WASHINGTON – Reacting to two reports on the future of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), several of the Commissioners of the U.S. Helsinki Commission urged today that the focus of the OSCE remain on advancing human rights and democratization.
“Those insisting on the need for OSCE ‘reforms’ are the very countries ignoring their commitments to human rights and democracy. Clearly, Russia, Belarus and others are not interested in strengthening the OSCE, but in scuttling the organization’s human rights and democracy promoting activities,” said Commission Chairman Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS). “We should not allow our attention to be diverted from effective implementation.”
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.
Two reports were issued on possible strengthening of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The first, issued by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, argues that problems in the OSCE are largely political and not structural. The second report, issued by a Panel of Eminent Persons appointed by the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, emphasizes organizational changes.
“Overall I think the Parliamentary Assembly report is closer to the mark,” added Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). “What makes the Helsinki Process work is not a question of which organizational box goes where. It is a question of whether we can make sure that all participating States have the political will to meet their obligations under the Helsinki Final Act.”
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was created as an outgrowth of the Helsinki Process. The Helsinki Process began with adoption of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, which enshrined the concept that human rights are integral aspects of international security.
“The OSCE should not become the Trojan horse for Russian foreign policy preferences. The history of the Helsinki Process is that there has always been a strong focus on basic human rights and democracy. The historical record shows that was the right way to go, and whatever structural changes might be made at the OSCE, we can’t let those changes become a pretext for ignoring the mission,” said Smith.
“Our assessment of any recommendations for strengthening the OSCE will be made based on how the proposal will help improve implementation of Helsinki commitments and enhance European security. Tinkering with structures will not generate political will on the part of those determined to repress the rights of their people and maintain their undemocratic hold on power,” said Brownback.