WASHINGTON – Representative Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) has been appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives to serve as Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission), and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) has been appointed by the President of the United States Senate to serve as Co-Chairman of the Commission for the 110th Congress.
The first African-American to chair the Commission, Chairman Hastings brings considerable international experience to the leadership post, having served on the Commission since 2001 and in a variety of other assignments involving foreign policy and intelligence during his congressional career.
“My leadership role at the Commission will provide me with an important platform from which to increase security, broaden economic development and bolster respect for human rights, with the ultimate aim of upholding the dignity of each person,” said Mr. Hastings. “Through engagement at home and abroad, I hope to forge partnerships that will translate the historic Helsinki commitments into concrete deeds. I will speak out when circumstances warrant, and I will also listen to those seeking to be heard.”
Chairman Hastings has held several leadership positions, including president, of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA), an inter-parliamentary body bringing together parliamentarians from the 56 OSCE countries. Rep. Hastings currently serves as president emeritus of the OSCE PA and also serves as the Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs. In addition, Chairman Hastings has lead OSCE International Election Observation Missions to Azerbaijan, Belarus and Ukraine.
Co-Chairman Cardin has been a strong advocate when it comes to core principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. As a Congressman, Mr. Cardin, served on the Commission from 1993 to 2006. His extensive work in the field of international trade has given him a unique perspective on the interrelationship between the human, economic and security dimensions of the OSCE. He has also been an outspoken advocate of justice and the rule of law in responding to post-conflict situations.
“I believe that everyone – both in America and around the world – deserves to live with dignity, free of oppression and discrimination,” said Sen. Cardin. “Unfortunately, too many people still live under a dark cloud of abuse, torture and intimidation. We need to give these ethnic and religious minorities a voice and draw the world’s attention to their plight. I am proud to continue leading the Helsinki Commission in its mission to advance basic human rights and economic opportunity to people around the world.”
Senator Cardin currently serves as a vice president of the OSCE PA, having earlier held several leadership posts in that body, including chairman of the General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment.
The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine members from the U.S. House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce. The positions of Chair and Co-Chair are shared by the House and Senate and rotate every two years, when a new Congress convenes.