COMMISSION ON SECURITY & COOPERATION IN EUROPE: U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION
LITHUANIA’S LEADERSHIP OF THE OSCE
ORGANIZATION FOR SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE
THE HEARING WAS HELD FROM 3:30 P.M. to 4:42 P.M.
IN 562 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C., REPRESENTATIVE
CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ), CHAIRMAN, CSCE, MODERATING
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2011
REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ): The hearing will come to order. And
I first of all want to say to the foreign minister and to my colleagues, sorry
for being late. Got off to a later start than I wanted to. So I do apologize
SENATOR BENJAMIN L. CARDIN (D-MD): It’s a long walk over to the Senate side.
REP. SMITH: Yeah, but Alcee got here.
Today, I’m pleased to welcome Foreign Minister Azubalis to share his views with
the Lithuania’s OSCE chairmanship as it gets underway. And I want him to know
that he is very, very welcome. We are so grateful to have him here today to
give his view, his vision going forward as the chair-in-office. And it’s
especially important that we meet as Lithuanians at home and abroad celebrate
Lithuanian independence day, the restoration of their national independence
after decades of brutal Soviet domination.
We join them in this celebration, and in doing so honor the many Lithuanians
who made great sacrifices to rid their country of communist repression. Of
course, many paid the ultimate price. And we honor also those who were killed
in the January events of 1991.
I will never forget my visit to Vilnius, joined by my colleagues here, two
decades ago – it was the largest delegation, I think, ever to travel. Just
weeks after the January events, the tension was palpable as we entered the
capital in Vilnius and met President Landsbergis at the heavily fortified
parliament while Soviet troops occupied nearby buildings.
I’ll never forget when we went to the TV tower where men and women were
mourning those who had been gunned down by the Soviet troops. Candles were lit
all over on the ground marking where people had fallen after being murdered by
the Soviet troops. And there was much prayer; there was much concern, fear,
but above all, courage. And you could see it in the eyes of people, that
despite the threat that they faced, they were going to – they were resolved.
They had a never-quit attitude that was very inspiring.
Certainly, Lithuania has come a long way since that time. And now as a solidly
democratic country, a respected member of the EU and NATO, it is the OSCE
chair-in-office for 2011, an honor it received the old-fashioned way: you
earned it. Lithuania is one of the great success stories of the post-Soviet
states: democratic, free, prosperous and with an impressive record of
accomplishments within Europe and Eurasia.
And so we welcome your testimony today, Mr. Foreign Minister. And just like I
said, we’re very, very pleased to have you and members of your delegation with
I do want to emphasize a concern that we have on this commission, and that is
your neighbor Belarus. One of the greatest challenges the OSCE faces is the
increasing repression in Europe’s last dictatorship. As author of the Belarus
Democracy Act (ph) and sponsor of a newly introduced bill for 2011, I and my
colleagues are deeply concerned over the crackdown against dissent in that
country, and the fact that so many people that we know personally are
languishing in prison and face a very uncertain future. And the use of
torture, which we’re all concerned about, that has been deployed by
Lukashenko’s henchmen raises deep concerns. And of course, the manipulation of
the media including cyberspace to achieve Lukashenko’s totalitarian ends
continues to be a real issue.
The full range of fundamental freedoms, the right to freedom of expression, the
right to freedom of religion, the right to freedom of assembly and others as we
all know are under assault in a number of troubling – a number of OSCE
countries today, with leaders in several bent on maintaining their offices
through blatant manipulation, intimidation and worse.
So we look forward to your work. I also want to welcome the OSCE’s continuing
attention to the issue of anti-Semitism, which we in this commission have
championed for a lot of years. And we note the great work that Rabbi Andy
Baker has done as personal representative of the OSCE chair-in-office.
Finally, I am confident that against the backdrop of your own country’s
national experience, you’ll use your leadership position to speak out on behalf
of these human rights issues. I know it – I mean, your record before precedes
you. And all of us here in this room greatly admire it. And again, I want you
to know that we pledge our cooperation and whatever support we can provide to
your tenure as chair-in-office. Please count it, as we’re a phone call away.
I’d like to yield to the co-chair, Mr. Ben Cardin.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, thank you, Congressman Smith. And I join you in welcoming
the foreign minister to our hearing, the first hearing of the Helsinki
Commission this year. And I think it’s appropriate that a chair-in-office be
our first witness. And we very much appreciate you being here. We’d also like
to welcome the ambassador to our committee room. And thank you for the
leadership that Lithuania will be using in regards to the work of the OSCE.
As Congressman Smith said, 20 years ago I was in Vilnius as the Soviet tanks
were in the city. We did go to the TV towers and saw the oppression of the
Soviet Union. And when we – our visit there did not meet much pleasure from
the – from the Soviets.
We went – but we expressed ourselves. And I was proud of our commitment to an
independent Lithuania. We had never recognized the Soviets’ takeover of the
country. And I’m very proud of the role that the Lithuanian-American community
has played in speaking out for a free Lithuania.
So it was very satisfying to return to Vilnius for the OSCE parliamentary
assembly and see just a vibrant country, a vibrant city, a free country, and
the progress that has been made in such a short period of time to be one of the
leaders in Europe. So it’s with pride that we welcome you here. And we look
at Lithuania as a true friend of the United States and one of the countries
that has represented the type of commitment to the OSCE principles that we
believe is a model for other countries to follow.
Having said that, I do want to specifically mention the issue that I spoke to
the president, the speaker and the foreign minister when I was in Vilnius in
2009. And that was the need for Lithuania to enact laws to resolve
long-standing claims regarding wrongfully confiscated property. Unfortunately,
notwithstanding some movement on this issue last year, legislation has not yet
And I know these are – there are difficult political and economic factors. But
the longer it takes to get this done, the more difficult it is. And time, to
me, is critically important. These issues have been left unresolved for too
long. And every year, it makes it more complicated and more difficult to
resolve these property issues. I would just urge you particularly in your
leadership role to set the right example and to see that that legislation, in
fact, is enacted in your country.
As you assume the chairmanship of the OSCE amid a full range of challenges
especially in the human dimension, given the mandate of the Helsinki
Commission, we are particularly focused on this aspect of the OSCE’s work –
that is, the human rights dimension. We know there are a lot – they are
multidimensional. We know there are a lot of issues that are interrelated;
when you’re dealing with trafficking of humans or combating corruption, it very
much affects all three baskets of the OSCE.
In that regard, I’d like to mention an initiative that this commission has
taken a very high priority and that’s the Extractive Industry Transparency
Initiative. There’s been a lot of progress made and in our Parliamentary
Assembly, we have adopted resolutions encouraging all states to fully
But I want you do know that the United States, through the work of this
commission, has taken a leadership role on transparency. Last year, in the
Dodd-Frank legislation, an amendment that was authored by Senator Lugar and
myself was incorporated that requires all mineral companies that are listed on
the U.S. Stock Exchange to file their transparency on mineral contracts.
This is an effort to make sure that the mineral wealth of a country is not the
mineral curse. So many of the poor nations of the world that are mineral
wealth find that their mineral values go to funding corruption rather than
helping the people of the nation.
I mention that to you because I think during this year, we can make strong
progress towards transparency and good governance, which I think is a
critically important part of the OSCE work.
And let me also echo Chairman Smith’s remarks regarding the important work of
OSCE in combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance. As you may be
aware, the Helsinki Commission was the first to raise concerns of the spike of
anti-Semitism and related violence in the OSCE region back in 2002 and we
continue to closely monitor this issue and urge you to do so as well.
We think this is a year of opportunity within the OSCE and we pledge that our
commission wants to work very closely with the chair, with the Parliamentary
Assembly and with the Permanent Council to do what we can to advance the
Let me apologize in advance. I’m not going to be able to stay through the
hearing. There’s an event that was scheduled in the White House that I need to
be at and I apologize for not being able to say through the hearings.
REP. SMITH: Chairman Cardin, thank you very much. I yield to ranking member
REPRESENTATIVE ALCEE HASTINGS (D-FL): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And
Ben, we don’t feel sorry for you, going to the White House. I mean you know –
no sympathy here. (Laughter.)
MR.: Find out what they’re serving.
REP. HASTINGS: (Chuckles.) Mr. Chairman, before we go forward, if protocol
would allow, could we invite the foreign minister to come to the table? He’s
seated at the back. Yes, sir. Okay.
In addition, Mr. Chairman, I’d like to extend a personal welcome to our
colleague, my good friend from Georgia, Phil Gingrey to the commission. I keep
trying to get away from Phil. We served together on the rules committee and
now, here we are again. But we had fun and we’ll have fun.
Mr. Foreign Minister, I’m so pleased to welcome you and especially as
chairman-in-office. You certainly are no stranger to many of us who are
mindful of your leadership on the Lithuanian delegation to OSCE Parliamentary
Assembly meetings. I think we first met at the Seimas and I am ever grateful
for the gracious hospitality, the number of years that I came to Lithuania.
The only exception I have is on too many occasions, I ate too much blynai and I
brought it back with me and it’s showing in my middle. My responsibilities as
the PA president brought me to the far corners of the expansive OSCE region
from the five Central Asian countries and from the Balkan – Balkans to the
Baltic. Our counties and just about countries and just about every place in
It’s been my privilege, as you would know, to head a number of international
election observations along with Lithuanian colleagues on behalf of the OSCE.
And I’ve also had the pleasure of visiting most of the OSCE field missions and
appreciate your commitment, Mr. Minister, to do the same to get out into the
field, where the real work of the OSCE is accomplished.
The Western Balkans continue to be the primary focus of the OSCE field
resources. And as the situation in the region improves, the organization may
wish to look for ways to streamline and downsize its activities, freeing some
resources that perhaps could be directed elsewhere. At the same time, other
international actors like the United Nations are also moving their missions and
personnel from the Balkans to other areas around the globe. And OSCE might be
considered a useful last presence until stability, democracy and integration
We also know of lingering problems in the region such as the political turmoil
in Albania. And I did the Albanian elections with OSCE observers and found it
particularly difficult. But your chairmanship effectively responded to
discourage further violence and I’m deeply appreciative of that, as are my
colleagues and hope that you continue as they approach their next critical
The situation in Kosovo and Bosnia also remain of particular concern and
official corruption and organized crime both plague all the countries of the
region. I hope today, that you will give us an assessment of the OSCE’s
potential to deal with these regional issues during the course of your
And I would point out, additionally, Mr. Minister, as the assembly’s special
representative on Mediterranean affairs, many of us have pursued extensive
engagement with the countries of the broader Middle East region. Against this
backdrop, I will be especially interested in your assessment of the upheavals
in Tunisia and Egypt and their implications for security in the Mediterranean
region and beyond.
Now, Chairman Smith and myself and Mr. Aderholt, who isn’t with us right at
this moment. I know the three of us will be in Vienna next week and I’m
mindful that there are preparations for interaction with our Mediterranean
Finally, while I comment the ongoing work of the OSCE in promoting tolerance
and combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination and racism, too
often, commitments on paper have yet to be translated into action, Mr.
Minister. And I would note that the year 2011 has been designated the
International Year for People of African Descent by the United Nations.
I – participating with Congressman Smith and Senator Cardin – have fought very
actively in the arena in the OSCE sphere with regard to anti-Semitism. And
more recently, I, along with others, have begun efforts to address racism in
the arena. And I would urge that you give consideration to that subject as
Our work here at the Helsinki Commission is to get countries to live up to
their commitments and our shared commitments. I thank you, Mr. Chairman,
Chairman Smith and welcome, again, Minister.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much, Mr. Hastings. I’d like to now yield to the
newest member of the Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe, a medical
doctor and a very good friend, Dr. Phil Gingrey.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN PHILIP GINGREY (R-GA): Well, Chairman Smith, thank you
very much and Co-Chairman Cardin and my good friend, Alcee Hastings, it is an
honor to be selected by my speaker to have an opportunity to serve on this
commission, to be one of nine House members and to join with our Senate
colleagues and Department of State, Department of Commerce, Department of
Defense on being on this commission.
I look forward to your chairmanship. I have also visited your country and your
capital city. I look forward to listening very carefully to your presentation
today. I, too, might not be able to stay for the entire presentation because
of other commitments. But just let me just say that I’m happy to be here. I
plan to be a very active member and I look forward to it. Thank you very much.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much, Dr. Gingrey. Let me, before going into our
very distinguished foreign minister, Mr. Azubalis, let me introduce Mark
Milosch, our chief of staff for the commission. Mark got his J.D. from the
University of Michigan and his Ph.D. in European history from the University of
Iowa and he’s here with us today.
And Mr. – Foreign Minister, we really – we really look forward to working with
you going forward, that we have a very, very productive year. So the floor is
AUDRONIUS AZUBALIS: Chairman Smith, Co-Chairman Cardin, Ranking Member
Hastings, Mr. Gingrey: You know, the possibility to be here, of course, could
be measured also by your actions 20 years ago, by your solidarity.
That’s what – today, I have a privilege and honor to be here and to witness you
– our efforts and our achievements and our view on the world, which has (not ?)
became more easy place when it was 20 years ago. But at least my country and
some others, to whom you helped so much, lives a normal life, sometimes maybe
even a dull. But I think – it’s nothing wrong with that.
Excellences, ladies and gentlemen, 35 years ago, in 1976, following the signing
of a final act, a Helsinki committee was formed in Vilnius. I need not remind
you that Lithuania was not free at that time. I associated myself with the
members of that new Helsinki committee. In 1976, for this action, the state
authorities had me similarly removed from university.
Today, I have an honor to appear before your commission as Lithuanian
chairman-in-office of the OSCE. In this capacity, I recently visited Moscow,
where I met with my old friend, Mrs. Lyudmila Alekseeva, chairwoman of a Moscow
Helsinki group. I was reminded that 35 years ago, physicial Yuri Orlov
established the public group to promote fulfillment of the Helsinki Accords in
the U.S.S.R, Soviet Union. On 11 and 12 May this year, Russia will commemorate
this event and pay tribute to those courageous individuals who stood against
totalitarianism and oppressions.
A little later, the commemoration of the 19th anniversary of the birth of
Andrei Sakharov will provide another occasion. I draw the attention of
respected senators and representatives to the significance of those grassroot
organizations and private individuals who continue the vision of Helsinki.
Individuals like these paved the way at the beginning.
The continuous engagement of the United States with the Helsinki process and
OSCE activities was always essential to the organization’s success. I would
like to use this opportunity to thank the United States and, in particular, the
unique institution of the Helsinki Commission for their support to the
Lithuanian OSCE chairmanship on the follow-up to the Astana summit.
The OSCE participating states have made progress, individual and collectively,
toward the goals of the Helsinki process. Today, however, we still see
individuals facing challenges in securing basic human rights, ensuring there
are fair elections, protecting freedom of speech and the safety of journalists
and ensuring that antiterrorism measures comply with international human rights
Mr. Chairman, as the chairman in the office of OSCE, I have set goals that will
further the key principles of the Helsinki Decalogue. Support implementation
of the commitments undertaken in Paris, Istanbul and Astana. And realize the
vision of the security community throughout our shared OSCE area. In this
endeavor, I have already visited Vienna, Brussels, Moscow, Kiev, Moldova,
Chisinau and Tiraspol. And now, I am here. Yesterday, I was in New York.
The chairmanship has engaged over the situation in Belarus and the OSCE
presence in Minsk. OSCE’s secretary general, Mr. Brichambaut, or – (inaudible)
– director Janusz Lenarczyk (sp) and OSCE representative for freedom of the
media, Dunja Milatovic remain in close contact with me coordinating actions in
relations to Belarus.
But I must say here that what I’ve got, the last news today from my vice
minister who is now in Belarus that the Belarusians – one goal just to keep the
open OSCE presence and to monitor – with a possibility to monitor the situation
in this country, to monitor possible trial processes and of course, sadly – but
I must say that we got the Soviet-style nyet, no.
In close coordination with the United States and European Union where
chairmanship conducted preventive diplomatic efforts to help the government and
opposition get out of dangerous political gridlock in Albania. My special
representative for protracted conflicts together with the United Nations and EU
co-chairs of the Geneva discussions visited key capitals and talked to key
parties in preparation for the next round of the Geneva talks in March.
The resumption of the formal 5-plus-2 negotiation format has become my key
preoccupation in the last weeks. My interlocutors, High Representative Ashton,
Foreign Ministers Lavrov of Russia, Gryshchenko of Ukraine and Leanca of
Moldova have sent me signals of the need to move ahead. Lithuania is under no
illusions about the enormity of the tasks that face us this year.
As the OSCE chairperson in office, I plan to focus our attention on specific
key outcomes, which we will pursue on a step-by-step basis. Our key goals:
register tangible progress in addressing protracted conflicts, significantly
improve our record of implementation of media freedom commitments, promote
tolerance education throughout the OSCE area in order to combat hate crimes and
discrimination, address transnational threats including border management and
other projects involving Afghanistan, drug trafficking, cyber threats, and last
one – enhance the OSCE’s role in energy security dialogue.
During my recent visit to Russia, Ukraine and Moldova, I met with the
governments involved in the 5-plus-2 talks and with the political leadership on
both sides of the river Dniester. We discussed ways forward in the settlement
process, fully respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the
Republic of Moldova.
I remain cautiously optimistic that the resumption of the official negotiations
in the 5-plus-2 format, that a full agenda is achievable. Meanwhile, I
recognized the need for continued focus on restoring trust between the two
sides throughout the implementation of various confidence-building measures.
I will shortly meet again with the co-chairs of the Minsk group. The threat of
the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has never been more dangerous in recent
years. Minister Lavrov and I shared our deep concern over this at that recent
meeting. Long agreed-upon confidence and security-building measures must be
Snipers must be withdrawn along the line of contacts. I just want to remind
you a sad statistic that over the last year the snipers, from both sides, shoot
36 people. The OSCE monitoring capacity must be beefed up. There is therefore
a pressing need for mechanisms and for two-way communication channels about the
peace process and about public reactions to it.
Progress on the conflict in Georgia will not be easy either. I will use the
Geneva process to rebuild trust and will work to restore a meaningful OSCE
presence in Georgia. I will work with the participating states to explore
possibilities for extending the OSCE’s activities in Georgia, including a
meaningful OSCE presence on the ground. Full-fledged roles played by the
United Nations and the EU remain essential and must not be diluted.
In March, I will visit Baku, Yerevan, and Tbilisi. In all of the capitals, I
will talk to my counterparts, opposition, and civil society arguing that
engagement and peaceful negotiated settlements and continuing on the democratic
path are the best ways to fulfill their aspirations of these proud nations for
freedom, liberty and prosperity.
Ladies and gentlemen, when you look at the causes of the conflict in the OSCE
area, you are repeatedly struck with how often discrimination against
minorities lies at the root of the problem. Working quietly and discreetly
with the higher commissioner on national minorities, our Lithuanian
chairmanship will continue to seek ways to guarantee minority rights. The
chairmanship will continue to encourage the work of the ODIHR in support of
nondiscriminatory treatment of Roma and Sinti. Equality for woman and man will
remain a central tenet of our programs.
Together with well-known for all of us Rabbi Andrew Baker who has happily
agreed to continue his service as a personal representative of the chairperson
in office for combating anti-Semitism, we will hold an event in Prague next
month, specially – specifically devoted to the struggle against anti-Semitism
in public discourse.
I am also pleased to tell you that by the declaration of the parliament and
decision of the Lithuanian government, Lithuania will mark the 70th anniversary
of the Holocaust with a yearlong commemoration featuring numerous activities,
conferences, education in the schools and acts of remembrance.
And here, dear colleagues, I have with me the program translated in English.
Later on, this program will be given to you. And if you will find appropriate
time and place and activities, you are most welcome to come and to take part in
My personal representative in combating discrimination against Christians and
other religions will organize an event on this topic in Rome in May. My
personal representative on combating discrimination against Muslims will roll
out new guidelines for educational tools. Our community is safest when human
rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law are upheld. Working with a
representative on freedom of media, I will call an OSCE conference on the
safety of journalists in Vilnius on 7-8 June. I am speaking out in support of
the freedom of media.
We will look again at our individual electoral processes and work harder to see
that commitments are lived up to. The follow-up process of implementing ODIHR
election-related recommendation is an integral part of this process. Shortly,
the ODIHR will present its report on the presidential elections in Belarus.
Despite certain steps in the right directions, the people in Belarus were not
given the opportunity to participate in elections that were consistent with
The decision by Belarus to close down the OSCE office in Minsk eliminates a
valuable resource for helping the authorities in civil society in Belarus
address the shortcomings. The activities that were within the mandate of that
office should continue. And I will work through all concerned to make this
happen. But as I said before, not much hope.
And of course, I have encouraged the OSCE parliamentary assembly to continue
cooperating with the election observation missions from ODIHR in monitoring
elections with each of these (borders ?) bringing their own special talents and
strengths to that essential task.
Dear members of commission, some of the greatest threats to our individual and
collective security are transnational threats. I am speaking of challenges to
cyber security, support for terrorism, the trafficking of human beings, weapons
I am particularly satisfied to report, based on resultant travels and
discussions, that there is broad EU, United States and Russia support to
address transnational threats related to terrorism, cyber security and drug
trafficking and to intensify OSCE engagement with Afghanistan, particularly
through the border management and security programs and better coordination on
the regional level and between different actors.
The OSCE cannot launch large-scale projects inside Afghanistan. But it can
continue to bring Afghanis to our programs and work with border-control
programs. We are to make better use of our OSCE field operations in Central
Asia as well as OSCE institutions in Dushanbe and Bishkek.
Lithuania has constantly supported strengthening energy security in the OSCE
area. We will speak to promote energy dialogue as a factor for peace and
cooperation. We will promote dialogue on energy security issues by using the
OSCE’s unique framework that involves some of the main energy producers,
consumers and transit countries.
Summing up, throughout this year, the chairmanship will be able to advance the
OSCE agenda as long as key players, the United States, Russian Federation, and
the EU support the relevance of and our commitment to the principles on which
this organization is based, and maintain the level of cooperation and dialogue,
which was evident at the Astana OSCE summit.
The OSCE remains the most inclusive and comprehensive regional security
organization in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian area. It will continue to
provide a unique forum. I intend that we follow a pragmatic and constructive
course. We must move forward one step at a time, promoting our ideals and
commitments in issues and regions where we can make a difference.
Mr. Chairman, members of commission, thank you for your kind attention. I
would like to ask Mr. Smith, is it appropriate now to make some answers, which
were raised by some of members of your commission?
REP. SMITH: Sure, we’re very flexible. Please do.
MR. AZUBALIS: First of all, I would like to inform about – regarding the
question, which was raised by Mr. Cardin – about fear, treatment of the past
and compensation on lost properties. I just want to say that in November 2010,
the parliament of the Republic of Lithuania approved the first reading of a
draft law on the compensation of the immovable property of the Jewish
communities. The draft law was approved by vast majority of the
parliamentarians from all political parties: 67 votes for and only 2 votes
Further legal procedures include the deliberations on the draft law in the
parliamentary committees and commissions. And of course, I have no – I would
say – responsibility to talk how this law will move. But let me express my
belief – and I believe that during this spring session, which will start at
March 11, we will move ahead.
And the last one was about our attitude – chairmanship attitude – towards the
event in Tunisia and Egypt. Here, I just want to say one thing, very simple.
The OSCE, as you know perfectly, has no economical leverages, have no military
power. But the OSCE has a unique three institutions: ODIHR, the office of the
higher commissioner on national minorities, and of course, the office of Madame
Dunja Milatovic on the freedom of the press.
And we are treating, of course, these two countries will all respect as partner
OSCE countries. And if would be such a smallest request from one another
country to share the expertise on consulting how to organize future elections,
how to organize observation of these elections, how to involve in this
processes civic society, I think no doubt I would use all my – I would say –
powers as a chair in office to urge these institutions to go and to help. But
first of all, we should get the request.
REP. SMITH: Foreign Minister Azubalis, thank you very much for your testimony,
for answering those initial questions raised by commissioners. Let me just get
right to Belarus if I could. Earlier this week, I – and I’m sure several of
the other commissioners – met with several of the family members who are
obviously in great agony over their loved ones being incarcerated.
And my question would be, what do you think the OSCE can do on the ground? I
know that the Minsk OSCE mission has been obviously removed from the country or
sent out. But what can we do – or what can you do – to ensure or try to ensure
that the prisoners are not being tortured? Is there any coordination
contemplated with the ICRC or any other organization?
And as you know, the Obama administration and the EU both have initiated
significant sanctions, ratcheted up those sanctions with regards to Lukashenko.
Do you have any other ideas what might be done to further isolate this
despotic regime and the cruelty that he practices everyday – that is to say,
MR. AZUBALIS: You know, Mr. Chairman, it’s a very tough question. (Chuckles.)
First of all, I would like to say that as you know, OSCE presence requires
that host nation’s consent.
REP. SMITH: Right.
MR. AZUBALIS: And here, we failed to convince them because first time, they
announced – I got the call from my counterpart Martynaw on the eve of a new
year – on Christmas, sorry, on Christmas. And he just inform me that we are
going to close. After that, I’ve sent a numerous number of our delegations
from our diplomats trying to convince. I’ve received in Vilnius some of the
officials from Minsk also trying to convince them. But it doesn’t help.
Of course, I consulted all my partners, starting from German, Poles and others.
And but it looks like this regime is going directly to self-isolation. But I
must say that autonomous OSCE institutions will be encouraged to continue their
efforts to get into this country and to witness – to help, all the
possibilities what they could. But at present time, as I said, I got the
message, till the – till the spring, is not much hope to see.
But on other hand, what we could do – just – let’s take CiO conference in
Vilnius on June 7, 8 on the safety of journalists. The OSCE could do just one
thing to highlight, to put the fire – light – to put the focus, international
focus on one or another issue and which is our strength, to show that something
going wrong, to invite a witness as now I’m witnessing in front of you, to
invite those family members who are jailed, to invite international experts and
just to give as much as possible international opinion pressure.
This is our main tool. And I’m not going to give up this and in all possible
occasion, I will speak about these sad events in Belarus.
REP. SMITH: I deeply appreciate this. This commission will do likewise. I
think what Lukashenko is counting on is for our angst and anger and concern to
abate, you know, to get displaced by what’s happening in Egypt or some other
hotspot. And he needs to know that the concern will only grow and the scrutiny
will only increase and his isolation, if that is his choice, will only become
And frankly, the day will come when he will be held to account, like Miloševi?,
had he not died prematurely, at The Hague for crimes against humanity because
certainly, Lukashenko ought to be in the dock, the sooner the better.
Let me ask you very briefly and I’ll just go through a few questions and then
yield to my colleagues. With regards to the media freedom conference that you
are contemplating on June 7th and 8th, I know this will be a part of it, but
just to add the strongest emphasis and exclamation point to it, but the bigger
the focus on the Internet and the new modes of media, the better.
We’re seeing everywhere that that’s what Lukashenko and others are using to
break up – Ahmadinejad certainly did in Tehran and they’re getting a great deal
of aiding and abetting by the dictatorship in China. We have numerous reports
that the Chinese are very active in Minsk as they are all over the world
selling their tools of repression.
And to the extent possible to expose any complicity by U.S. corporations as
well as European corporations in creating cybertools that are then used against
the dissidents and human rights activists, I think that needs more emphasis
rather than less going forward.
Let me also just ask you, we often recognize that this commission has – and I’m
sure you have as well – that anti-Semitism often spikes concurrently with
activities in the Middle East. And certainly, the rise of the Muslim
Brotherhood in Egypt could be the harbinger of another Hamas and much more
anti-Semitic and anti-Israel perspective.
I would hope – and I’m sure Rabbi Andy Baker is onto this, but as chair in
office, whatever proactively can be done to mitigate, you know, the rising
anti-Semitism that will surely flow, I believe, from activities in Egypt and in
other places like in the Middle East. I mean crisis often leads to more
anti-Semitic activities. And it gets whipped up by those who hate Jews.
So I would hope, proactively, whatever you could do. I will be abroad with you
and Rabbi Baker. So I’m looking forward to that. Thank you for scheduling
that and for taking the lead on that. It is certainly deeply appreciated.
And finally, on the issue of human trafficking, which you referenced in your
statement, this commission, as well, has been leaders, I think, over the years
on it. I would ask if we could look – if you would look at the increasing
problem of runaways and younger and younger women who are trafficked.
We did a – we, the United States, some of our NGOs, Shared Hope International
and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was very much a part
of this – looked at the runaway issue in the United States and found to our
shock and dismay that at least 100,000 American girls who start out as
runaways, within 24 to 48 hours, are often turned into – forced into
prostitution by pimps who drug them and beat them and the average age is 13.
And these young girls have not only their innocence and their lives and their
bodies exploited by these traffickers, surely, that’s not a phenomenon just
happening here. And I think we all have to bring much more attention to that
Yes, we know that by force, fraud and coercion, many women in their 20s are
compelled into modern-day slavery. But increasingly, it’s getting younger.
And so I act as the special representative for trafficking in the P.A. and
would hope that, you know, we could coordinate even more in the coming year.
And one last best-practice idea that I would ask you to promulgate throughout
the OSCE region and that is an idea that was thought up by our friends at
American Airlines and that is to train flight attendants to be the eyes and
ears, especially the yes, when especially women are airline flights to
recognize what a trafficking victim looks like, don’t take action herself or
theirselves – the man or woman who happens to be the flight attendant.
Let the pilot know and when the offloading happens at the point of destination,
they can separate them and find out whether or not that’s a trafficking victim.
Numerous instances of trafficking have been busted by U.S. law enforcement as
our airline folks get trained up in very simple procedures like that.
I would hope that would spread throughout the OSCE region overnight to stop
this cruelty called human trafficking. So I just share that with you as a best
practice and hopefully, you can do it. But any answers to any of those
questions and then I yield to Commissioner Hastings. Thank you.
MR. AZUBALIS: Thank you, dear colleague. First of all, I would like say that
of course, when you mention the freedom of electronic media, of course it’s an
inseparable part of any other media – there’s more than one. And that’s why we
are going to discuss with, as I said in this conference.
And also, I would like to pay your attention that we are also going to discuss
this question. It’s on May 8 and 11 in Warsaw because in Warsaw, we are going
to celebrate 20 years of ODIHR’s activities. And it’s a right place to discuss
these questions because I think it’s a right place and right institution. I’m
also encouraging you to come or to send your experts.
REP. SMITH: And please be looking at, with all due respect, at the Chinese
connection. They have mastered the art –
MR. AZUBALIS: I got it. Okay, we – I mean it will be on the table. How
successful it will be, we will see. Now, you touched very fundamental and very
sad question. It’s human trafficking. But you know, I think it’s – I just
could praise your initiative to train the stewardess, stewards in the airplanes.
But the most – and the trafficking mostly going on the ground. That’s why I’m
happy that we got – (we’re understanding ?) with United States officials from
Russians and from Central Asia countries to work closely during this
chairmanship and hopefully, the next one, on improving the border regime and
border procedures and strengthening the border control because here, I would
say, biggest chain – if you are talking about such kind of events in the whole
That’s what I think – it’s not just human trafficking. It’s drug trafficking
and all these other related things – guns trafficking and so on. That’s why i
think it fits to what you said and we are really – have intentions to work with
the Central Asian countries. I’ve met during – General Assembly of United
Nations this autumn in New York. I’ve met all my counterparts from Central
And we’ve discussed by our possible activities because as you know, you
couldn’t put a question on the table if you want real – to get the real
success. You should inform the other side that you are going to do that and
that. But I’m happy to inform you that all my counterparts from Central Asia
countries, we agreed on that.
And we’re – second thing about spreading anti-Semitism. I must say that not
just anti-Semitism, anti-Christianity is also spreading. And here, I just want
to say that we do not need even – of course, we do, to look somewhere. But in
Europe, we see this also, there’s some – not very, I would say, good tendencies.
If you would look to the report on Tel Aviv University, which was made
regarding – regarding the anti-Semitism cases in 2010, you will see some
discouraging numbers. But also, as I said, in Prague, we are going to address
very strongly on anti-Semitism in public discourse because that’s what – how it
started – such events. And of course, in Rome, as I said, we are going to – to
discuss the anti-Christian tendencies in current world. Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Thank you. Just to conclude, the – Pope Benedict has said that
the greatest persecution of all is – is against Christians and that is
absolutely true in most of the dictatorships like China, North Korea. But
there is a growing, I believe, discriminatory attitude towards many Christians
in Europe that as you pointed out, has really gone unfocused upon. So I’m very
glad that you will be bringing light and attention to that. So thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE ALCEE HASTINGS (D-FL): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and
Mr. Minister. When I listened to you and your ambitious travel schedule, I get
tired. (Chuckles.) I know you must. And I also admire very much the
ambitious goals you put forward in your presentation to us.
And I would only add that one of the things in the 15 years, now, that I have
been working in the OSCE sphere, that I find continuously that change, almost
like in this institution, is slow. And quite honestly, not because you’re in
office and I perceive you as a friend. I did almost every chair-in-office,
know them in a previous way in their respective capacities in their countries.
But at the very same time, I don’t think a year is enough to do the things that
you – or any chair-in-office – ought do. But it seems to me that somebody
needs to raise it inside on the OSCE and it may be something on your way out
that you would do.
We have similar portions of our institution that I have disagreements with. I
think that in our intelligence community, people should serve there 12 years.
It takes six years to learn just about a little bit of everything and then it’s
almost time to leave. And so that’s the same thing. And I recognize that
you’ll be in Troika and all of that, but it might be something you may wish to
Additionally, in your reply to your reply to the question that I raised – all
of us have watched in amazement the dramatic changes in government that have
occurred during the past several weeks in Tunisia and in Egypt. And you
mentioned some of the tools that OSCE has to assist if a request is made by any
of those countries.
I wish to make a commitment to you right now that I will do everything that I
can as the representative to the Mediterranean partners from the Parliamentary
Assembly to seek out such a request and no later than yesterday, meeting with
Ambassador Tekaya, the Tunisian minister – ambassador to the United States.
I raised that question with him and he assured me, one, that in their election,
which is to take place inside six months and I think that’s ambitious, the same
as in Egypt. They’re saying six months. I think that’s pretty ambitious. It
would seem reasonably that a year would be proper time for them to get (lift
And I recognize the pressures that they are receiving from their populations.
But their ambassador assured me that he would make such a request, so I will be
on the phone with him telling him about this hearing. And I ask him to have
his ambassador in Vienna to meet with me next week so that I can raise a
So I’m going to commit to you that I’m going to try to get that request at
least from Tunisia. I serve as the chair of the Tunisian caucus here in the
House of Representatives. I put that to the side, really hope that during your
tenure, that you will do everything you can to enhance the engagement of the
And I think it now is more significant than at other times, even from its
beginnings. The one question that I have comes, again, from another visit.
Day before yesterday, I met with Foreign Minister Gryshchenko. He’s here in
Washington doing work as are you in meeting with the State Department and other
I didn’t come away from that meeting too optimistic about Ukraine and human
rights and the media. And I note from your travels – and I commend you – for
example, when you were in Russia, you did meet with NGOs. I also know that you
have been recently in Ukraine. And when you were there, give us the benefit of
Mine are that Ukraine is moving more toward authoritarianism and that’s my
term. And if you had asked me when I left Lithuania – when I first met you on
my way to Ukraine, if you had asked me then, after the Orange Revolution, I
would have thought all of the bright aspects for democracy to bloom would have
And now, regrettably, I feel very strongly that there is a retrenchment there
similar to the retrenchment that I witnessed in Russia. And if you would
comment on both, I would appreciate it. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. AZUBALIS: Thank you. First, I would like to say that during my trip to
Russia and to Ukraine and during the meeting with their state officials,
including my counterparts, I raised the questions which worries us about the
freedom of assembly, about human right defenders, about the fear trials.
And after that, I gave this – my evaluation of the situation to the media,
which is, by the way, fairly reported, including from – starting from Russia
and finishing with Ukraine. And of course, we see some place for improvement –
no doubt. Nobody’s going to say that everything is fine with all these issues
in these countries.
But at the same time, I just would like to give you my personal belief. I
believe that it takes time – it takes a very concentrated effort, chairmanship
by chairmanship, including other institutions, other organizations. And we
should be very persistent. We shouldn’t give up. We shouldn’t put under
listed goals, let’s say, that someone’s saying – someone would say that our
goal after three years to see this or this country fully democratic and so on.
I think it will be too naïve. I think we should be in process. We shouldn’t
observe process. We should be in process. It means that we should be engaged
in these countries. We should communicate. We should help to the civic
society to grow civic society. I think this is an important.
I think to leave civic society aside – I think that the best example is Tunisia
and Egypt. We left it. We must admit. We talk with leadership. That’s what
I think our primary goal is to work in this direction. And to say that one
country is going somewhere wrong – I think that only one way to secure – I
would say the development toward the democratic changes, you should be present.
That’s what I just – could promise – that during my year, I will be – Lithuania
will be present. And also, I would like just ask you, United States and your
committee to be present, to support the civic organizations, to support the
human right defenders. This is only one way – how we could things. Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Dr. Gingrey?
REP. GINGREY: Mr. Chairman, thank you and Mr. Minister, let me ask you this
question: In spite of repeated objections from the international community and
the government of Georgia, Russia continues to build up its military presence
in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Georgian territories.
Georgian displaced citizens also continue to be prevented from returning to
their homes in these occupied territories. As many have pointed out
previously, Russia’s actions go against the August 12th, 2008 ceasefire
agreement which ended the Russia-Georgia war and violate its Helsinki
How may the OSCE’s conflict resolution and post-conflict rehabilitation
experience in Southeastern Europe further the rule of law and peace-building
efforts in Georgia? I know that’s a long question, but we would appreciate
MR. AZUBALIS: You know, during few last years, we lost two field missions, one
in Georgia and now, the second one in Belarus. But I think that we shouldn’t
give up and I’m using any – every opportunity when I’m talking with my
counterparts and counterpart from Russia to raise this question about the
possibility and beneficial possibility for all sides to restore the OSCE
presence, I would say, more gently in the region of conflict.
I also, going to Georgia quite soon and I will urge the Georgian side to be
supportive to implementing the confidence-building measures along the
administrative border. I think here, we should start from the scratch. But at
the same time, as you know, you know, it’s – our organization, which we are all
members, have their own rules – have their limits.
But it would be – and fear if – it would be not advocate and not to participate
actively in the Geneva process. I see the Geneva process as a very important
one. I would say the starting point from – I don’t want to say to the bright
future – but to more peaceful and comprehensive set – settlement of this
conflict, of this situation.
That’s why I was quite happy that yesterday, when I presented our program to
Security Council, I got unanimous support from the members of Security Council
for funding and continuing United Nations’ participation in Geneva process,
which also shows that you know, we should consolidate our efforts. Thank you.
REP. GINGREY: Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Just one final question, if I could. With regards to Kyrgyzstan,
as you know, after many months of negotiation, the OSCE has developed and
deployed, I should say, police assistance mission to Kyrgyzstan. Could you
just speak to that and how well you think that’s going?
And in Central Asia in general, you know, one of thoughts of the – having the
Kazakhstan chairmanship might be to increase OSCE engagement in Central Asia.
It’s not clear that that’s happened. Do you have any plans to try to, you
know, make some improvements in that region?
MR. AZUBALIS: Thank you. I just want to say, first of all, that of course,
the Kazakh’s OSCE chairmanship and with Astana summit itself, brought new
attention and momentum to OSCE activities in this region. And I think we
should use this good momentum to strengthen the presence – OSCE presence.
And I think that the past two years – we also have seen a significant expansion
of our practical work, of our field missions in the region, in particular, on
broader management – border management and law-enforcement training. That’s
what I mentioned before. And in addition to the Bishkek academy, we have seen
the opening of a separate customs training academy in Bishkek. Also, we will
see participation in a Border Management Staff College in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
And we believe that there is a significant potential to build on these efforts.
And what I would like to say also to witness you, but then I’ve met the Tajik
minister, my counterpart. He was so supportive to this kind of OSCE
activities. Now, talking about Kyrgyzstan, I must say that of course, the OSCE
always get a lot of – gets a lot of critics. But you should agree that last
year, the OSCE reacted quickly to interethnic tensions and violence in
I think it’s – it shows what – if you want – (chuckles) – you could do
something. And of course, its response included the engagement of ODIHR and
this police deployment observation team and I just look forward to the report
of an independent international commission of inquiry chaired by Kimmo Kiljunen
at President Otunbayeva.
I think of first of all, if you want to – to remove the tensions, we should
finish with this report, to look at this report and to start to the
reconciliation of this interethnic conflict. I’m also going to visit
Kyrgyzstan after Kazakhstan in Osh as well. But to say more, before my trip –
(chuckles) – I just – I would like just to keep silent – we’ll see. After
that, maybe I will get more expertise.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Azubalis, thank you so much for your testimony. And you know,
the OSCE really is fortunate to have you at the helm. We’re very grateful for
your time and for your leadership. The hearing is adjourned unless Alcee, you
want to –
REP. HASTINGS: I just wanted to say one thing. I would be terribly remiss if
I did not ask you to use the immense resources of the Parliamentary Assembly
with reference to our matters as well as ODIHR. (Chuckles.)
MR. AZUBALIS: I just – Mr. Chairman, if you allowed me just to respond to Mr.
Hastings. I just want to say that today, I talk by phone with president of
Parliamentary Assembly, Petros Efthymiou and I did it numerous number of times
before. That’s what I – I just – I’m convinced that political part of OSCE
should be used, should be explored.
And I told earlier – I think it was in the beginning of – end of January, I
talked to Petros that look, you will be requested and politicians from
Parliamentary Assembly will be requested to every – our event. It’s up to you
to be active (or not ?) (Chuckles.) Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Thank you.