paragraphs from a recent AP story by Gary Peach about the testimony of a former Prime Minister who actually served during the Putin years:  A former Russian prime minister turned fierce Kremlin critic came to the defense of an imprisoned tycoon on Monday—  This is a May 24 article—  -- telling a Moscow court that prosecutors' new charges of massive crude oil embezzlement are absurd.  What we now find is that when Mr. Khodorkovsky is about to be released from his first sentence, new charges have arisen all of a sudden. After years and years of imprisonment in Siberia, new charges have arisen.  Mikhail Kasyanov, who headed the government in 2000-2004, told the court that the accusations against Khodorkovsky, a former billionaire now serving an eight-year sentence in prison, had no basis in reality.  This is a former Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.  Prosecutors claim that Khodorkovsky, along with his business partner [who is also in prison] embezzled some 350 million tons—or $25 billion worth—of crude oil while they headed the Yukos Oil Company.  That's all the oil Yukos produced over six years, from 1998 to 2003. I consider the accusation absurd.  He said that while Prime Minister, he received regular reports about Russia's oil companies and that Yukos consistently paid its taxes. Kasyanov, who served as Prime Minister during most of President Putin's first term, said that both the current trial and the previous one, which ended with a conviction, were politically motivated. So I would say this is indeed a damning accusation of the current trial going on, even as we speak, in Moscow.  Mr. CARDIN. Senator Wicker has pointed out in I think real detail how the dismantling of the Yukos Oil Company was done illegally under any international law; it was returning to the Soviet days rather than moving forward with democratic reform. As Senator Wicker has pointed out, the personal attack on its founders—imprisoning them on charges that were inconsistent with the direction of the country after the fall of the Soviet Union—was another miscarriage of justice, and it is certainly totally inconsistent with the statements made after the fall of the Soviet Union.  The early Putin years were clearly a return to nationalism in Russia and against what was perceived at that time by the popular Western view that Russia was on a path toward democracy. It just did not happen. And it is clearly a theft of a company's assets by the government and persecution, not prosecution, of the individuals who led the company toward privatization, which was a clear message given by the leaders after the fall of the Soviet Union.  This cannot be just left alone. I understand the individuals involved may have been part of the elite at one time within the former Soviet Union. I understand, in fact, there may have been mixed messages when you have a country that is going through a transition. But clearly what was done here was a violation of their commitments under the Helsinki Commission, under the Helsinki Final Act. It was a violation of Russia's statements about allowing democracy and democratic institutions. It was a violation of Russia's commitments to allow a free market to develop within their own country. All of that was violated by the manner in which they handled Mr. Khodorkovsky as well as his codefendant and the company itself. And it is something we need to continue to point out should never have happened.  The real tragedy here is that this is an ongoing matter. As Senator Wicker pointed out, there is now, we believe, an effort to try him on additional charges even though he has suffered so much. And it is a matter that—particularly with the Russian leadership visiting the United States, with direct meetings between our leaders, between Russia and the United States—I hope can get some attention and a chance for the Russian Federation to correct a miscarriage of justice.  Mr. WICKER. Indeed, the second show trial of Mr. Khodorkovsky has entered its second year. We have celebrated the anniversary of the second trial.  I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record an editorial by the Washington Post dated June 9, 2010, at this point.  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:  [From the Washington Post, June 9, 2010]  Show Trial: Should Ties to Russia Be Linked to Its Record on Rights?  Russia's government has calculated that it needs better relations with the West to attract more foreign investment and modern technology, according to a paper by its foreign ministry that leaked to the press last month. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has recently made conciliatory gestures to Poland, while President Dmitry Medvedev sealed a nuclear arms treaty with President Obama. At the United Nations, Russia has agreed to join Western powers in supporting new sanctions against Iran.  Moscow's new friendliness, however, hasn't led to any change in its repressive domestic policies. The foreign ministry paper says Russia needs to show itself as a democracy with a market economy to gain Western favor. But Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev have yet to take steps in that direction. There have been no arrests in the more than a dozen outstanding cases of murdered journalists and human rights advocates; a former KGB operative accused by Scotland Yard of assassinating a dissident in London still sits in the Russian parliament.  Perhaps most significantly, the Russian leadership is allowing the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil executive who has become the country's best-known political prisoner, to go forward even though it has become a showcase for the regime's cynicism, corruption and disregard for the rule of law. Mr. Khodorkovsky, who angered Mr. Putin by funding opposition political parties, was arrested in 2003 and convicted on charges of tax evasion. His Yukos oil company, then Russia's largest, was broken up and handed over to state-controlled firms.  A second trial of Mr. Khodorkovsky is nearing its completion in Moscow, nearly a year after it began. Its purpose is transparent: to prevent the prisoner's release when his first sentence expires next year. The new charges are, as Mr. Putin's own former prime minister testified last week, absurd: Mr. Khodorkovsky and an associate, Platon Lebedev, are now accused of embezzling Yukos's oil production, a crime that, had it occurred, would have made their previously alleged crime of tax evasion impossible.  Mr. Khodorkovsky, who acquired his oil empire in the rough and tumble of Russia's transition from communism, is no saint, but neither is he his country's Al Capone, as Mr. Putin has claimed. In fact, he is looking more and more like the prisoners of conscience who have haunted previous Kremlin regimes. In the past several years he has written numerous articles critiquing Russia's corruption and lack of democracy, including one on our op-ed page last month.  Mr. Obama raised the case of Mr. Khodorkovsky last year, and the State Department's most recent human rights report said the trial "raised concerns about due process and the rule of law." But the administration has not let this obvious instance of persecution, or Mr. Putin's overall failure to ease domestic repression, get in the way of its "reset" of relations with Moscow. If the United States and leading European governments would make clear that improvements in human rights are necessary for Moscow to win trade and other economic concessions, there is a chance Mr. Putin would respond. If he does not, Western governments at least would have a clearer understanding of where better relations stand on the list of his true priorities.  Mr. WICKER. The editorial points out that Russia's Government is trying to think of ways to attract more foreign investment, and it juxtaposes this desire for more Western openness and investment with the Khodorkovsky matter and says that this trial has become a showcase for the Russian regime's cynicism, corruption, and disregard for the rule of law.  It goes on to say: The new charges are, as Mr. Putin's own Prime Minister testified last week, absurd. Mr. Khodorkovsky and his associate, Platon Lebedev, are now accused of embezzling Yukos Oil's production—a crime that, had it occurred, would have made their previously alleged crime of tax evasion impossible. So the cynicism of these charges is that they are inconsistent with each other. Yet, in its brazenness, the Russian Federation Government and its prosecutors proceed with these charges.  The article goes on to say: Mr. Khodorkovsky is looking more and more like a prisoner of conscience who haunted the previous criminal regime.  It says:  Mr. Obama raised the case of Mr. Khodorkovsky last year, and the State Department's most recent human rights report said the trial "raised concerns about due process and the rule of law."  I will say they raised concerns.  Let me say in conclusion of my portion—and then I will allow my good friend from Maryland to close—this prosecution and violation of human rights and the rule of law of Lebedev and Khodorkovsky has brought the censure of the European Court of Human Rights that ruled that Mr. Khodorkovsky's rights were violated. A Swiss court has condemned the action of the Russian Federation and ruled it illegal. A Dutch court has said it is illegal. It has been denounced by such publications as Foreign Policy magazine, the Washington Post, a former Prime Minister who actually served under Mr. Putin. It has been denounced in actions and votes by the European Parliament, by other national parliaments, by numerous human rights groups, and by the U.S. State Department.  I submit, for those within the sound of my voice—and I believe there are people on different continents listening to the sound of our voices today—it is time for the Russian President to step forward and put an end to this farce, admit that this trial has no merit in law, and it is time for prosecutors in Moscow to cease and desist on this show trial and begin to repair the reputation of the Russian Federation when it comes to human rights and the rule of law.  Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I thank Senator Wicker for bringing out the details of this matter. It has clearly been recognized and condemned by the international community as against international law. It is clearly against the commitments Russia had made when the Soviet Union fell. It is clearly of interest to all of the countries of the world. Originally, when Yukos oil was taken over, investors outside of Russia also lost money. So there has been an illegal taking of assets of a private company which have affected investors throughout the world, including in the United States. It has been offensive to all of us to see imprisoned two individuals who never should have been tried and certainly should not be in prison today. All that is offensive to all of us. But I would think it is most offensive to the Russian people.  The Russian people believed their leaders, when the Soviet Union collapsed, that there would be respect for the rule of law; that there would be an independent judiciary, and their citizens could get a fair trial.  We all know—and the international community has already spoken about this—that Mikhail Khodorkovsky did not get a fair trial. So the commitment the Russian leaders made to its own people of an independent and fair judiciary has not been adhered to. This is not an isolated example within Russia. We know investigative reporters routinely are arrested, sometimes arrested with violence against them. We know opposition parties have virtually no chance to participate in an open system, denying the people a real democracy. But here with justice, Russia has a chance to do so.  I find it remarkable that Mr. Khodorkovsky's spirits are still strong, as Senator Wicker pointed out. Let me read a recent quote from Mr. Khodorkovsky himself, who is in prison:  “You know, I really do love my country, my Moscow. It seems like one huge apathetic and indifferent anthill, but it's got so much soul. . . . You know, inside I was sure about the people, and they turned out to be even better than I'd thought.” I think Senator Wicker and I both believe in the Russian people. We believe in the future of Russia. But the future of Russia must be a nation that embraces its commitments under the Helsinki Final Act. It has to be a country that shows compassion for its citizens and shows justice. Russia can do that today by doing what is right for Mr. Khodorkovsky and his codefendant: release them from prison, respect the private rights and human rights of its citizens, and Russia then will be a nation that will truly live up to its commitment to its people to respect human rights and democratic principles.  Again, I thank Senator Wicker for bringing this matter to the attention of our colleagues. It is a matter that can be dealt with, that should be dealt with, and we hope Russia will show justice in the way it handles this matter.  Mr. WICKER. I thank my colleague and yield the floor.   

  • OSCE Representative Cites Threats to Free Media

    Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Madam Speaker, as Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I wish to draw the attention of colleagues to the timely and informative testimony of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, who testified earlier today at a Commission hearing on ``Threats to Free Media in the OSCE Region.'' She focused on various threats to journalists and independent media outlets, including physical attacks and adoption of repressive laws on the media as well as other forms of harassment. Most troubling is the murder of journalists because of their professional activities. According to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists, 52 journalists have been killed in Russia alone since 1992, many reporting on corruption or human rights violations. Ms. Mijatovic also flagged particular concern over existing and emerging threats to freedom on the Internet and other communications technologies. She also voiced concern over the use of criminal statutes on defamation, libel and insult which are used by some OSCE countries to silence journalists or force the closure of media outlets. With respect to the situation in the United States, she urged adoption of a shield law at the federal level to create a journalists' privilege for federal proceedings. Such a provision was part of the Free Flow of Information Act of 2009, which passed the House early in the Congress and awaits consideration by the full Senate.  As one who has worked to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the 56 countries that comprise the OSCE, I share many of the concerns raised by Ms. Mijatovic in her testimony and commend them to colleagues.    ORGANIZATION FOR SECURITY AND CO-OPERATION IN EUROPE REPRESENTATIVE ON FREEDOM OF THE MEDIA  (By Dunja Mijatovic) [From the Helsinki Commission Hearing on the Threats to Free Media in the OSCE Region, June 9, 2010]  Dear Chairmen, Distinguished Commissioners, Ladies and Gentlemen,  I am honored to be invited to this hearing before the Helsinki Commission at the very beginning of my mandate. I feel privileged to speak before you today. The Helsinki Commission's welcoming statement issued on the day of my appointment is a clear manifestation of the strong support you continuously show toward the work of this unique Office, and I assure you, distinguished Commissioners, that this fact is very much appreciated.  It will be three months tomorrow since I took office as the new Representative on Freedom of the Media to the OSCE. Even though three months may sound short, it has proved more than enough to gain a deep insight, and unfortunately also voice concerns, about the decline of media freedom in many of the 56 countries that today constitute the OSCE.  Although the challenges and dangers that journalists face in our countries may differ from region to region, one sad fact holds true everywhere: The freedom to express ourselves is questioned and challenged from many sides. Some of these challenges are blatant, others concealed; some of them follow traditional methods to silence free speech and critical voices, some use new technologies to suppress and restrict the free flow of information and media pluralism; and far too many result in physical harassment and deadly violence against journalists.  Today, I would like to draw your attention to the constant struggle of so many institutions and NGOs around the world, including your Commission and my Institution, to combat and ultimately stop violence against journalists. I would also like to address several other challenges that I want to place in the center of my professional activities, each of which I intend to improve by relentlessly using the public voice I am now given at the OSCE.  Let me first start with violence against journalists.  Ever since it was created in 1997, my Office has been raising attention to the alarming increase of violent attacks against journalists. Not only is the high number of violent attacks against journalists a cause for concern. Equally alarming is the authorities' far too-prevalent willingness to classify many of the murders as unrelated to the journalists' professional activities. We also see that more and more often critical speech is being punished with questionable charges brought against the journalists.  Impunity of perpetrators and the responsible authorities' passivity in investigating and failing to publicly condemn these murders breeds further violence. There are numerous cases that need to be raised over and over again. We need to continue to loudly repeat the names of these courageous individuals who lost their lives for the words they have written. I am sorry for all those whom I will not mention today; but the names that follow are on the list that I call ``the Hall of Shame'' of those governments that still have not brought to justice the perpetrators of the horrifying murders that happened in their countries.  The most recent murder of a journalist in the OSCE area is the one of the Kyrgyz opposition journalist Gennady Pavlyuk (Bely Parokhod), who was killed in Kazakhstan in December last year. It gives me hope that the new Interim Government of Kyrgyzstan has announced to save no efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice, as well as those involved in the 2007 murder of Alisher Saipov (Siyosat).  The Russian Federation remains the OSCE participating State where most members of the media are killed. Paul Klebnikov (Forbes, Russia), Anna Politkovskaya (Novaya Gazeta), Anastasia Baburova (Novaya Gazeta), are the most reported about, but let us also remember Magomed Yevloyev (Ingushetiya), Ivan Safronov (Kommersant), Yury Shchekochikhin (Novaya Gazeta), Igor Domnikov (Novaya Gazeta), Vladislav Listyev (ORT), Dmitry Kholodov (Moskovsky Komsomolets) and many others.  We also should not forget the brutal murders of the following journalists, some remain unresolved today:  Hrant Dink (Agos) Armenian Turkish journalist was shot in 2007 in Turkey.  Elmar Huseynov (Monitor) was murdered in 2005 in Azerbaijan.  Georgy Gongadze (Ukrainskaya Pravda) was killed in 2000 in Ukraine.  In Serbia, Slavko Curuvija (Dnevni Telegrat) was murdered in 1999, and Milan Pantic (Vecernje Novosti) was killed in 2001.  In Montenegro, Dusko Jovanovic (Dan), was shot dead in 2004.  In Croatia, Ivo Pukanic (Nacional) and his marketing director, Niko Franjic, were killed by a car bomb in 2008.  Violence against journalists equals violence against society and democracy, and it should be met with harsh condemnation and prosecution of the perpetrators. There can be no improvement without an overhaul of the very apparatus of prosecution and law enforcement, starting from the very top of the Government pyramid.  There is no true press freedom as long as journalists have to fear for their lives while performing their work. The OSCE commitments oblige all participating States to provide safety to these journalists, and I will do my best to pursue this goal with the mandate I am given and with all professional tools at my disposal.  We also observe another very worrying trend; more and more often the imprisonment of critical journalists based on political motivations including fabricated charges. Let me mention some cases:  In Azerbaijan, the prominent editor-in-chief of the now-closed independent Russian-language weekly, Realny Azerbaijan, and Azeri-language daily, Gundalik Azarbaycan, Eynulla Fatullayev was sentenced in 2007 to a cumulative eight-and-a-half years in prison on charges on defamation, incitement of ethnic hatred, terrorism and tax evasion. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found Azerbaijan in violation of Article 10 and Article 6, paragraphs 1 and 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, so there is only one possible outcome--Fatullayev should be immediately released.  In Kazakhstan, Ramazan Yesergepov, the editor of Alma-Ata Info, is serving a three-year prison term on charges of disclosing state secrets.  Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade, bloggers from Azerbaijan, are serving two and a half years and two years in prison respectively since July 2009 on charges of hooliganism and infliction of light bodily injuries.  In Uzbekistan, two independent journalists, Dilmurod Saiid (a freelancer) and Solijon Abdurahmanov (Uznews), are currently serving long jail sentences (twelve-and-a-half-years and ten years) on charges of extortion and drug possession.  I will continue to raise my voice and demand the immediate release of media workers imprisoned for their critical work.  I join Chairman Cardin for commending independent journalists in the Helsinki Commission's recent statement on World Press Freedom Day. These professionals pursue truth wherever it may lead them, often at great personal risk. They indeed play a crucial and indispensable role in advancing democracy and human rights. By highlighting these murder and imprisonment cases, by no means do I intend to neglect other forms of harassment or intimidation that also have a threatening effect on journalists. Let me just recall that, with the heightened security concerns in the last decade, police and prosecutors have increasingly raided editorial offices, journalists' homes, or seized their equipment to find leaks that were perceived as security threats. Suppression and restriction of Internet Freedom  Turning to the problems facing Internet freedom, we can see that new media have changed the communications and education landscape in an even more dramatic manner than did the broadcast media in the last half century. Under my mandate, the challenge has remained the same: how to safeguard or enhance pluralism and the free flow of information, both classical Helsinki obligations within the OSCE.  It was in 1998 that I read the words of Vinton G. Cerf in his article called ``Truth and the Internet''. It perfectly summarizes the nature of the Internet and the ways it can create freedom.  Dr. Cerf calls the Internet one of the most powerful agents of freedom: It exposes truth to those who wish to see it. But he also warns us that the power of the Internet is like a two-edged sword: it can also deliver misinformation and uncorroborated opinion with equal ease. The thoughtful and the thoughtless co-exist side by side in the Internet's electronic universe. What is to be done, asks Cerf.  His answer is to apply critical thinking. Consider the Internet as an opportunity to educate us all. We truly must think about what we see and hear, and we must evaluate and select. We must choose our guides. Furthermore, we must also teach our children to think more deeply about what they see and hear. That, more than any electronic filter, he says, will build a foundation upon which truth can stand.  Today, this foundation upon which truth could indeed so firmly stand is under continuous pressure by governments. As soon as governments realized that the Internet challenges secrecy and censorship, corruption, inefficiency and bad governing, they started imposing controls on it. In many countries and in many ways the effects are visible and they indeed threaten the potential for information to circulate freely.  The digital age offers the promise of a truly democratic culture of participation and interactivity. Realizing that promise is the challenge of our times. In the age of the borderless Internet, the protection of the right to freedom of expression ``regardless of frontiers'' takes on a new and more powerful meaning.  In an age of rapid technological change and convergence, archaic governmental controls over the media are increasingly unjust, indefensible and ultimately unsustainable. Despite progress, many challenges remain, including the lack of or poor quality of national legislation relating to freedom of information, a low level of implementation in many OSCE member states and existing political resistance.  The importance of providing free access for all people anywhere in the world cannot be raised often enough in the public arena, and cannot be discussed often enough among stakeholders: civil society, media, as well as local and international authorities.  Freedom of speech is more than a choice about which media products to consume.  Media freedom and freedom of speech in the digital age also mean giving everyone--not just a small number of people who own the dominant modes of mass communication, but ordinary people, too--an opportunity to use these new technologies to participate, interact, build, route around and talk about whatever they wish--be it politics, public issues or popular culture. The Internet fundamentally affects how we live. It offers extraordinary opportunities for us to learn, trade, connect, create and also to safeguard human rights and strengthen democratic values. It allows us to hear each other, see each other and speak to each other. It can connect isolated people and help them through their personal problems.  These rights, possibilities and ideals are at the heart of the Helsinki Process and the OSCE principles and commitments that we share. We must find the best ways to spread access to the Internet, so that the whole world can benefit from what it can offer, rather than increasing the existing gaps between those who have access to information and those who do not. And to those governments who fear and distrust the openness brought along by the Internet, let me emphasize over and over again:  The way a society uses the new communications technologies and how it responds to economic, political and cultural globalization will determine the very future of that society. Restrict access to information, and your chances to develop will become restricted. Open up the channels of free communication, and your society will find ways to prosper.  I was delighted to hear Secretary of State Clinton speak about a basic freedom in her January speech on Internet freedom in the ``Newseum''. This freedom is the freedom to connect. Secretary Clinton rightly calls this freedom the freedom of assembly in cyber space. It allows us to come together online, and shape our society in fundamental ways. Fame or money is no longer a requisite to immensely affect our world.  My office is rapidly developing a comprehensive strategy to identify the main problems related to Internet regulation in the 56 countries of the OSCE, and ways to address these issues. I will count on the support of the Helsinki Commission to advance the universal values that this strategy will attempt to extend to those countries where these values are still being questioned.  Let me also mention the importance to protect the freedom of other new technologies.  Only two weeks ago, my Office organized the 12th Central Asia Media Conference in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where media professionals from all five Central Asian countries adopted a declaration on access to information and new technologies. This document calls on OSCE governments to facilitate the freer and wider dissemination of information, including through modern information and communication technologies, so as to ensure wide access of the public to governmental information.  It also reiterates that new technologies strengthen democracy by ensuring easy access to information, and calls upon state institutions with legislative competencies to refrain from adopting new legislation that would restrict the free flow of information. And only this spring my Office published a guide to the digital switchover, to assist the many OSCE countries where the switch from analogue to digital will take place in the next five years. The aim of the guide is to help plan the digitalization process, and help ensure that it positively affects media freedom, as well as the choice and quality available to the audience.  Besides advocating the importance of good digitalization strategies, I will also use all available fora to raise attention to the alarming lack of broadcast pluralism, especially television broadcast pluralism, in many OSCE countries. As television is the main source of information in many OSCE regions, we must ensure that the laws allow for diverse, high-quality programs and objective news to easily reach every one of us. Only well-informed citizens can make good choices and further democratic values. Whether we talk about Internet regulation, inventive ways to switch to digital while preserving the dominance of a few selected broadcasters, attempts to limit access to information or broadcast pluralism, we must keep one thing in mind: No matter what governments do, in the long run, their attempts to regulate is a lost battle.  People always find ways to obtain the rights that are denied to them. History has shown this over and over again. In the short run, however, it is very clear that I will intervene with governments which try to restrict the free flow of information. Defamation  Similar to fighting violence against journalists, my Office has been campaigning since its establishment in 1997 to decriminalize defamation and libel in the entire OSCE region.  Unfortunately, in most countries, defamation is still punishable by imprisonment, which threatens the existence of critical speech in the media. This is so despite the consistent rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, stating that imprisonment for speech offences, especially when committed by criticizing public figures, is a disproportionate punishment.  Let us again remind ourselves of the journalists and bloggers I have mentioned above when discussing violence against journalists. They are currently in prison because their writing was considered defamatory. Their fate reminds us all of the importance of the right to freely speak our mind.  This problem needs urgent reform not only in the new, but also in the old democracies of the OSCE. Although the obsolete criminal provisions have not been used in Western Europe for decades, their ``chilling effect'' remained.  Furthermore, the mere existence of these provisions has served as a justification for other states that are unwilling to stop the criminalization of journalistic errors, and instead leave these offenses solely to the civil-law domain.  Currently, defamation is a criminal offence in all but ten OSCE countries--my home country Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Estonia, Georgia, Ireland, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States.  Last year, three OSCE countries decriminalized defamation, which I consider to be an enormous success: Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom; the last being the first among the Western European participating States to officially decriminalize defamation.  Some other countries, such as Armenia, are currently reforming their defamation provisions, and I hope that I can soon welcome the next country that carries out this important and very long overdue reform.   Concluding remarks  Dear Chairmen,  Dear Commissioners,  Ladies and Gentlemen,  The above problematic areas--violence against journalists, restrictions of new media including the Internet, lack of pluralism and resistance to decriminalize defamation--are among the most urgent media freedom problems that need our attention and concentrated efforts today. However, we will also not forget about the many other fields where there is plenty of room to improve. Of course, I will not miss the excellent opportunity that we are here together today to raise your attention to the topic that my distinguished predecessor, Miklos Haraszti, has already raised with you: the establishment and the adoption of a federal shield law in the United States.  As you know, my Office has been a dedicated promoter of the federal shield law for many years. If passed, the Free Flow of Information Act would provide a stronger protection to journalists; it could ensure that imprisonments such as that of Judith Miller in 2005, and Josh Wolf in 2006, could never again take place and hinder investigative journalism. But the passage of such legislation would resonate far further than within the borders of the United States of America. It could send a very much needed signal and set a precedent to all the countries where protection of sources is still opposed by the government and is still not more than a dream for journalists.  I respectfully ask all of you, distinguished Commissioners, to continue and even increase your efforts to enable that the Free Flow of Information Act soon becomes the latest protector of media freedom in the United States.  And of course I cannot close my speech without mentioning my home country, Bosnia and Herzegovina. As you know, not only Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also most of the emerging democracies in the Balkans enjoy modern and forward-looking media legislation. We can openly say that they almost have it all when it comes to an advanced legal and regulatory framework enabling free expression to thrive. But it is not that simple. I use this moment to pose several questions: if there are good laws, then why do we still face severe problems in relation to media freedom, why do we stagnate and sometimes even move backward? Where does the problem lie? And, more importantly, how can we solve it and move ahead?  What Bosnia and Herzegovina shows us is that good laws in themselves are not enough. Without their good implementation, they are only documents filled with unrealized potential. In countries that struggle with similar problems, we must stress over and over again: without the full implementation of valid legislation, without genuine political will, without a comprehensive understanding of the media's role in a functioning democracy, without the creation of a safe environment for journalists to do their work, and without true commitment by all actors, these countries risk falling far behind international standards.  Apart from unmet expectations and disillusioned citizens, we all know that the consequences of politicized and misused media could be very serious. In conclusion, let me assure you, dear Commissioners, that I will not hesitate to openly and vigorously remind any country of their responsibilities toward implementing the OSCE commitments to the freedom of the media.  I am also asking you to use this opportunity today and send a clear message to the governments of all OSCE countries to do their utmost to fully implement their media legislation safeguarding freedom of expression. The governments have the power to create an environment in which media can perform their unique role free of pressures and threats. Without this, no democracy can flourish.  Thank you for your attention.

  • Natural Resource Charter

    Mr. President, I am pleased to report to you and my colleagues on the excellent work that is being done to help developing countries capitalize on their natural resource wealth. This unique initiative is called the Natural Resource Charter, and it is designed to give countries the tools and knowledge they need to develop their natural resources for the good of their citizens in a transparent and accountable manner. As a collective work coordinated by established academics and development experts, the charter provides a set of policy principles for governments on the successful translation of natural resource wealth into fair and sustainable development. At the U.S. Helsinki Commission we monitor 56 countries, including the United States, with the mandate to ensure compliance to commitments made under the Helsinki Final Act with focus on three dimensions: security, economics and the environment, and human rights. The management of extractive industries has broad implications covering all three dimensions of the Helsinki process. We know that oil, gas, and mining are potential sources of conflict and their supply has a direct impact on our national security. The often negative economic consequences for resource rich countries are well documented and we see constant reminders of the environmental impact of extraction both at home and abroad. Finally, the resultant degradation of human rights in countries that are corrupted by resource wealth is a real concern that we must address. When the charter was launched last year, I was struck by how far we have come in terms of bringing the difficult conversation on extractive industries into the lexicon of world leaders. Only a few short years ago, the word "transparency'' was not used in the same sentence with oil, gas or mining revenue. After the launch of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in 2002, we have seen a major shift in attitude. This was followed by G8 and G20 statements in support of greater revenue transparency as a means of achieving greater economic growth in developing countries. But it is clear that given the challenge ahead, more than statements are needed. The Natural Resource Charter is a concrete and practical next step in the right direction. Economists have found that many of the resource-rich countries of the world today have fared notably worse than their neighbors economically and politically, despite the positive opportunities granted by resource wealth. The misuse of extractive industry revenues has often mitigated the benefits of such mineral wealth for citizens of developing nations; in many cases the resources acting instead as a source of severe economic and social instability. In addressing the factors and providing solutions for such difficulties, the Natural Resource Charter aims to be a global public resource for informed, transparent decision-making regarding extractive industry management. The charter's overarching philosophy is that development of natural resources should be designed to secure maximum benefit for the citizens of the host country. To this end, its dialogue includes a special focus on the role of informed public oversight through transparency measures such as EITI in establishing the legitimacy of resource decisions and attracting foreign investment. On fiscal issues, the charter presents guidelines for the systematic reinvestment of resource revenues in national infrastructure and human capital with the goal of diminishing effects of resource price volatility and ensuring long-term economic growth. This week the commission will hold a public briefing on the Natural Resource Charter and I am pleased to say that there was a candid conversation between the audience and the panel that revealed much about how the charter could be used to promote human rights and good governance. The briefing also addressed ways that U.S. support of democratic and economically sensible extractive industry standards could have a powerful effect in securing the welfare and freedoms of citizens in resource-rich countries. In particular, it was noted that the Energy Security Through Transparency Act, S. 1700, a bipartisan bill I introduced with my colleague Senator Lugar and 10 other colleagues is consistent with the principles set out in the Natural Resource Charter. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure our continued progress on these issues.

  • Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of Katyn

    Mr. Hastings of Florida. Madam Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Katyn--a word that has come to symbolize the brutal murder of over 20,000 Polish military officers and other intellectual elite by Stalin's secret police in the spring of 1940 and the subsequent lies told about this horrific crime. These men, and one woman, were taken as prisoners by the Soviets in their undeclared war against Poland that began a mere 17 days after the Nazis invaded Poland and started World War II. The tragic crash this past Saturday that took the lives of so many of Poland's most senior leaders has focused worldwide attention on the Katyn massacre, which has come to symbolize Stalin's brutal repression of the Poles and others. People of goodwill everywhere extend the hand of sympathy and friendship to the Polish people who once again have suffered a great national tragedy, ironically in the very place where one of the last century's most sordid deeds was carried out. It is my hope that the victims--from President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria to prominent leaders of the armed forces, the parliament, other institutions, and relatives of those shot in 1940--will not have died in vain, that this horrible crash will somehow give strength to those in Poland who must go on and continue to lead their great nation, a nation that has been a stalwart ally of the United States and a beacon of freedom and prosperity in Eastern Europe. I also hope that these sad events may in some way help bring Russia and Poland a new and stronger relationship based on a shared history and suffering and characterized by mutual respect and trust. Further, I would like to express my admiration for the manner in which Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin handled this disaster, flying immediately to Smolensk, the site of the crash and taking personal responsibility for the investigation. Mr. Putin acted decisively, but more than that he reinforced the positive signals he and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk had given at their joint ceremony in Katyn last Wednesday. No Russian Prime Minister--in fact no Russian of Mr. Putin's stature and standing--had ever been to Katyn. Mr. Tusk graciously expressed his appreciation to Mr. Putin by quoting the great Russian writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn: "But let us not forget that violence does not live alone and is not capable of living alone: it is necessarily interwoven with falsehood. Between them lies the most intimate, the deepest of natural bonds. Violence finds its only refuge in falsehood, falsehood its only support in violence. Any man who has once acclaimed violence as his method must inexorably choose falsehood as his principle." I hope that Mr. Putin will also embrace these words in practical ways, most importantly by assisting the Poles in finding still missing information about those who were executed on Stalin's orders in 1940. 

  • Transparency and Sunshine Week

    At the U.S. Helsinki Commission we monitor 56 countries, including the United States, to ensure compliance with human rights and other commitments made under the Helsinki Final Act.  A major part of that compliance rests on governments being open and acting transparently--the same focus that is at the heart of the American Society of Newspaper Editors' Sunshine Week.  Practicing open governance is not something countries, States, and cities should do because they have to comply with some international agreement or public records law; rather, being transparent should be an organic part of providing a democratic government and empowering citizens.  When President Obama began his Presidency he called for unprecedented transparency. In his Open Government Directive, he outlined a clear plan for government to become more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.  The logic is clear--only through transparency can people gain the knowledge needed to participate and hold their governments accountable. And only if the people participate can government collaborate with them to glean the best ideas.  This directive was bold and action-oriented, but sadly we have not seen the U.S. bureaucracy react with the same swiftness with which this directive was made. Most agencies, in fact, have not made concrete changes to comply with the directive, according to a government-wide audit released earlier this week by the National Security Archive based at the George Washington University.  It seems for all the White House is doing disclosing its visitors log, broadcasting policy meetings, increasing interactivity through town hall meetings and YouTube interviews--a lot of work remains at the agencies.  Most glaring to me are the delays and in some cases outright denials of Freedom of Information Act requests. I was surprised to learn in the National Security Archive audit that some requests have been pending for 18 years when the law very clearly calls for responses within 20 business days when possible.  Most baffling from the audit may be what files still remain locked in government vaults. For example, today--more than 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall--the Pentagon still has not responded to a request for records detailing the military's reaction in 1961 to the building of the wall.  When it comes to diplomacy, this President and Secretary of State Clinton deserve great praise for the work they have done around the world to strengthen dialogue and improve U.S. relationships abroad. This successful record, however, is slightly tarnished by the Department of State's efforts on open governance. The Department more than doubled the number of denials it issued to people filing Freedom of Information Act requests last year--the largest increase of any agency except for the Social Security Administration, which tripled its denials.  Fourteen months is a short time to change a bureaucracy charged with managing countless records. But a handful of agencies have already shown it is possible and committed to open government changes. On top of other positive reforms, the Departments of Agriculture and Justice, the Small Business Administration, and the Office of Management and Budget all increased how much information they released and decreased how many requests they denied last year. These agencies have embraced the spirit of transparency ushered in by President Obama, and as we mark Sunshine Week, I hope others will follow suit with their own innovative ways to increase transparency and spur citizen involvement. And once agencies adopt these practices, I hope they stick with them--not because they fulfill any Presidential directive but because they give us a better democracy. 

  • State Department Human Rights Reports

    Mr. President, this month's release of the State Department's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices shows the value of consistently monitoring human rights around the globe. As Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission charged with monitoring international human rights commitments in 56 countries from the U.S. and Canada to Europe and Central Asia, this annual report is a key tool that we, and others, use to track progress being made on universal freedoms. This year's reports have increased significance as 2010 is the 35th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act and the 20th anniversary of historic international human rights agreements, the Copenhagen Document, and the Charter of Paris for a New Europe. In a year commemorating such landmark human rights documents, this month's State Department reports remind us that many of the commitments countries made in the past still have not been met with meaningful action today. In Belarus, where I visited last summer, the political space for opposition remains tightly controlled, independent media face continual harassment, and elections are a farce. The overall situation in Russia remains disturbing as well. There 2009 was a year again filled with mourning the very people who stood for freedom, be they journalists, human rights advocates or lawyers simply trying to present a case against corruption. The country's harassment of Jehovah's Witnesses and forceful break up of public demonstrations remain particularly concerning. I urge Kazakhstan, as the current chair of the OSCE, to lead by example through concrete actions, starting with the release of activist Yevgeny Zhovtis, whom staff from the Helsinki Commission visited this week in prison. Zhovtis at least deserves the same freedoms afforded other prisoners in his facility, including the right to work outside the facility during the day. In Kosovo, in addition to problems with human trafficking, official corruption and a lack of judicial due process, the State Department notes the lack of progress regarding displaced persons of all ethnicities, politically and ethnically motivated violence, and societal antipathy against Serbs and the Serbian Orthodox Church. The lack of progress regarding the country's international recognition, while unfortunate, does not absolve Kosovo authorities from their responsibility to ensure greater respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner, who serves as the State Department Commissioner on the U.S. Helsinki Commission, did a superb job of unveiling the report today with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I was heartened to hear him specifically flag examples of 2009 human rights violations within the OSCE region that drew the attention of the Commission last year. The banning of construction of Muslim minarets in Switzerland, the pervasiveness of discrimination against Roma--Europe's largest ethnic minority, and the continued rise of anti-Semitism in Europe sadly still remain concerns this year.  While these country reports help to hold all governments--including our own--to account; and while much of their text shows the reality of a world troubled by violent conflicts and the mistreatment of our most vulnerable people; the State Department reports also show the positive that surrounds us. In this vein, Assistant Secretary Posner was right to mention the fairness of Ukraine's recent elections, for which my colleague Cochairman Hastings led the election observation mission. And the reports are eager to cite progress where appropriate.  But these reports affirm something else, and that is the strength of the legislative-executive branch cooperation when it comes to upholding universal standards. The Helsinki Commission is unique among all federal agencies for being comprised of Senate, House and executive branch commissioners, and Assistant Secretary Posner's activity with the Commission and the State Department's annual human rights reports mandated by Congress are but two examples of our two branches working together to keep a spotlight on human rights abuses.

  • Commemorating the 49th Anniversary of the Peace Corps

    Mr. President, today I rise to celebrate service – specifically the dedication of Americans volunteering in the Peace Corps, which this week marks its 49th year of connecting committed volunteers with meaningful work around the globe. There are a lot of ways to give of our selves. We donate food. We donate money. We donate time. But the Peace Corps takes community service – global service, really -- to another level, with volunteers committing 27 months to improve the quality of life in developing countries. Some projects focus on agriculture; others business. Some improve health, while others emphasize education or the environment, but all programs build a unique international relationship with a spirit of volunteer service at its core. As chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, I recently saw one program up close during a Congressional delegation I led to Morocco, which is an active Mediterranean Partner country in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Meetings with local government officials there were informative. And the briefings from the embassy staff were important. But the time we spent with a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Aitourir was nothing short of inspiring. The Youth Development Program there run by Peace Corps Volunteer Kate Tsunoda with help from local community volunteers is giving children from kindergarten through high school critical education, language and art skills. Inside a small community center, below a library still in need of dictionaries and elementary school books, we sat down with a group of young men -- some in college, some recently graduated. In a part of the world where unemployment tops 15 percent, these are the people one may see as most susceptible to recruitment by extremists, but not these men. They spoke of dreams that included higher education, better jobs, and a transforming their local towns. These men credit the Peace Corps program for empowering them and building their language skills. I credit the Peace Corps for something even greater -- forging international understanding, something the Peace Corps has excelled at now for 49 years in 139 countries through 7,671 volunteers. On the other side of town, several members of our delegation visited a start-up small business, the brainchild of retiree and Peace Corps volunteer Barbara Eberhart, whose second career is dedicated to empowering the women of Morocco. The group visited a fabric and embroidery shop developed by a community of Berber women aided by a microcredit loan and Barbara's guidance and unbounded energy. These women, unable to read or write and essentially marginalized in Moroccan society, have formed a cooperative where they create fine embroidered goods and sell them in local markets. Their small business not only provides desperately needed income, but gives these women a stronger sense of themselves, their community and hope for their future and that of their children. With Peace Corps volunteers coming from all backgrounds, ages and various stages of life, this program is as diverse as our country. The local citizen collaboration inherent in all Peace Corps work helps build enduring relationships between the United States and Peace Corps partner countries. The Peace Corps invests time and talent in other countries, but it pays dividends back here in the United States as well. Those who are taught or helped by Peace Corps volunteers are likely to have more favorable opinions of the United States. More than that, many of the volunteers themselves are inspired to public service upon their return to this country, some becoming governors and Members of Congress, including our own colleague and fellow Helsinki Commissioner, Senator Dodd of Connecticut. I left Aitourir thinking Kate was the exemplary Peace Corps volunteer with her welcoming smile, passion for service and genuine love for the Moroccan people. But aware of the success of so many other Peace Corps programs around the world, I know Kate is one of many volunteers -- all of whom would have left as great an impression. The Peace Corps is a program that works. Volunteers year in and year out continue to fulfill the Peace Corps mission of bringing training and education to interested countries and strengthening understanding between Americans and our neighbors in the global community. Congratulations to the Peace Corps for 49 remarkable years. I look forward to its continued success. Thank you, Mr. President.

  • Tribute to Miklos Haraszti

    Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, in my capacity as Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I am pleased to commend Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, for his years of dedicated service in the cause of advancing freedom of expression and media. An accomplished writer and journalist as well as a courageous human rights activist in his native Hungary for decades prior to the end of the Cold War, he was elected to parliament in the early 1990s. Since his appointment to his current position in 2004, Mr. Haraszti has been an outspoken champion for beleaguered journalists throughout the OSCE region. Mr. Haraszti's periodic reports have proven invaluable in tracking trends regarding laws, policies and practices governing freedom of expression and media in the participating states. He has been vigilant in monitoring and reporting on issues arising from the adoption of "extremism'' laws in a growing number of OSCE countries. The Representative on Freedom of the Media has likewise been a strong voice in calling for decriminalization of defamation and a critic of attempts by some regimes to restrict the Internet and new media technologies. Most importantly, he has responded to specific urgent situations and cases, including instances involving the harassment, physical attacks, and even murder of journalists. He has never shied away from naming names, he has never played favorites, and he has been a voice for those whom governments would like to silence. Next month Mr. Haraszti will conclude his service as the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. You can write a great mandate for a high-level official, but if you don't appoint the right person to the job, you won't get results. Mr. Haraszti has been the right person for the right job and we have been very fortunate that he has given 6 years to serve the greater good in the OSCE region. The OSCE participating States will be hard pressed to find an individual to match his professionalism, passion, and integrity. I join my colleagues at the Helsinki Commission in expressing our deep appreciation to Miklos Haraszti, a tireless advocate for freedom of expression and media, for his service and we wish him the best in his future pursuits.

  • Kazakhstan’s Vision of a More Effective OSCE

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to recognize Kazakhstan's new role as chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE. The decision by the OSCE participating states to appoint Kazakhstan as its chair for 2010 marks the first time that a former Soviet state will take on this leadership role. The decision was not without controversy, and I would like to acknowledge the efforts made over the past two decades to establish democracy and a market economy. I look forward to full implementation of the promises of reform made by Kazakhstan at the 2007 OSCE Madrid Ministerial. In a January 2010 video address, President Nazarbayev told the OSCE Permanent Council that, "Kazakhstan as the holder of the OSCE Chairmanship is firmly committed to the fundamental principles and values of the OSCE.'' I welcome and applaud this statement as well as Chairman-in-Office Saudabayev's Permanent Council statement that, "further steps in the area of democratization in Kazakhstan will be fully in line with the goals and tasks that we have set ourselves during our Chairmanship.''  This month, Kazakhstan Secretary of State-Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev has officially assumed his role as chairman-in-office of the OSCE and I believe he will dedicate his efforts toward realizing Kazakhstan's vision and goals for the OSCE this year. I know Chairman-in-Office Saudabayev's objective is to make the organization even more valid, useful, and effective. I commend Kazakhstan's effective preparation for the chairmanship, and welcome the deepening cooperation between Kazakhstan and the U.S. to make the chairmanship a success.  On January 14, Chairman-in-Office Saudabayev outlined his country's plan for executing Kazakhstan's strategic vision. In light of increased threats to international security, including illicit drug trafficking and terrorism, Kazakhstan will focus on preventing conflicts that result in tragedy and disaster. It is important that the United States support these efforts. I also support Chairman-in-Office Saudabayev's intention to continue to focus on the OSCE's human dimension.  One area of focus for Kazakhstan as chairmanship of the OSCE will be to address issues pertinent to the developing situation in Afghanistan. In fact, Chairman-in-Office Saudabayev has stated that a principal goal is to help the Afghan people leave behind their militaristic world and develop a lasting peaceful and productive society. To achieve this Kazakhstan has donated $50 million to a new program which will provide vocational training to 1,000 Afghanis at Kazakh universities. Chairman-in-Office Saudabayev also intends to develop cooperative projects that strengthen the border and improve law enforcement practices, and I support increasing OSCE involvement in this regard.  Beyond the global peril of Afghanistan is the issue of nuclear disarmament. As a former Soviet state, Kazakhstan should be applauded for its decision to eradicate its inherited nuclear arsenal and for its example and leadership in nuclear nonproliferation. With the mantle of OSCE leadership, Chairman-in-Office Saudabayev will work with the OSCE to achieve increased global security.  I commend Kazakhstan for prioritizing the fight against the deplorable and growing concern of human trafficking, particularly that of children. Trafficking has become a major international concern that warrants the attention and cooperation of the OSCE states to develop effective solutions to eliminate such practices.  Chairman-in-Office Saudabayev has also expressed the need for increased tolerance and equality, especially with regard to religion, race, and gender. Various conferences and meetings are already in place to discuss the implementation of previous decisions concerning these areas. I plan to attend at least one of the conferences. And I will encourage colleagues to attend as well.  Finally, as many of my colleagues would agree, energy security remains a critical global concern. Kazakhstan, with its significant oil, gas and mining potential, plays a key role as a reliable energy supplier. The past two years has seen significant challenges to energy supply and distribution in the OSCE region and there is much that the OSCE could be doing to help mediate differences and encourage greater transparency in this area. I am confident that Chairman-in-Office Saudabayev will bring to bear his country's experience and expertise in energy issues to create greater capacity for energy security both politically and institutionally in the OSCE.  I look forward to helping and following the progress of the OSCE under the leadership of Kazakhstan.  The priorities outlined by Chairman-in-Office Saudabayev demonstrate the challenges ahead for the OSCE. I wish Chairman-in-Office Saudabayev and the entire Republic of Kazakhstan well as the OSCE chairmanship. It is my hope that by the close of 2010, we will see Kazakhstan's OSCE leadership manifested through positive outcomes.  U.S. OFFICIAL ON COMMENCEMENT OF KAZAKHSTAN'S OSCE CHAIRMANSHIP  (By Robert O. Blake, Jr., Jan. 20, 2010)  As Kazakhstan begins to serve as the Chairman-In-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe this yea, it is charting a course for a bright and promising future.  It is a future in which the United States and Kazakhstan together seek peace, security, economic development and prosperity. We seek democratic values and human rights that unite free nations in trust and in respect. We seek a region in which relations are good between neighbors, between Russia and China and Afghanistan and all others in the region and of course with the United States.  Kazakhstan has been a leader in international security since its earliest days of independence. After the end of the Cold War, the world applauded as Kazakhstan renounced its nuclear weapons, closed the nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk, and freely transferred over half a ton of weapons-grade uranium to secure sites outside the country under Project Sapphire.  This past December, we marked the sixteenth anniversary of the landmark Cooperative Threat Reduction Program in Kazakhstan and we continue to work in partnership with Kazakhstan to advance our common non-proliferation goals. In April President Obama will welcome President Nazarbayev and other world leaders to the Global Nuclear Security Summit he will host.  Since its independence, Kazakhstan has also set an example in the region with economic reforms that have attracted investment and created jobs. The Government of Kazakhstan is also making wise choices to develop multiple energy export routes and to diversify its economy to ensure that its vast oil wealth can become a source for social mobility, not social stagnation.  As Kazakhstan's economy continues to recover from the global economic downturn, it should again be an engine for growth within Central Asia. Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan would benefit immensely from Kazakhstan) investment and energy supplies to stimulate growth and create jobs.  And Afghanistan needs the full partnership of Kazakhstan to overcome the destitution that extremists, warlords, and civil war have compounded over several decades. Kazakhstan is providing vital logistical support to the International Security Assistance Force through the Northern Distribution Network. We welcome Astana's decision to invest in Afghanistan's next generation of leaders by generously allocating $50 million to fund scholarships for a thousand Afghan students to study In Kazakhstan.  Kazakhstan's OSCE Chairmanship is highly symbolic. The OSCE had long prided itself for stretching from Vancouver to Vladisvostok. Now, for the very first time, a major international organization is headed by a new country east of Vienna. It is a recognition that the OSCE draws its strength not only from Europe and the United States, but also from Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Balkans.  The challenges facing the OSCE and the international community are real but our strength comes from facing those challenges collectively and with a common purpose. The United States looks forward to working with Kazakhstan this year to meet these challenges and achieve the goal of modernizing and strengthening the OSCE, for the benefit of all participating States.  Kazakhstan has successfully navigated the early stages of statehood. It has achieved a position of leadership on international security and economic development. And now, Kazakhstan, as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office has an unprecedented opportunity to lead Central Asia towards a future of democracy and to advance its own reform agenda to unleash the creative energy of its people.  With continued reform, Kazakhstan can become the nexus of Eurasia in the 21st century, the point where all roads cross. For thousands of years, along the ancient Silk Road, the communities of Central Asia facilitated the global exchange of ideas, and trade, and culture. In the process, they made historic contributions to our collective human heritage.  Today, as Kazakhstan assumes the OSCE mantle, it is poised and ready to break a fresh path for a new Silk Road, a great crossroads of reform linking the provinces of northern Russia to the ports of South Asia, the republics of Western Europe to the democracies of East Asia.  A strong and prosperous and democratic Kazakhstan can energize the global transmission of learning, trade and freedom across the steppes of Central Asia. Kazakhstan has a glorious past and can seize a hopeful future. The United States will continue to be Kazakhstan's steadfast partner.

  • 65th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

    Mr. President, on January 27, 1945, the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, including Birkenau and other related camps near the Polish city of Oswiecim, was liberated by the Soviet Army. This week, people have gathered at Auschwitz and in many other places to mark the 65th anniversary of that event. I am pleased that President Obama presented a video address in which he underscored--using Elie Wiesel's words--the sacred duty of memory. Auschwitz-Birkenau was the principal and most notorious of the six death camps built by Nazi Germany to achieve its goal of the mass extermination of the Jewish people of Europe. Built in Nazi-occupied Poland initially as a concentration camp for Poles and later for Soviet prisoners of war, it soon became a prison for a number of other nationalities. Ultimately, a minimum 1,300,000 people were deported to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945, and of these, at least 1,100,000 were murdered at that camp. An estimated 6 million Jews--more than 60 percent of the pre-World War II Jewish population of Europe--were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators at Auschwitz and elsewhere in Europe. In addition, hundreds of thousands of civilians of Polish, Roma, and other nationalities, including in particular disabled individuals, homosexuals, political, intellectual, labor, and religious leaders, all of whom the Nazis considered `undesirable,' as well as Soviet and other prisoners of war, perished at Auschwitz . On that day of liberation , 65 years ago, only 7,000 camp prisoners who had passed through the infamous Auschwitz gates, the ones who promised "Arbeit Macht Frei" -- "Work Will Make You Free" -- managed to survive the selections, torture, starvation, disease, inhuman medical experiments, and executions that occurred at Auschwitz. According to a new survey published this week by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, at least 41 of the OSCE's 56 participating states commemorate the Holocaust with official events. Thirty-three participating states have established official memorial days for Holocaust victims, and January 27 is the official Holocaust Memorial Day in many European countries, including Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. I am deeply gratified that since 2005, the United Nations has also observed January 27 as a day of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust. In fact, Auschwitz -Birkenau was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979. I personally visited Auschwitz in 2004 and cannot overstate the importance of the Memorial Museum there today in the effort to teach future generations about the Holocaust. The recent theft of the "Arbeit-Macht-Frei" sign -- which, fortunately, was recovered -- has certainly heightened awareness of the need for additional security measures there, and I support the efforts to secure increased funding for the preservation of the Memorial Museum. Teaching about the Holocaust is an obligation that must be met not only at Auschwitz , but at places where people learn around the globe. As chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I am deeply concerned by the rise of anti-Semitism and violent extremism in some OSCE participating states. In particular, I am deeply troubled by the continued prevalence of Nazi-era discourse to describe Roma. As Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, has said: Even after . . . the Nazi killing of at least half a million Roma, probably 700,000 or more, there was no genuine change of attitude among the majority population towards the Roma. With this concern in mind, I was pleased to learn that the United Nations invited the OSCE senior advisor for Romani issues, Andrzej Mirga, to participate in the commemoration they organized this year. Sadly, as Mr. Mirga observed, although approximately 23,000 Romani people were sent to Auschwitz , none were among the survivors liberated there 65 years ago.  

  • Remarks on the Passing of Micah Naftalin, Leader of the Movement to Aid Soviet Jewry

    Madam Speaker, as Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission I wish to mark the recent passing of Micah H. Naftalin, an enthusiastic leader of the grassroots movement on behalf of oppressed Jews in the Soviet Union. His dedicated work contributed significantly in advancing the cause of refusals denied their right to leave the U.S.S.R. During the dark days of the Cold War, Micah was an impassioned champion for human rights for members of the Jewish community and others, including political prisoners, in the Soviet Union. Micah was similarly unwavering in his commitment to combat anti-Semitism and related violence, closely monitoring and reporting on developments in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. He was appointed to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council in 1982, later serving as acting director. For more than two decades Micah served as national director of the Union of Councils for Jews in the former Soviet Union. He worked closely with the Helsinki Commission to advance democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Russia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. In 1993, he served as a public member on the U.S. delegation to the annual meeting to review implementation of human rights commitments by signatories to the Helsinki Final Act. In 2007, he helped found the Coalition Against Hate, a consortium of human rights NGOs from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus united in their efforts to monitor hate crimes. Madam Speaker, I join Chairman Ben Cardin and others on the Helsinki Commission in expressing our condolences to Micah's family and his many friends.

  • Tribute to Canadian Senator Jerahmiel 'Jerry' Grafstein

    Madam President, I wish to draw the attention of my colleagues to the retirement of Jerahmiel S. Grafstein from the Canadian Senate.  As a member and now as Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I have had the privilege to know and work with Jerry Grafstein over the years through participation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe--the OSCE. I know that my colleague from Ohio, Senator Voinovich, also knows Jerry well, having just worked with him on a resolution at this year's Annual Session of the Assembly in Vilnius, Lithuania, on combating anti-Semitism. I suspect that many of my other Senate colleagues have also worked with him over the years, as have many of our colleagues in the House of Representatives.  Anybody who has met Senator Grafstein immediately recognizes him as a man of tremendous energy, deep commitment and brilliant mind. Commenting on Jerry's career, one of his Canadian Senate colleagues noted the daunting task of paying tribute ``to a force of nature disguised as a person.'' A successful lawyer, businessman and member of the Liberal Party, he was summoned to the Canadian Senate in 1984. Jerry Grafstein's accomplishments over the next 25 years of public service are much more than I can relay here.  I do, however, want to highlight Jerry's prominent work with the 56-country, 300-member OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Serving for 6 years as the Assembly's treasurer and then, with me since 2007, as one of nine Vice Presidents, Jerry has understood the potential of this multilateral parliamentary forum to promote human rights, democracy and tolerance. Such a vital forum, however, does not just magically appear for the world's benefit. Someone has to take the time to make it function by participating as an officer, attending countless organizational meetings and, for us and our Canadian neighbors, traveling frequently across the Atlantic to do so. Jerry was one who rose to the challenge and then some.  Even as he helped on organizational matters, Jerry Grafstein found more time than most others to focus on substance. First and foremost, he has helped to lead the charge against rising anti-Semitism across Europe and around the world. Diplomacy has a tendency to soften the criticism and downplay the negative, often until it is too late, but Jerry has helped to ensure that the OSCE did not shy away from dealing directly with this and other manifestations of hate and prejudice that dangerously confront far too many societies. Today, thanks to the vigilance of Jerry Grafstein and others, efforts to promote greater tolerance are now a solid, ongoing and vital aspect of the OSCE's work.  This distinguished Senator from Canada also found time to participate and help lead OSCE PA missions observing elections and referenda in places like Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Montenegro. By being an international observer, he became a witness to history and, in my view, helped history forward and made the world a more democratic place.  In all his public endeavors, Jerry Grafstein has been a close friend of the United States of America. He has helped over the years to develop the bilateral dialogue between the U.S. Congress and the Canadian Parliament. He has come here to Washington on many occasions, including as a participant in Helsinki Commission events. He has always made clear that he is Canadian and proud of the country he represents, but that has never kept him from developing areas of common interest and seeking points of agreement even on some issues where our national views may otherwise diverge.  Jerry Grafstein has been and will remain a close personal friend as well, always concerned, always engaging, never pretentious. I wish him and his wife Carole the very best. Although he deserves some time off, I am confident that he will remain prominent in the life of the vibrant city of Toronto.  In noting the many accomplishments of Jerahmiel Grafstein and thanking him for his commitment to public service, I respectfully borrow the Canadian Senate's tradition and join his colleagues in saying: ``Hear, Hear!'' On a personal level, I believe I speak for numerous colleagues of my own in saying that Jerry will be missed, and always welcome to come and visit.

  • Slovakia and Hungary Relations

    Mr. President, in 1991, then-Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel brought together his counterparts from Poland and Hungary. Taking inspiration from a 14th century meeting of Central European kings, these 20th century leaders returned to the same Danube town of Visegrad with a view to eliminating the remnants of the communist bloc in Central Europe; overcoming historic animosities between Central European countries; and promoting European integration. Today, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are together known as the Visegrad Group, and all four have successfully joined NATO and the European Union. They are anchors in the Trans-Atlantic alliance, and I am pleased to have had the opportunity to travel to all four of these countries where I have met with public officials, non-governmental representatives and ethnic and religious community leaders. Unfortunately, it appears that some additional work is necessary to address one of the principal goals of the Visegrad Group; namely, overcoming historic animosities. In recent months, relations between Hungary and Slovakia have been strained. Having traveled in the region and having met with leaders from both countries during their recent visits to Washington, I would like to share a few observations. First, an amendment to the Slovak language law, which was adopted in June and will enter into force in January, has caused a great deal of concern that the use of the Hungarian language by the Hungarian minority in Slovakia will be unduly or unfairly restricted. Unfortunately, that anxiety has been whipped up, in part, by a number of inaccurate and exaggerated statements about the law. The amendment to the state language law only governs the use of the state language by official public bodies. These state entities may be fined if they fail to ensure that Slovak--the state language--is used in addition to the minority languages permitted by law. The amendment does not allow fines to be imposed on individuals, and certainly not for speaking Hungarian or any other minority language in private, contrary to what is sometimes implied. The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities has been meeting with officials from both countries and summarized the Slovak law in his most recent report to the OSCE Permanent Council: “The adopted amendments to the State Language Law pursue a legitimate aim, namely, to strengthen the position of the State language, and, overall, are in line with international standards. Some parts of the law, however, are ambiguous and may be misinterpreted, leading to a negative impact on the rights of persons belonging to national minorities.” Since the law has not yet come into effect, there is particular concern that even if the law itself is consistent with international norms, the implementation of the law may not be. I am heartened that Slovakia and Hungary have continued to engage with one of the OSCE's most respected institutions--the High Commissioner on National Minorities--on this sensitive issue, and I am confident that their continued discussions will be constructive. At the same time, I would flag a number of factors or developments that have created the impression that the Slovak Government has some hostility toward the Hungarian minority. Those factors include but are not limited to the participation of the extremist Slovak National Party, SNS, in the government itself; the SNS control of the Ministry of Education, one of the most sensitive ministries for ethnic minorities; the Ministry of Education's previous position that it would require Slovak-language place names in Hungarian language textbooks; the handling of the investigation into the 2006 Hedvig Malinova case in a manner that makes it impossible to have confidence in the results of the investigation, and subsequent threats to charge Ms. Malinova with perjury; and the adoption of a resolution by the parliament honoring Andrei Hlinka, notwithstanding his notorious and noxious anti-Hungarian, anti-Semitic, and anti-Roma positions. All that said, developments in Hungary have done little to calm the waters. Hungary itself has been gripped by a frightening rise in extremism, manifested by statements and actions of the Hungarian Guard, the ``64 Counties'' movement, and the extremist party Jobbik, all of which are known for their irredentist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Roma postures. Murders and other violent attacks against Roma, repeated attacks by vandals on the Slovak Institute in Budapest, attacks on property in Budapest's Jewish quarter in September, and demonstrations which have blocked the border with Slovakia and where the Slovak flag is burned illustrate the extent to which the Hungarian social fabric is being tested. Not coincidentally, both Hungary and Slovakia have parliamentary elections next year, in April and June respectively, and, under those circumstances, it may suit extremist elements in both countries just fine to have these sorts of developments: nationalists in Slovakia can pretend to be protecting Slovakia's language and culture--indeed, the very state--from the dangerous overreach of Hungarians. Hungarian nationalists--on both sides of the border--can pretend that Hungarian minorities require their singular protection--best achieved by remembering them come election day. Meanwhile, the vast majority of good-natured Slovaks and Hungarians, who have gotten along rather well for most of the last decade, may find their better natures overshadowed by the words and deeds of a vocal few. In meetings with Slovak and Hungarian officials alike, I have urged my colleagues to be particularly mindful of the need for restraint in this pre-election season, and I have welcomed the efforts of those individuals who have chosen thoughtful engagement over mindless provocation. I hope both countries will continue their engagement with the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, whom I believe can play a constructive role in addressing minority and other bilateral concerns.

  • OSCE Ministerial Meeting

    Mr. President, last week the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, held its annual Ministerial Meeting in Athens. As always, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly was strongly represented there. Today, in my capacity as Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I would like to offer a few reflections on the outcome of the meeting, and what this might mean for the future of European security, in which the U.S. has a vital stake.  Each year, a different country serves as the OSCE's ``Chairman in Office.'' This year, Greece was the Chairman-in-Office and this year's Ministerial Council meeting subsequently took place in Athens. In recent years discord and paralysis have increasingly begun to overwhelm the cooperation and consensus that once characterized the OSCE. The Greeks thus began their chairmanship facing a difficult challenge.  At last year's meeting in Helsinki under Finland's able chairmanship, the Ministers decided that the OSCE should look for ways to overcome this gridlock and to give the organization a new impetus. Greece took this task to heart and launched the ``Corfu Process'' to do just that. This effort has already borne fruit. In Athens, the ministers resolved to continue to try to reaffirm, review, and reinvigorate security in the OSCE region by continuing this process.  The Ministers also agreed on decisions that addressed such fundamental and persistent problems as hate crimes, tolerance and nondiscrimination, nonproliferation, terrorism, and the ``protracted conflict'' in Nagorno-Karabakh. One of these decisions, on countering transnational threats, was sponsored by the U.S. and Russia, the first such joint effort in several years. I hope this is a positive portent for the future.  The Ministers were not able to agree on how to tackle some other equally important and pressing problems. These included the protracted conflicts in Georgia and Moldova, OSCE assistance to Afghanistan, and the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Clearly, much work remains to be done in putting the OSCE fully back on track.  I would be remiss if I concluded my remarks without commending the Greek chairmanship for its untiring and ultimately successful efforts during the course of this year. The chairmanship rekindled the trust and confidence among the participating states that had steadily eroded over the past decade. Greece has clearly set the stage for a brighter and more productive future for the organization, and my colleagues on the Helsinki Commission, and I would like to congratulate the Greek chairmanship on this significant accomplishment.  We would also like to wish Kazakhstan, the first Central Asian nation to hold this office, every success in its historic chairmanship in 2010 and to offer them our full support. Indeed, in our view the Kazakh chairmanship is already off to a promising start, for in Athens, at the initiative of the Kazakhs, the Ministers decided to hold a high-level conference on tolerance next year. This proved to be a timely decision, coming as it did just as Switzerland voted to ban the construction of Muslim minarets, and the president of the Swiss Christian Peoples Party called for a ban on Muslim and Jewish cemeteries. These actions reminded us that not even countries that have played a leading role in establishing international human rights standards are immune from the tendencies to discriminate against immigrants and minorities and to place limits on the free expression of religious beliefs.  It is very important for the OSCE to combat these troublesome trends. It is also important that all the organization's participating states reaffirm, and commit themselves to upholding, the rights of all religious communities to create places of worship and to rest in line with their own traditions. I very much hope the OSCE's conference on tolerance next year will advance this effort.  Finally, let me say that we look forward with great interest to the forthcoming discussions of Kazakhstan's proposal to hold a meeting of heads of state and government during its chairmanship. Should it happen, this would be the first such ``summit'' under OSCE auspices, something that was previously a regular occurrence. In Athens, in acceding to this proposal, the United States expressed the view that it is open to considering such a meeting if, but only if, such a summit can produce results of substance. I think this is the correct approach, and it is one I fully support.

  • 60th Anniversary of the Voice of America's Ukrainian Service

    Mr. President, for six decades the Voice of America's, VOA, Ukrainian-language service has been providing an invaluable service through its consistent broadcasting of factual and comprehensive news and information to the people of Ukraine.  During the first four decades of its existence, the Ukrainian service reached a Ukrainian population starving for information under an extremely strictly controlled, propagandistic Soviet media environment. Ukrainians went to great lengths and some risks to overcome Soviet censorship, which included the jamming of VOA and other shortwave international broadcasting.  During the Cold War VOA Ukrainian provided its listeners with uncensored news about such monumental events as the Hungarian Revolution, the Prague Spring, rise of Solidarity, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. A variety of shows worked to open the outside world to Ukrainian listeners, including a Popular Music Show, a Youth Show, and the long running series Democracy in Action, which was about how democracy works in the United States.  The Ukrainian service also focused on developments within Ukraine itself. VOA broadcasts about Soviet human rights violations in Ukraine, including its coverage of activities of the Helsinki process and the Helsinki Commission, gave sustenance to Helsinki Monitors and other Ukrainian human rights activists, especially those languishing in the gulag for daring to call upon the Soviet government to live up to its Helsinki Final Act obligations. They knew that they were not forgotten. Furthermore, the Ukrainian service also provided objective information about the Chornobyl nuclear disaster and the development of Ukraine's movement for democracy and independence, culminating in the December 1, 1991, referendum in Ukraine in which an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians voted for the restoration of their nation's independence.  For nearly two decades since, VOA's Ukrainian service has continued to fill an important role in Ukraine's evolving democracy. VOA reported on the challenges that Ukraine faced and on the U.S.'s considerable support and assistance for Ukraine, including in the dismantling of the nuclear arsenal it inherited from the Soviet Union. During the Orange Revolution, VOA Ukrainian helped to reassure millions of Ukrainians that the international community would not sanction electoral fraud.  As Ukraine has evolved, so has the Ukrainian Service. While no longer broadcasting on radio as it did for most of its 60 years, it reaches more Ukrainians than ever with daily broadcasts over Ukrainian television--something unthinkable during Soviet rule--and reporting on its website. It continues to report on what is happening in Ukraine, but also it continues to cover every aspect of American life and society. As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I commend the ongoing role of VOA's Ukrainian service in helping Ukraine fulfill its aspirations in becoming more fully democratic, independent, and secure.

  • Energy Security Through Transparency Act

    Mr. President, I rise today to discuss a bill that will increase energy security and combat poverty through greater transparency in the oil, gas and mining industries.  This week, Senator Lugar and I, along with Senators Schumer, Wicker and Feingold, introduced the “Energy Security Through Transparency Act.” This legislation will require all companies listed on U.S. exchanges to disclose their payments to foreign governments for the extraction of oil, gas and minerals on a country-by-country basis. This disclosure would apply to all companies that file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), regardless of where they are based, and would be added to existing SEC requirements.  Mr. President, this legislation will set a new international standard for corporate and state behavior.  With this bill, we are changing the paradigm within the world’s oil, gas and mining companies operate, and, importantly, changing the nature of their relationship with the governments in the countries in which they operate.  This is critical to our energy security, our national security and for the welfare of the citizens of these countries.  When we look at countries situated on oil and natural gas reserves, we think these countries have won the global version of the economic lottery. But what economists have found by studying these resource-rich countries is that they often fare worse than their resource-poor neighbors, both economically and politically.  In these countries rich in natural resources, governments do not provide the most basic of information concerning natural resource revenues. This lack of transparency facilitates and even encourages corruption. This often leads to grinding poverty in countries that are paradoxically rich in natural resources.  This legislation will provide much-needed regulatory and legal support to existing initiatives such as the “Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI),” and “Publish What You Pay.”  Mr. President, it is critical that the United States lead by example on transparency. That’s why this legislation also encourages the United States to become an implementing country under EITI.  U.S. implementation of EITI would have practical and symbolic value on a number of fronts.  While this legislation puts human rights front and center in the global energy discussion, it also empowers people to fight corruption and hold their governments accountable. Greater transparency will lead to greater stability in countries that benefit from their natural resources and will lessen volatility in the global energy market, making them more conducive for long-term investments.  Just as importantly, U.S. implementation would bolster the momentum for the EITI, helping to make it a truly global standard for transparency in extractive industries. Leading by example is one of the most powerful ways the U.S. can encourage other countries to sign on to the initiative.  Mr. President, I look forward to working with our colleagues to ensure passage of this important and timely legislation. Thank you.

  • Urging the Obama Administration to Support Efforts to Bring About a Resolution of the Cyprus Conflict

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to call on the Obama administration to support efforts to bring about a negotiated resolution of the Cyprus conflict and reunification of the country as a federal bi-zonal, bi-communal, with a single sovereignty, international personality and citizenship. This formula is based on several UN Security Council resolutions and serves as the basis for ongoing talks between Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Talat. As my colleagues know, the road to a final settlement over the past few decades has been fraught with difficulty. Numerous earlier diplomatic initiatives were launched, but in the end failed. Ultimately, a negotiated resolution of the conflict must be by the Cypriots, for the Cypriots and one that enjoys the support of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike. There is a strong desire by younger generations from both communities to experience the rebirth of a Cyprus where the rights of all are respected and all can participate in the national life of their country.  As a member of both the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues and the Congressional Caucus on U.S.-Turkish Relations and Turkish Americans, I am gratified that the leaders of both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities have stated their mutual commitment to work towards a final settlement, and have continued their discussions accordingly. While the administration is currently observing developments and has offered its support if called upon by both communities. It is my hope that it will seize this opportunity to offer and make the resolution of the Cyprus issue a priority. At a time when so many of the world's disputes seem intractable, I believe the Cyprus dispute is one area where, working together, we can truly bring hope and change to a place and people that have longed for it for decades.  Madam Speaker, I hope the United States can play a supportive and active role in making a final settlement possible and encourage others to do likewise. Meanwhile, as President Christofias and Mr. Talat and their teams grapple with an array of tough issues it is my hope they seek to overcome the legacy of the past 35 years and build a brighter future for all Cypriots.

  • Moldova's Upcoming Election

    Mr. President, the Republic of Moldova holds repeated parliamentary elections on July 29, after previous elections on April 5 this year were followed by youth protests to display their lack of trust in the electoral process. These protests turned violent and led to arrests of hundreds of protesters, their severe beatings, and inhumane treatment while in police custody. Even an independent Member of Parliament, Valentina Cusnir, was abused and beaten by police, suffering injuries. Three young men have died, and the cause of death is reported to be injuries from the beatings they received. Foreign journalists were expelled and local reporters were arrested and intimidated, their equipment was confiscated. The parliamentarian opposition parties, which accused the Communist Party in power of election fraud, have boycotted elections of the new President that, ultimately, triggered repeated elections. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe stated that Moldova's recent elections had "shortcomings that challenged some OSCE commitments, in particular the disregard for due process in adjudicating complaints of alleged irregularities and deficiencies in the compilation of voter lists lodged by opposition political parties.''  On July 29, the Government of Moldova has another chance to show her citizens and the international community that it remains committed to democratic principles and international standards. Moldovan authorities must provide access for all electoral participants and civil society experts to public media outlets, as well as ensure the ability of voters abroad to participate in this important poll. The United States should condition good relations with the new government of Moldova based on its respect for the rule of law and human rights. The U.S. Helsinki Commission, which I chair, will continue to monitor the conduct of the electoral process in Moldova and will hold a public briefing following the elections.

  • Parliamentary Elections in Albania

    Mr. President, I am proud to cosponsor S. Res. 182, recognizing the democratic accomplishments of the people of Albania and expressing the hope that the parliamentary elections on June 28 maintain and improve the transparency and fairness of democracy in Albania. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this resolution.  As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I am aware of what Albania has accomplished since its first multiparty elections in 1991, but I also know what a struggle it has been. Albania was under a ruthless and isolationist communist regime for decades. While not part of the former Yugoslavia, it was also impacted by the conflicts in neighboring and nearby Balkan countries in the 1990s, which was a setback for the entire region.  The promise of NATO membership did much to encourage progress in Albania in recent years. While problems relating to the rule of law and fight against corruption persisted, we supported Albania's NATO membership with the understanding that reforms will continue. The State Department in particular emphasized that other NATO members continued the reform process after joining the Alliance. That is our hope for Albania as well.  This resolution more actively expresses our hope as well as expectation that Albania live up to international standards it has accepted, in particular as they relate to the holding of elections. There are concerns about these elections, especially in regard to new voter identification cards and their distribution in time to allow citizens to vote. Even if Election Day does go smoothly, it is unfortunate that there was a delay in preparations--which causes confusion, frustration and suspicion among the Albanian electorate.  Albania is a good friend of the United States, and by passing this resolution we are investing in that relationship to make it grow. We want Albania to succeed, and this resolution will hopefully encourage Albania to hold successful elections on June 28. I believe the resolution is balanced, raising concern while noting progress and clearly favoring no particular political party. While those currently in power may have the additional responsibilities that come with governance, all parties have a role to play in order to make these elections meet international standards.

  • Resources, Revenue, and Responsibility: Strengthening Revenue and Budget Transparency Through The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

    Madam Speaker, as Co-Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (commonly referred to as the Helsinki Commission), I recently returned from a meeting in Dublin, Ireland, with almost 100 parliamentarians from 30 countries where we had the opportunity to discuss responses to the global economic crisis. The meeting was organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) and the Parliament of Ireland. All countries are grappling with difficult national problems related to the economic crisis. And indeed, we are in a crisis, and for America, this is the worst economy we've experienced since the Great Depression in the 1920s. People all across America, and in my home state of Florida, are losing their homes, their jobs, and are unable to provide for their families.  In addition to discussions on financial regulation, trade protectionism, good governance, and the social consequences of the crisis, I was pleased that we also discussed revenue transparency in the extractive industries as an integral part of creating more transparency in the global financial system overall. As legislators, we have a duty to find ways to relieve the suffering caused by the financial crisis through vital investments in health care, education, infrastructure, and job creation so that we can emerge from this crisis stronger and better than before. But part of the solution is looking at how we even got into this crisis. Transparency --or the lack of it--in the financial world is certainly one of the culprits. And as revenue dwindles, making the most of what we have becomes even more important.  The way I see it, improvements in revenue transparency, particularly when we focus on the extractive industries, are important in at least three key ways: The first is to help alleviate poverty. 3.5 billion people live in countries that are rich in oil, gas and minerals. With good governance, the exploitation of these resources can generate large revenues to foster growth and reduce poverty. Resource revenue transparency is necessary in order for citizens--the true owners of their country's natural wealth--to be able to demand greater accountability from their governments for spending that serves the public interest.  The second is to promote stable investment climates. Mandatory disclosure can help diminish the political instability caused by opaque governance. Since extractive industries are capital-intensive and dependent on long-term stability to generate returns, transparency of payments made to a government can help mitigate political and reputational risks and also allow shareholders to make better-informed assessments of opportunity costs.  The third area is to enhance energy security. Opening the extractive industries sector to greater public scrutiny is key to increasing civil society participation in government. This form of transparency, in conjunction with an increasingly active civil society, can help create more stable, democratic governments, as well as stable business environments.  It's a well-known, and well-bemoaned, fact that the United States is becoming more and more reliant on imported energy to fuel our economy. We are the world's largest consumer of oil--we account for an astounding 25 percent of global daily oil demand--despite having less than 3 percent of the world's proven reserves. And we source that oil from some unstable and unfriendly places in the world such as Nigeria and Venezuela.  In the context of today's discussion some of you may wonder why the United States should care what is happening in Turkmenistan or Kazakhstan, when we don't rely on these countries for our energy supplies. Russia is only number eight on our list of top ten oil suppliers and Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan don't even make it into the top twenty.  The answer is that unlike natural gas, oil is a commodity, so regardless of where we source our oil, what happens in other oil-rich countries impacts the stability of our price and our supply as well. Truly, no one country can achieve energy security without global energy security.  I think we can all agree that relying on a country as a source of energy can distort a bilateral relationship. I'm sure you can imagine how drastically different our interactions with some countries would be if we did not rely so heavily on these countries' resources. I think it goes without saying that we would have more leverage to promote democracy and civil society. Clearly oil constrains, if not drives, our foreign policy.  So while it is imperative that we work to limit our dependence on foreign oil and change the dynamic of supply and demand, it is just as important to create more stable and reliable sources of energy. One of the key ways the international community has sought to counteract the political and economic instability inherent in the resource curse is through programs that seek to instill transparency and accountability into the resource payment system.  As legislators, there is a lot that we can do to further the cause of transparency in the extractive industries.  As Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, I have held hearings and briefings on energy security and transparency that call attention to problems and advocate for solutions. I have also written letters--co-signed by a number of my congressional colleagues--on this topic to the Executive Branch to advocate for specific policy stances related to U.S. participation in EITI. Drafting and passing legislation is also important, and in 2007 we were successful in passing legislation that spells out the importance of extractive industries transparency in U.S. foreign policy and directs the U.S. State Department to actively promote EITI.  I also co-sponsored legislation that would require oil, gas, and mining companies registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to publicly disclose the payments they make to foreign governments for the extraction of natural resources. The information would be included in financial statements already required by the SEC and would apply to both American and foreign companies listed with the SEC, which includes 90 percent of the world's largest oil, gas and mining companies. I'm hopeful that we will see that legislation pass in this Congress.  Another tool is direct communication with the Executive Branch. One thing we have already started discussions with the Obama Administration on is how we can play a responsible role--not dominant--in EITI. I strongly believe that the best thing we can do to help boost EITI is to follow the lead of other OSCE member states such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Norway and become a Candidate Country with the goal of becoming fully compliant with EITI standards. Right now we think that can be accomplished without any legislative action by the Congress, but if we do need to make some legal changes, then that is something we will work on.  If there is one word that has gotten us in this problem, it is greed. This needs to be said so that we as legislators can do something about it. As we are talking about hedge funds, and all these other mechanisms for moving money, we can't ignore the impact of the shadow economy. It is something that we need to address because it fuels crime and instability.  Madam Speaker, in the Dublin meeting there were many opinions about the roots of the crisis and potential solutions. However, one clear message I took away from that meeting is that we must work together to find a global solution to a global crisis.

  • Supporting the Goals and Objectives of the Prague Conference on Holocaust Era Assets

    Mr. President, today I am introducing a resolution to support the goals and objectives of the Prague Conference on Holocaust Era Assets.  The Prague Conference, which will be held June 26 through June 30, will serve as a forum to review the achievements of the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets. That meeting brought together 44 nations, 13 nongovernmental organizations, scholars, and Holocaust survivors, and helped channel the political will necessary to address looted art, insurance claims, communal property, and archival issues. The conference also examined the role of historical commissions and Holocaust education, remembrance, and research. While the Washington Conference was enormously useful, more can and should be done in all of these areas. Accordingly, the Prague Conference provides an important opportunity to identify specific additional steps that countries can still take.  I would like to highlight just a couple of examples that, in my view, underscore the need to get more done. First I would like to mention the case of Martha Nierenberg's looted family artwork in Hungary. In a nutshell, Ms. Nierenberg's family had extensive property stolen by the Nazis, including some artwork. When the communists came along, they took additional Nierenberg family property, and the artwork found its way into the museums of the Hungarian communist regime.  Under the terms of a foreign claims settlement agreement between the United States and Hungary, the Nierenberg family received limited compensation for some, but not all, of the stolen property. That agreement provided that the Nierenberg family was free to seek compensation for or restitution of other stolen property.  In 1997, a Hungarian government committee affirmed that two Hungarian government museums possessed artwork belonging to the Nierenberg family. Unfortunately, to this day, it remains in these museums. As I have asked before, why would the Hungarian government insist on retaining custody of artwork stolen by the Nazis when it could return it to its rightful owner? It is entirely within the Hungarian government's capacity to make this gesture, and I still hope that they will do so--especially bearing in mind Hungary's own efforts to recover looted art from other countries.  Second, I deeply regret that the question of private property compensation in Poland is still a necessary topic of discussion. Poland is singular in that it is the only country in central Europe that has not adopted any general private property compensation or restitution law.  I know a draft private property compensation bill is currently being considered by the Polish Government. I also know that, in the 20 years since the fall of communism, Poland has tabled roughly half a dozen bills on this--all of which have failed. It would be great to see meaningful movement on this before the meeting in Prague, but this will not come about without meaningful leadership from both the government and the parliament.  Finally, when I was in the Czech Republic last year, I expressed my disappointment to Czech officials, including to Jan Kohout who was just appointed Foreign Minister on May, that the Czech framework for making a property restitution claim effectively excludes those who fled Czechoslovakia and received both refuge and citizenship in the U.S. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has repeatedly argued that this violates the non-discrimination provision of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This could be fixed, I believe, by re-opening the deadline for filing claims, as Czech parliamentarians Jiri Karas and Pavel Tollner recommended as long ago as 1999.  The Holocaust left a scar that will not be removed by the Prague conference.  But this upcoming gathering provides an opportunity for governments to make tangible and meaningful progress in addressing this painful chapter of history. I commend the Czech Republic for taking on the leadership of organizing this meeting and urge President Obama to send a high-level U.S. official to represent the U.S. at the conference.  I am honored that the senior Senator from Indiana, who is the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is cosponsoring this resolution, as is the senior Senator from Florida.

  • Free Media in the OSCE Region

    Mr. President, earlier this month we marked World Press Freedom Day, a timely opportunity to draw attention to the plight of journalists and others involved in the press and media in the OSCE--Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe--region. While all 56 OSCE countries have accepted specific commitments on media and working conditions for journalists, the difficulty remains translating words on paper into deeds in practice. Today, many courageous journalists are working under tremendously difficult conditions, often at great personal risk, with some paying the ultimate price for their journalistic pursuits.  According to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, nearly a dozen journalists and their colleagues have been killed in the OSCE region since last year's observance. Among those slain in Russia were Anastasiya Baburova, of Novaya Gazeta; Shafig Amrakhov, of RIA 51; Telman Alishaya, of TV-Chirkei; and Magomed Yevloyev, owner of the popular Web site Ingushetiya, who was killed while in police custody. Scores of journalists have been murdered in Russia alone since the early 1990s.  Others slain over the past 12 months included Ivo Pukanic and Niko Franjic, both of Nacional, in Croatia; and freelance journalists Alexander Klimchuk and Grigol Chikhladze, with Caucasus Images, as well as Dutch RLT TV veteran cameraman Stan Storimans, killed in the conflict zone during the war in Georgia last August. Besides war correspondents, victims often include investigative journalists covering politics, corruption, and human rights.  We are approaching the fifth anniversary of the slaying of American journalist Paul Klebnikov in Moscow. I call upon the Russian authorities to bring to justice all of those responsible in any way for his murder.  As chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I note the vital work undertaken by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, a tireless advocate for freedom of expression and the courageous journalists who pursue their profession, sometimes at great personal risk. The reports of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media are available at: http://www.osce.org/fom/. Freedom of expression, free media, and information has been selected as a special focus topic for the OSCE's annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, scheduled to be held in Warsaw, Poland, this fall.

  • Free Media Under Pressure in the OSCE Region

    Madam Speaker, as Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission I can attest to the fact that freedom of the press is only a cherished dream for many today in the OSCE region. Vibrant independent media are an essential element of any democracy. Leaders the world over who are determined to remain in office by any means necessary understand perfectly the power of the press. That is precisely why they and their associates strive so vigorously to control the media. Indeed, there are a variety of means commonly used by those attempting to harass or intimidate journalists.  Physical attacks on journalists have become commonplace in many part of the OSCE region along with police raids, spurious court cases, arrests, and forcible psychiatric hospitalization. In recent days those attacked included Argishti Kivirian, editor of the independent news Web site Armenia Today, Vyacheslav Yaroshenko, editor of Corruption and Crime, a weekly in the southwestern Russian city of Rostov-na-Donu, and Anastasia Akopyan, a young journalist assaulted following circulation of an interview she did with an opposition mayoral candidate in the Russian city of Sochi.  The situation in several other OSCE countries remains mixed. While the Belarusian regime allowed two independent newspapers to distribute through state-controlled outlets, the overall media environment remains repressive. Independent journalists continue to be harassed. A new media law entered into force in February contains provisions that toughen state control over the media as the Belarusian government seeks to maintain a virtual monopoly over the country's information space, especially television. In Armenia, the independent A1+ television station, forced off the air by the authorities, remains silent despite a ruling on the case by the European Court of Human Rights nearly a year ago. While the release of some imprisoned journalists in Azerbaijan is a positive development, the authorities have yet to repeal criminal defamation provisions. In Georgia, the government should take decisive action on promised reforms on media liberalization.  In the Balkans, media outlets are commonly targeted for harassment and occasional violence. In Serbia, several journalists were reportedly attacked earlier this year by a radical group organizing a commemoration of the 10-year anniversary of NATO bombing. Investigative media in Kosovo have come under pressure for their attempts to expose corruption. Independent media in Montenegro are frequently the target of trumped-up defamation and libel charges. In Albania, the magazine Tema was reportedly forced to cease operations under government pressure, while TV News 24 was apparently assessed a large fine for ridiculing another station's promotion of the country's prime minister. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the murder of Serbian journalist and editor, Slavko Curuvija, who testified before the Helsinki Commission shortly before his death, a case which authorities have yet to resolve.  Meanwhile, in Kazakhstan, the opposition weekly Taszharghan has reportedly been forced to cease publication following the imposition of a $200,000 fine for damaging the honor and dignity of a member of the Kazakh parliament. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least half a dozen independent outlets and their staffers faced more than 60 such defamation lawsuits in 2008 alone, with many involving claims by senior government officials.  Madam Speaker, nearly two decades after the breakup of the U.S.S.R., Soviet-era censorship survives in places like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, which, not coincidentally, ban all political opposition.

  • Denouncing the Imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky

    Mr. President, last October marked the fifth anniversary of the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of Yukos, Russia's largest oil company. The Council of Europe, Freedom House, and Amnesty International, among others, have concluded he was charged and imprisoned in a process that did not follow the rule of law and was politically influenced. This miscarriage of justice in 2003 is significant because it was one of the early signs that Russia was retreating from democratic values and the rule of law.  Last month, Russian authorities decided to go to trial with a second set of charges first introduced in 2007 when Khodorkovsky was to become eligible for parole. Despite credible reports that he was a model prisoner, parole was denied on apparently flimsy and contrived technical grounds. Yet the Russian judiciary recently saw fit to grant parole to Colonel Yuri Budanov, who was serving a sentence for raping and murdering a Chechen girl. I would also like to note that it was Stanislav Markelov, a courageous attorney who was instrumental in putting Budanov behind bars. But Budanov is now free and Markelov was gunned down, along with Anastasia Baburova a journalist for Russia's premier independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, in broad daylight in central Moscow last January. The message this sends is loud and clear and profoundly disturbing.  Based on the observations of many independent international lawyers and organizations, there was no compelling evidence that Khodorkovsky or any of his associates were guilty of the crimes for which they were originally charged or that the legal process reflected the rule of law or international standards of justice. Even Russian officials have acknowledged that Khodorkovsky's arrest and imprisonment were politically motivated. As reported by the Economist, Igor Shuvalov, First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, admitted that Khodorkovsky was in a Siberian prison camp ``for political reasons.'' He added that ``Once you behead someone, you give a good example (to other Russian tycoons) of how to behave.'' In other words, freedom for Russia's businessmen is determined by the Kremlin's political expediency. As reported by The Washington Post and the Boston Globe, Shuvalov has called the trial and continued imprisonment of Khodorkovsky a ``show-flogging'' intended to serve as an example to others on the political consequences of challenging the Kremlin's economic ambitions.  The current charges against Khodorkovsky amount to legal hooliganism and highlight the petty meanness of the senior government officials behind this travesty of justice. The charges and verdicts have been inexplicable to Russian and Western lawyers, leading international organizations, courts, and human rights groups to condemn the trial as politically inspired. The second set of charges against Khodorkovsky should be dropped and the new trial should be abandoned.  I strongly support President Obama's call to reset the U.S.-Russian relationship and welcome the statement that emerged from his meeting in London with Russian President Medvedev. We have many common interests with Russia and must seek to improve the atmosphere and substance of our ties with Moscow. But the Helsinki process is predicated on the idea that domestic politics and inter-state relations are linked. I hope that President Medvedev, a trained jurist from whom many hope to see evidence of a reformist approach, will make that connection. The case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky is a good place to start.

  • Helsinki Commission Activities

    Mr. President, I would like to report to my colleagues on the work of the U.S. delegation to the eighth Winter Meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This meeting was held on February 19 and 20 in Vienna, Austria. Prior to attending the Winter Meeting, the delegation traveled to Israel and Syria to ascertain the prospects for the Middle East peace process at this critical time.  I had the honor to lead this delegation as chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, better known as the Helsinki Commission.  Joining me as delegation leader in Vienna was my Helsinki Commission Co-chair, Representative Alcee L. Hastings. Three Senate colleagues on the Commission --Senator Roger Wicker, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and Senator Tom Udall--also joined the delegation for the entire trip, as did fellow Commission member Representative Mike McIntyre. Although not a member of the Helsinki Commission, Representative Gwen Moore also joined the delegation.  The delegation first visited Israel. Our arrival came 3 days after that country's parliamentary elections and in the aftermath of the events in Gaza. We met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Likud leader and now Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and numerous other officials. We also visited Yad Vashem and laid a wreath in memory of the millions lost in the Holocaust.  The delegation met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in East Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority Chief Negotiator Sa'eb Erakat in the West Bank and in each of these meetings discussed the current situation in Gaza and the West Bank, the potential for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and how the United States can be a constructive partner in facilitating the peace process.  In Damascus, Syria, our delegation had a country team briefing with U.S. Embassy staff, including U.S. Chargé d'Affaires to Syria, Maura Connelly. We also held a constructive meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallim, where the delegation pressed them on the need to improve human rights in Syria, encouraged them to assist the international community in bringing Iran into compliance with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and promoted restarting peace talks with Israel.  The delegation paid a courtesy visit to the historic Omayyad Mosque as well as visited the only surviving synagogue in Damascus. A briefing on the Iraqi refugee situation by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, Site Director in Damascus was extremely informative. The delegation was particularly moved by its meeting with a group of Iraqi refugees living in Syria. Their stories of hardship and suffering have galvanized our efforts to improve U.S. policies and activities in support of these refugees in Syria and in other surrounding countries.  The delegation's final stop was Vienna for the Winter Meeting. During the first day of the meeting, our delegation was joined by a delegation led by Representative John Tanner that attended a meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels earlier in the week.  A meeting of the Standing Committee, composed of the officers and heads of delegation to the OSCE PA, took place prior to the formal opening. As an OSCE PA vice president, I reported on the latest efforts of the Obama administration to close Guantanamo Bay as a detention facility, an issue of continued concern in the Assembly. Our efforts in recent years to be responsive to criticism of U.S. performance have been well received and provide a stronger basis for us to raise concern about the human rights performance of other countries. In addition to detailing the specific policy changes already announced by the Obama administration, I expressed hope that ``these measures will help restore faith in the United States as a friend, ally and leader in the global community. If the United States wants to lead, we must lead by example.''  Cochairman Hastings also made a presentation on his work as the Assembly's Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs, in particular his travel to Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Israel--all Mediterranean Partner states--last December. He met with parliamentarians and senior government officials to discuss greater OSCE engagement, the Middle East peace process, regional economic cooperation , the prospects of the Union for the Mediterranean, and the Iraqi refugee crisis.  OSCE PA President Joao Soares, Portugal, opened the Winter Meeting before 250 parliamentarians. The opening plenary was addressed by Barbara Prammer, President of Austria's National Council; Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who chairs the OSCE in 2009; French diplomat Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, the OSCE's Secretary General, and by Representative John Tanner in his capacity as President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.  Following the opening plenary, additional discussions were held in each of the Assembly's three General Committees: the First Committee, dealing with political affairs and security ; the Second Committee, focusing on economic Affairs, science, technology and environment; and the Third Committee, which covers democracy, human rights and humanitarian questions. Rapporteurs and guest speakers discussed current issues and the prospects for OSCE PA work in the coming year. Among the OSCE officials speaking in committee were Knut Vollebaek of Norway, the High Commissioner on National Minorities; Goran Svilanovic of Serbia, Economic and Environmental Coordinator; Miklos Haraszti of Hungary, Representative of Free Media; and Janez Lenarcic of Slovenia, Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.  Every member of the U.S. delegation was active throughout the committee sessions. In the First Committee, Representative McIntyre reported on the delegation's visit to Israel and Syria, and Representative Moore called attention to the plight of children in armed conflict and especially their use as child soldiers around the globe. In the Second Committee, Senator Udall discussed the new prospects for U.S. engagement with Europe on climate change, and Senator Whitehouse called for greater transparency regarding extractive industries, where corruption limits economic progress in developing countries. Senator Wicker responded to criticisms of the United States related to the economic crisis and pushed back against calls for greater trade protectionism. In the Third Committee, Senator Wicker stressed the continued need to focus on religious freedom, which is threatened in many countries of the OSCE region, while Cochairman Hastings explained the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's important contribution to election observation in the region.  The Winter Meeting traditionally includes a plenary debate on issues that are particularly relevant and timely. This year, the debate focused on a proposal by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and supported by French President Nicolas Sarkozy for a new European security architecture. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and senior French Foreign Ministry official Veronique Bujon-Barre made opening presentations. Senators Whitehouse, Wicker, and I each spoke in the debate. We stressed the need to maintain a comprehensive definition of security to include respect for human rights and commitment to democratic governance and , while not opposing further work, defended the NATO Alliance which some believe the Russian proposal intends to undercut. There was also considerable criticism of Russia's actions against neighboring Georgia in 2008, with considerable opposition to any attempt to legitimize this action in any new security talks.  As the Winter Meeting came to a close, Representative Moore took the floor during debate on gender issues to announce her intention to introduce a resolution on the issue of maternal mortality, calling for action to reduce the number of women around the world and especially in developing countries who die due to the lack of medical care in response to complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth. A Greek presentation on piracy as a new security threat and presentations on Kazakhstan's preparations to chair the OSCE in 2010, rounded out the closing issues of the meeting.  In addition to the sessions of the Winter Meeting, the congressional delegation was briefed by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Secretary General, Spencer Oliver of the United States, and by the Chargé d'Affaires of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE, Kyle Scott. The delegation had bilateral sessions with OSCE Chair-in -Office Bakoyannis and numerous OSCE officials.  The U.S. delegation also held a lengthy bilateral session with the Russian delegation, during which dialogue between the U.S. Congress and the Russian Duma, among other issues, was discussed. While we do not agree on many issues, we did firmly agree on the importance of continued dialogue.  By all accounts, the Winter Meeting was 2 days of robust debate, and the U.S. Delegation was an active part of that debate, engaging European friends and allies on a variety of issues of importance to the United States. I want to thank my colleagues for the active participation throughout the trip.  At the invitation of the Government of Slovakia, I traveled the very short distance from Vienna to Slovakia's capital, Bratislava. My other colleagues remained in Vienna actively engaged in the work of the assembly discussed above.  Immediately upon arrival in Bratislava, I had a substantive and lengthy discussion with Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajc 5ák. As the Minister had taken office just 2 weeks prior to our arrival, I had the privilege of being the first Member of Congress to meet with him in this capacity. Our wide-ranging discussion touched on the global economic crisis, the Middle East peace process, the situation in the Balkans--the Minister was recently the EU Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina--anti-Semitism, and the plight of Slovakia's Roma population.  Following that meeting, Keith Eddins, the U.S. Chargé d'Affaires, hosted a lunch with leading academics and NGO leaders to discuss current events in Slovakia and the state of U.S.-Slovak relations. After lunch, I met with the chief rabbi and the lay leadership of Slovakia's Jewish community. Finally, before heading back to Vienna, I met with a cross-section of Slovakia's Roma community. As Europe's largest ethnic minority group, the Roma have been victims of some of postwar Europe's greatest discrimination. Congress's attention to issues of importance to this community has been inadequate in the past, but I hope to see that change in the future.  The U.S. House and Senate should both take great pride in the unique ability of the Helsinki Commission to represent the views and values of our country abroad, something which I, as chairman, intend to continue at future OSCE Parliamentary Assembly gatherings, including the Annual Session which convenes in Vilnius, Lithuania, in June and July of this year.

  • Moldova Parliamentary Elections

    Mr. President, with the coming parliamentary elections scheduled for April 5, Moldova is once again at a crucial juncture in its domestic political development.  In recent years, Moldova's cooperation with the United States has deepened, with steady progress through the initial stages of the Millennium Challenge Threshold Program, which promises to bring significant material assistance to Moldova in the near future. Additionally, Moldova has advanced in its quest for greater European integration. To continue to build upon and consolidate these positive developments, it is crucial that the current campaign and voting on April 5 be conducted in a manner consistent with Moldova's commitment to meeting OSCE election standards.  Since achieving independence in 1991, Moldova has had a generally positive record in conducting and respecting the results of free elections. However, there have been shortcomings and it is essential that Moldova avoid repeating practices that have drawn criticism in previous contests.  Specifically, national and local authorities must make every effort to ensure a level and transparent playing field for all candidates during the campaign and avoid the use of administrative resources to hamper political rivals. It is also important that the authorities make efforts to ensure access to the media for all candidates and representatives of political parties. Finally, law enforcement bodies must safeguard the public's basic right to freely and publicly assemble to express their views in a peaceable manner.  As Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I would underscore the importance that all involved in Moldova's upcoming parliamentary elections ensure compliance with international norms. This is crucial, not only for the future of democratic reform in Moldova, but also for the country's further economic development and progress along its chosen path of European integration.

  • Belarus Imprisonment

    Mr. President, as Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I would like to bring to the attention of the Senate a situation which is literally a matter of life and death for an American citizen, Emanuel Zeltser, who has been imprisoned in Belarus since March 12, 2008. Mr. Zeltser is in desperate and immediate need of serious medical treatment--including a coronary bypass operation. The poor human rights record of President Lukashenka's regime is well known. No American--indeed no human being--should be subjected to the kind of treatment Mr. Zeltser has been forced to endure during his incarceration. Despite Mr. Zeltser's grave health condition--he suffers from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, severe arthritis, gout, and dangerously elevated blood pressure--Belarusian authorities have repeatedly refused to provide Mr. Zeltser with his prescribed medications. He was initially denied two independent medical evaluations and he has reported being physically assaulted and abused while incarcerated. Amnesty International has urged that Belarusian authorities no longer subject Mr. Zeltser to "further torture and other ill-treatment.'' Mr. Zeltser was convicted of "using false official documents'' and "attempted economic espionage'' in a closed judicial proceeding. The U.S. Embassy in Minsk criticized the proceedings, noting that it was denied the opportunity to observe the trial. The State Department has repeatedly called for Mr. Zeltser's release on humanitarian grounds. So have others in Congress, especially my colleague on the Helsinki Commission, cochairman Representative Alcee Hastings. But now the situation appears dire. Earlier this month, Mr. Zeltser was examined by an American doctor. It was only the second time an American physician has been permitted to see Mr. Zeltser. The doctor concluded that "there is a clear and high risk of sudden death from heart attack unless the patient is immediately transferred to a U.S. hospital with the proper equipment and facilities. ..... Refusal to transfer Mr. Zeltser to a U.S. hospital is equivalent to a death sentence.'' Specifically, Mr. Zeltser is in dire need of a coronary bypass procedure. The doctor also determined that because he had been denied prescribed diabetes medication, Mr. Zeltser's left foot may need to be amputated. In response to a press inquiry in December, the State Department called for "the Belarusian authorities to release Mr. Zeltser on humanitarian grounds before this situation takes an irrevocable turn.'' Based on the recent doctor's report it is apparent that such an irrevocable turn is imminent unless this American citizen can be brought home promptly for the medical treatment necessary to save his life. Belarus has taken some tentative steps to improve its notably poor human rights record, in particular the release of several political prisoners last August. However, Mr. Zeltser's continued, and potentially terminal, imprisonment threatens to override those initially encouraging signs. As such, I strongly urge the Belarusian authorities to release Emanuel Zeltser on humanitarian grounds so that he may obtain the immediate medical treatment his doctor has concluded is required if he is to live.

  • Calling Upon Turkey to Facilitate the Reopening of the Halki Seminary

    Mr. President, this week's visit to Washington by the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, is an appropriate occasion to renew calls for the reopening of the Halki Seminary, without further delay. Founded in 1844, the Theological School of Halki, located outside modern-day Istanbul, served as the principal seminary for Ecumenical Patriarchate until its forcible closure by the Turkish authorities in 1971. Counted among alumni of this preeminent educational institution are numerous prominent Orthodox scholars, theologians, priests, and bishops as well as patriarchs, including Bartholomew I. Many of these scholars and theologians have served as faculty at other institutions serving Orthodox communities around the world. Despite occasional indications by the authorities of pending action to reopen the seminary, to date all have failed to materialize. Earlier this year, several of my colleagues from the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which I chair, joined me in a letter to President Obama to underscoring our longstanding concern over the continued closure of this unique institution. The continued denial of requests for the reopening of the seminary stands in clear violation of Turkey's obligations under the 1989 OSCE Vienna Concluding Document, which affirmed the right of religious communities to provide ``training of religious personnel in appropriate institutions.'' While there is no question that the Halki Seminary is the appropriate institution for training Orthodox clergy in Turkey, the Government of Turkey continues to refuse to reopen the school. In his address to the Turkish Grand National Assembly in April, President Obama said, ``Freedom of religion and expression lead to a strong and vibrant civil society that only strengthens the state, which is why steps like reopening Halki Seminary will send such an important signal inside Turkey and beyond.'' In a welcomed development, Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with the Ecumenical Patriarch in August. In an address to a wider gathering of minority religious leaders that day, Erdogan concluded by stating, ``We should not be of those who gather, talk and disperse. A result should come out of this.'' Mr. President, I urge Prime Minister Erdogan to follow through on the sentiment of those remarks by actions that will facilitate the reopening of the Halki Seminary without further delay. I am told that the Theological School of Halki is situated atop the summit of the Hill of Hope. For those of us who have pursued this issue over the years, our hope has been that we would indeed witness the reopening of this historic institution. I remain hopeful and encourage Prime Minister Erdogan to act decisively and without condition on this matter before his upcoming visit to Washington.  

  • The Iraqi Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement, and Security Act of 2009

    Mr. HASTINGS of Florida, Madam Speaker, I rise today with my good friend and colleague, Congressman John Dingell and almost 15 original cosponsors in strong support of the Iraqi Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement, and Security Act of 2009, a bill which I am reintroducing for the 1st Session of the 111th Congress. The comprehensive legislation I am introducing today addresses this crisis and the potential security break-down resulting from the mass influx of Iraqi refugees into neighboring countries and the growing internally displaced population in Iraq, and also facilitates the resettlement of Iraqis at risk. The plight of Iraqi refugees and IDP's is worsening by the day. It is heartbreaking to hear the stories of families who fled for their safety, are now unable to work and have subsequently depleted their savings in order to survive. I believe that the United States has a moral obligation to take the lead and provide a `humanitarian surge' in responding to this crisis. The future of the Middle East depends on it. I would like to thank Congressman Dingell for his continued leadership in the House of Representatives on this issue and for his help in drafting this legislation as well as the other original co-sponsors supporting this bill. As I have said on many occasions, this must not be a partisan issue, but rather Congress and the Administration have an obligation to work together before the Iraqi refugee crisis further destabilizes the region. I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation, which will provide much needed relief for Iraqi refugees and IDP's. I call on the leadership of the House to support this bill.

  • The Business Climate in Russia and the States of the Former Soviet Union

    Madam Speaker, after the summer recess, the Helsinki Commission, which I chair, was preparing to conduct a hearing on United States and Western businesses at risk entering markets in Russia and the former Soviet Republics without the protections guaranteed by the rule of law and government adherence to market principles. The hearing had to be postponed due to the invasion of Georgia, but it is our intention to take up this issue in the next Congress.  The Helsinki Commission, and the OSCE, is fully committed to the development of democracy, civil society, the rule of law and free markets in the Russia Federation and in other states of the former Soviet Union. We trust that Russian President Medvedev shares that commitment when he proclaims that ``my most important task is to further develop civil and economic freedoms.''  Yet we see evidence that Russian authorities continue to selectively prosecute and harass human rights advocates, prominent business leaders and journalists by employing arbitrary and extralegal means to achieve state and political ends. This is often accomplished through a manipulated court system, thus denying its citizens and foreign investors the impartial application of the rule of law and equal justice.  In June, 1992, the United States and Russia negotiated and signed the Bilateral Investment Treaty, which grants investors the protections and safeguards necessary to conduct business in a fair and transparent environment. Unfortunately, Russia has failed to ratify this important measure that would ultimately serve the economic interests of both our nations.  Along the same lines, it is regrettable that Russia refuses to ratify the Energy Charter Treaty. This measure insures the rights and protections of private and public sector interests against a government taking arbitrary action that would disrupt or threaten global energy security. The thousands of United States investors who became shareholders in the Russian oil company, YUKOS, lost everything when the Russian government seized the company's assets.  Finally, Russia has not honored its pledge to amend its federal laws to guarantee protections of intellectual property rights and enforcing such laws consistent with international standards. I would note the frequent Western media reports on cases where Russian authorities have seized the assets of certain companies, many with foreign investors, utilizing executive decrees, court orders, and extradition requests to assume ownership or control over Russian enterprises. Some foreign investors have been compelled to surrender their equity shares in Russian companies without proper due process and compensation only to have Western courts, in a series of cases, issue rulings in favor of such companies.  Madam Speaker, we appreciate that our economy is truly global and American and Western investments are essential in Russia and throughout Eurasia, given their abundant natural resources, and urge that all countries can mutually commit to an economic relationship that is based on mutual trust, the rule of law and market forces that are free of arbitrary or capricious government activity.

  • NATO Membership for Albania and Croatia

    Mr. President, the NATO Alliance is now considering its third round of post-Cold War enlargement. This will be the smallest of the rounds, with only two countries to consider compared to three in 1999 and seven in 2004. It should also be easiest, since the development of Membership Actions Plans allow NATO significantly more pre-invitation interaction with aspirants today than took place in earlier rounds. Albania and Croatia were formally invited at the April NATO Summit in Bucharest, Romania. Macedonia did not receive an invitation because of its lingering name dispute with Greece, and several European allies were unwilling to go forward with Membership Action Plans for Georgia and Ukraine.  In March of this year, the Helsinki Commission, which I co-chair, held a hearing on the prospects for NATO enlargement which included testimony from expert analysts and contributions from the embassies of these five countries. We have also had hearings on the matter in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which included administration views. It is important for the Senate to act on these protocols quickly so that ratification by all NATO countries can be completed in a timely matter.  Turning to the records of the two aspirants, Albania has made tremendous strides since 1991, and the country is solidly committed to Euro-Atlantic integration. This is demonstrated by its contribution to numerous peace operations around the world. There are concerns about organized crime and official corruption in Albania, but I believe the country is well aware of these concerns and is continuing to undertake efforts to address them. The country is also aware of the need for further electoral reform before parliamentary elections next June.  Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Dan Fried credibly asserted before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that ``countries continue reforms rather than abandon them, when they join the alliance,'' and this particularly applies to Albania given its ongoing EU aspirations. In that spirit, I want to express my support for Albania's NATO membership, which will strengthen the alliance as well as the prospects for further reform in Albania.  Croatia is clearly ready for NATO membership. Its democratic credentials are very strong. Recovering from the violent breakup of Yugoslavia, the country essentially shed its extreme nationalist leanings in 2000 and has been in rapid transition ever since. Croatia is also preparing for EU membership, boosting reform efforts, and it has become an increasingly active and helpful player in world affairs. I therefore want to express my strong support for Croatia's NATO membership as well.

  • Reaffirming the Stimson Doctrine of Non-Recognition

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to introduce a joint resolution regarding the Stimson Doctrine of Non-Recognition, which was a policy adopted in the 1930s, stating that the United States government will not recognize territorial changes brought about by force alone. The Stimson Doctrine became the foundation for sections of the U.N. Charter dealing with the inviolability of recognized borders and territorial integrity. This principled policy was perhaps, most famously, applied to the three Baltic republics that were forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940. Throughout the Cold War the United States never recognized this violent and illegitimate incorporation. Following the collapse of the Soviet empire, many had hoped that a non-recognition policy would become a dated relic of a bygone era. Sadly, recent events have exposed the naiveté of this view and I strongly believe that the Stimson Doctrine should be reaffirmed and reapplied and continue to be a fundamental principle of our foreign policy. As noted Russian scholar Paul Goble recently wrote in an article entitled, ‘‘It’s Time for a new Non-Recognition Policy’’ and I quote, "That does not mean that we must counter any such action militarily or refuse to have anything to do with the aggressor—until 1991, after all, we had an embassy in the capital of the Soviet Union even though we did not recognize the USSR’s right to control the Baltic countries—but it does mean that we must never recognize such actions as somehow legitimate, a step that would open the floodgates of aggression not only in Eurasia but around the world. "Sometimes we cannot do more, but as the great Russian memoirist Nadezhda Mandelstam reminded us, we can never afford to do less." Madam Speaker, I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting the bedrock principle of respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty and support this measure.

  • Recognizing Europe's Black Population

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to introduce a resolution recognizing Europe's Black population and expressing solidarity with their struggle.  On April 29, 2008, I chaired the U.S. Helsinki Commission hearing entitled, ``The State of (In)visible Black Europe: Race, Rights, and Politics'' which focused on the more than 7 million people who make up Europe's Black or Afro-descendant population.  Despite their numerous contributions to European society, like African-Americans here, many Black Europeans face the daily challenges of racism and discrimination.  This includes being the targets of violent hate crimes, many of which have resulted in death. Existing inequalities in education, housing, and employment remain a problem and racial profiling is a norm. Few Black Europeans are in leadership positions and political participation is also limited for many, providing obstacles for addressing these problems.  In an effort to raise public awareness of these issues at the national and international level, the Black European Women's Council, BEWC, was launched on September 9, 2008 at the European Union's headquarters. More than 130 Black women from across Europe came to ``insist on the recognition and inclusion of Black Europeans economically, politically, and culturally.''  This resolution supports BEWC's fight for equality and urges European governments to implement recently introduced anti-discrimination legislation and other plans of action, including a fund for victims incapacitated as a result of a hate crime.  Given the history of our own country, an increase in transatlantic cooperative efforts between our government and European governments, U.S. and European based civil rights groups, and within the private sector would also provide useful partnerships and assistance in combating racism and discrimination abroad and at home.  This resolution therefore also calls on the U.S. government to increase support for public and private sector initiatives focused on combating racism and discrimination in Europe as part of our efforts to support global human rights.  I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this Resolution Recognizing Black Europeans and encourage them to review the statements and submissions from the Helsinki Commission's Black Europe Hearing at www.csce.gov. Additionally, I would like to submit the following background materials on Black Europeans for the official record.

  • Introduction of the Republic of Georgia Enhanced Trade Assistance, Economic Recovery, and Reconstruction Act of 2008

    Madam Speaker, today I rise to introduce the Republic of Georgia Enhanced Trade Assistance, Economic Recovery, and Reconstruction Act of 2008. This bill will provide urgently needed economic and reconstruction assistance to the people of Georgia following Russia's invasion of that sovereign and independent country last month.  Madam Speaker, the war between Russia and Georgia resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of men, women, and children from the conflict zone in South Ossetia and elsewhere in Georgia. There is credible evidence that at least some villages were hit because they were populated by ethnic Georgians. As we know, people can't work when they have nowhere to live and their basic needs are not being met. Additionally, the Russians clearly targeted critical components of Georgia's economic infrastructure for destruction, resulting in the disruption of domestic and regional commerce.  The dire circumstances in the aftermath of the invasion require timely action by the United States and the international community.  As Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation, the body charged by Congress with monitoring human rights throughout Europe and beyond, I am deeply concerned over developments in and around Georgia, a country I have visited on numerous occasions, most recently in January. It pains me that there is a need for the kind of legislation I am introducing today--an urgent measure to aid one OSCE country--Georgia--which is recovering from devastating damage done to its people, economy, infrastructure, and environment by another OSCE country--Russia.  The Helsinki principles were meant to preclude such armed conflict between participating states. Among them were the commitments to refrain from the threat of or use of force to resolve conflicts; and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states. In invading Georgia, Russia has violated these OSCE commitments and I am saddened to be compelled to condemn Russia's conduct.  Madam Speaker, it is apparent that Russia deliberately sought to cripple Georgia's economy, wreaking economic hardship and perhaps seeking to foment upheaval. In the process, Russia has sought to degrade key economic and commercial zones in the region, and I'm concerned that the most serious long-term damage could be the loss of confidence in Georgia as a reliable transit point for oil and gas pipelines--currently the only transit point for oil to Europe from central Asia and the Caucasus that does not go through Russia.  This legislation, while it cannot undo all of the damage done to Georgia's economy and infrastructure, will go far in helping Georgia, a strategic U.S. partner, begin to rebuild its economy and critical infrastructure while helping to create new trade, business, and economic opportunities among key countries in the region.  I welcome the administration's announcement of a package of U.S. emergency assistance to be provided to Georgia. My legislation seeks to complement these preliminary efforts with the aim of ensuring the kind of sustained assistance the people of Georgia will need in the coming months to rebuild their lives and country.  Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation and ensure its timely passage.

  • Condemning July 27, 2008 Bombings in Istanbul, Turkey

    Madam Speaker, as Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the former President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, I condemn in the strongest possible terms the bombings that shook the Gungoren neighborhood of Istanbul, Turkey on Sunday.  This was the deadliest attack to take place in Istanbul in five years, which killed 17 men, women and children and wounded more than one hundred others. I express my most sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones and to the individuals injured in this terrorist attack.  Madam Speaker, I stand with the Turkish government and the people of Turkey in condemning these cowardly acts and hope to see those responsible brought to justice very soon.  The United States and Turkey have shared a historic partnership for the past fifty-plus years and it is during these difficult times that we must stand together.  Madam Speaker, the United States remains committed to working with Turkey in fighting terrorism in Turkey, in the United States, and around the world. I urge my colleagues to stand with me in condemning these heinous attacks.

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