WASHINGTON – Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), will lead a Congressional delegation to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria from February 18-22, 2008. The Members of Congress that will be travelling with the delegation are Representatives Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Hilda Solis (D-CA), and Michael McNulty (D-NY).
While in Prague, the delegation plans to meet with Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Kohout, President of the Senate Premysl Sobotka, Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Džamila Stehlíková, and representatives of civil society and the Romani and the Jewish communities. The delegation will also hold meetings at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Broadcast Center.
Immediately following their visit and meeting with RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin on Tuesday, February 19, the delegation will hold a press roundtable at 3:30 p.m. at the RFE/RL Broadcast Center (Vinohradska 1, 110 00 Prague 1, across from the National Museum). During the press roundtable, they plan to discuss U.S.-Czech bilateral relations, the situation of the Romani minority, and questions of tolerance and non-discrimination. (NOTE: If you are a member of the media that would like to attend the press roundtable at the RFE/RL Broadcast Center on Tuesday, February 19 at 3:30p.m., please contact: Julian Knapp, Deputy Director of Communications at RFE/RL. You can RSVP by email – knappj[at]rferl[dpt]org or +420.221.122.074 (office), +420.602.611.008 (mobile).
On Wednesday, February 20, the delegation will travel to Bratislava, where they plan to meet with Prime Minister Robert Fico, Foreign Minister Jan Kubis, U.S. Ambassador Vincent Obsitnik, independent analysts, and Romani activists. They will hold a press conference at 5:15 p.m. the residence of the U.S. Ambassador (14/A Stara Vinarska, Bratislava). During the press conference, the delegation is expected to discuss U.S.-Slovak relations, the situation of the Romani minority, and regional issues of concern to the OSCE community.
The delegation will then travel to Vienna, where they will attend the 7th Annual Winter Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly. The purpose of the meeting is to examine unfolding trends and events within the OSCE region and beyond with a particular focus on Kosovo, missile defense, and conventional forces in Europe. The parliamentarians will also receive briefings by high-level OSCE officials on the diplomatic response to these events. The work conducted during this meeting is in preparation for the upcoming Annual Session, which will take place in Astana, Kazakhstan this summer.
On Thursday, February 21 at 2:30 p.m. the delegation will hold a press roundtable in room 525 of the Hofburg Congress Center. At the press roundtable they plan to discuss the issues being debated in the meeting as well as the economic, security, and political ramifications of migration, and efforts to combat prejudice and discrimination in the OSCE region, as well the upcoming Presidential elections in Russia and European cooperation to address the Iraqi refugee crisis.