Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe:
U.S. Helsinki Commission
Switzerland’s Leadership of the OSCE
Committee Members Present:
Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD);
Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ)
President of the Swiss Confederation,
Foreign Minister and Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE
Head of the OSCE Chairmanship Task Force of the Swiss Federal Department of
The Hearing Was Held From 10:08 a.m. To 11:43 a.m. in Room 562 Dirksen Senate
Office Building, Washington, D.C., Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Chairman,
Date: Tuesday, February 25, 2014
CARDIN: Well, good morning. Welcome to the hearing of the Helsinki
It’s our great honor to have Didier Burkhalter with us today. He has many
titles. He’s the president of the Swiss Confederation, foreign minister – that
you got to explain to me, how you’re president and foreign minister, but that –
but the most important position and the reason that you’re here today is that
you’re chair in office of the OSCE. And we thank you very much for continuing
the tradition of the chair to come to Washington and appear before the Helsinki
As I think you are aware, the Helsinki Commission in and of itself is a unique
organization. It was created as the implementing arm by the Congress for our
participation in the OSCE. It’s unique because, as you know, we have
separation of branches, but in the Helsinki Commission we have both the
legislative and executive branch together. We have three members of the
executive branch that serve on the Helsinki Commission, in addition to members
of the House and the Senate.
The chairmanship rotates. I am the chairman this year from the Senate, and
Chris Smith, who is the chair in the House, will assume the chairmanship after
the next elections.
It’s bipartisan. As you may know, Chairman Smith is a member of the Republican
Party, I’m a member of the Democratic Party, and we work together on these
foreign policy issues.
I did see Spencer Oliver here, our secretary-general of OSCE Parliamentary
Assembly. We are active participants in the Parliamentary Assembly and will
want to work with you as we organize how all of the arms of the OSCE can work
together to accomplish our objectives.
I also saw Andy Baker in the audience, our special representative for
anti-Semitism, and it’s nice to have Rabbi Baker with us also today.
Is Ambassador Baer – was – there you are, sitting in the front row. I was told
that you were going to be here. Ambassador Baer is also here, our ambassador
to the OSCE. It’s a pleasure to have you here also today.
The OSCE, as I was – had a chance to talk to our witness beforehand about the
OSCE. It’s now reaching its 40th birthday, and of course it’s time to
calculate how the OSCE’s incredible importance will be elevated to the next
level as we re-evaluate at 40 where OSCE needs to deal with priorities.
Let me just talk a moment about the priorities of the Helsinki Commission.
Throughout its history, it has promoted many priorities within OSCE. We are
probably best known for our priority on tolerance. We – Congressman Smith and
myself participated in the different conferences that were held in regards to
anti-Semitism. We’re now celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Berlin
conference, in which I participated. As a result of the work of our
Commission, and leadership around Europe, we established three special
representatives, and Mr. Chair, I’m glad that you are continuing the tradition
of having three representatives deal with the tolerance agenda.
We – the Commission hosted the OSCE ODIHR of people of Africa descent
conference here in Washington, D.C. We found that to be a logical extension of
our priority for dealing with the human rights/tolerance agenda.
And of course this Commission has taken a definite interest in the concerns of
the Roma population in Europe, and we would welcome your thoughts as to how we
can constructively work to continue to deal with the concerns of the Roma
This Commission has taken on the issue of human trafficking. I want to
acknowledge the incredible work of Chairman Smith in – not only here in the
United States but globally in dealing with trafficking. As a result, you know,
we have our TIP reports here in the United States, which I think has been very
valuable in helping us advance the end of modern-day slavery.
This Commission has put a very high priority on good governance, particularly
in countries in transition. Now there’s no more dynamic example of that than
the current circumstances in Ukraine. We had a chance to talk about that a few
moments ago, but our first priority, of course, is to re-establish order in
Ukraine. It is – we need to have a functioning government, and we need to
protect the human rights of all of its citizens. It is where I think OSCE
needs to use all of its tools to help bring about the proper resolution of the
current crisis in the Ukraine.
There are too many countries that are backsliding on their commitments to good
governance. That is why this Commission has put a high priority on
transparency, good governance, dealing with corruption issues in countries,
many of whom have valuable resources, and we have been very much committed to
transparency in dealing with good governance and fighting all forms of
This Commission has taken a direct – and I want to compliment you – and I know
as part of the Economic and Environmental Forum you will be including good
governance, which I think is critically important. And the Helsinki framework
recognizes that without human rights, you can’t have security, and without
human rights and security, you can’t have economic and environmental
commitment. So it’s all interwoven into the fabric of the OSCE.
This Commission is a very active participant in the Parliamentary Assembly. I
mentioned that a little bit earlier. I have had the honor of being the vice
president in the Parliamentary Assembly. Currently Robert Aderholt on our
Commission is a member – is the vice president on the Parliamentary Assembly,
and of course Alcee Hastings, the former chair of this Commission, was the
president of the Parliamentary Assembly. So we look forward to your ideas as
to how we can leverage parliamentarians in the work of the OSCE.
You clearly have a very busy agenda. From the current crisis in Ukraine to the
western Balkans to the Mediterranean Partnership issue, which is an area that
we have paid a lot of attention to in this Commission, dealing with our
partners and advancing the core values of the OSCE, our role in Afghanistan,
Central Asia, the list goes on and on.
So we look forward to your testimony – (audio break) – if I might, I let me
yield to Chairman Smith for any opening comments that he would like to make.
SMITH: Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling this very important meeting of the
Commission and to welcome President Burkhalter to this important Commission on
Security and Cooperation in Europe. This is a very bipartisan – of course it’s
bicameral. And for years – and I’ve been on it now for 32 of my 34 years as a
member of Congress – it has been an oasis of action, of commitment to ensuring
that human rights are robustly defended.
And I look out at Spencer Oliver – and I remember traveling – and I know you do
as well, Ben – during some of the worst days of the Soviet Union in the 1980s,
when we were working on behalf of Soviet Jewish refuseniks and so many others
who are were incarcerated because of their faith or their identity as – simply
as Jews. And he has done yeoman’s work and outstanding work for years at the
Parliamentary Assembly. He is a walking institutional memory. So it is so
encouraging and it’s always a delight to see him here. So thank you, Spencer,
for your work.
Mr. President, just let me say a couple of opening comments. Obviously Ukraine
is at the top of the OSCE’s agenda today, and there is – there the task is
absolutely enormous. The situation remains very fragile, as we all know, and
the Crimea could become a significant hot spot.
I was in the Republic of Georgia a week after the Russians rolled into Abkhazia
and South Ossetia regions. I was in Tbilisi. The tanks kept making feinting
moves, where they would come in as if they were going into Tbilisi. Our
embassy was evacuated. And there was a sense that they weren’t going to stop
at the borders. And obviously to this day we all have recognized that that was
a profoundly unjust invasion. And as it has been unfortunately not rolled back
– but all of us are concerned that a similar pretext might be used, given the
right set of circumstances, for the Russians to make a move on the Crimea.
I’m very concerned that the United States and Europe need to work closely with
the Russians and supporting the Ukrainians and implementing the six-point
agreement. And I want to especially thank the European Union for its leadership
on that. The three foreign ministers, including Foreign Minister Sikorski, the
German and French, I think, did a wonderful job in what could have been –
obviously many people died, but it could have been far worse had they not
intervened at that precise moment where the tipping point had been reached and
large numbers of casualties over and above the wounded and the dead might have
Ukraine obviously is a sovereign country, but at the same time Russia clearly
means to play a role in the coming months. We have to obviously factor that
into all things related to Ukraine. And we need to continue working to protect
Ukraine’s sovereignty, its borders, and to ensure that matriculates (sic) into
a more robust democracy. And we will have to engage meaningful and, I believe,
respectfully with the Russians as well.
Our government has not done all that well in recent years. I hope that the
OSCE will continue its work. It seems to me that the OSCE is a place where all
parties could meet to support the six-point agreement. The OSCE, as a
consensus organization founded to ensure respect for borders, through a concept
of security that embraces human rights and the rule of law, will play, I think,
a very significant role. And of course with you, Mr. President, at the helm,
we have every reason to have hope and expectation that it will play that role
and do it well.
Reconciliation should be at the top of the agenda. Yes, there needs to be
justice. Those who have committed atrocities need to be held to account. But
there needs to be also a reconciliation agenda. If reconciliation becomes the
order of the day, as it did in South Africa after its decades of apartheid and
the killings and the tortures went on in their prisons, as they – happened in
El Salvador with the FMLN and with the government that was in place, surely we
need to be promoting a reconciliation agenda as well for the Ukraine.
I do believe this is a serious test for our organization. So again, I welcome
your appointment, Mr. President, of a personal envoy on Ukraine, and look
forward to discussing the role you envision for the envoy and the organization,
including the observing of the May elections. And frankly, I hope that I and
others will be able to become part of an election monitoring team for the May
It will be important as well to vigorously implement the addendum to the OSCE
action plan on combating trafficking in human beings, which was adopted at the
Kiev ministerial in December. The addendum, as you know, raises some issues
that I had raised in supplementary items that were passed by the OSCE
Parliamentary Assembly. These included calling on corporations to ensure that
their supply chains do not include trafficked labor, focusing on
anti-trafficking efforts on vulnerable groups like the Roma, increasing
cooperation among law enforcement in different countries to prevent sex
tourism, involving the trafficking of minors and calling for anti-trafficking
training for the transportation of hospitality industries.
I would note parenthetically, New Jersey just served as the host for the Super
Bowl. Well, I have to tell you, New York and New Jersey engaged in a very
cooperative but very aggressive plan of prevention, and as a direct result,
whether it be social media, training – not hospital – hotel workers to spot
trafficking and to call police hotlines, many what would have been trafficking
situations were mitigated. About – let me get the number right now – 45 pimps
and associates were arrested. Seventy victims totally were identified and
rescued, 25 of whom were children, minors who otherwise would have been
And actually, the police – state police and all other local police – really got
into the social media side, whether it be Backpage and some of the other areas
where they’re selling women right online. And they intercepted it and
obviously warned everyone, we’re watching and we’re going to arrest – I was
with our New Jersey attorney general just a week and a half ago for an after
action report. We worked with them throughout the whole deal. And, frankly,
they did an incredible job.
And they did all kinds of training. They worked for months. And now they’re
going to sustain that effort because the Super Bowl is gone. Trafficking
continues and I think they’ll do much more. Lessons could be learned for all
of us for that, because when we apply resources to make it a priority, little
children and young women do not get raped and exploited by the traffickers and
by the Johns who exploit them.
Another issue of deep concern for the Commission obviously is anti-Semitism,
and it has been for many years. I would note parenthetically, my first trip to
the Soviet Union was in ’82 with the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. We
met with Sharansky’s mother in Moscow. We met with refuseniks in Leningrad.
And I’ll never forget how dire their situations were, and it just – we’ve been
working on it as a Commission ever since to make combating anti-Semitism the
And Rabbi Andy Baker, thank you for continuing his extraordinary service and
methodically talking to governments, putting on paper as well as in
recommendations what the true status of any country’s record is on
anti-Semitism, to try to make a difference on that. Obviously it’s Berlin plus
10. We need to look at it. It doesn’t mean we need a whole lot of new ideas.
We need to implement and implement and implement that which has already – with
maybe some new ideas that might come forward.
Let me also just say that – without objection I would like my full statement to
be made a part of the record, Mr. Chairman. The last thing I’d like to mention
is on the freedom of issue – freedom of religion issue. Last June I chaired a
hearing on the Syrians and the fact that so many Syrian Christians are being
targeted simply because they’re Christians. And the rise of – and we had
people come and testify that said, it is a genocide. Christians are not being
killed as collateral damage or because they happen to be in the wrong place at
the wrong time, but many of the rebels especially infiltrated by al-Qaida, as
we all know, and al-Nusra, has been targeting Christians because they’re
Christians and killing them because they’re Christians.
And I would hope that there would be an increased emphasis on this growing
intolerance of – the hearing we just had was about how persecution against
Christians are the worst in the whole world, particularly in Asia, in Russia –
not Russia – China, North Korea and in other parts of Asia, and certainly in
the Middle East and many of our partner countries there, and even in some of
the mainstream and mature democracies of the European Union.
Just today – I was in Jos, Nigeria last September; spent several days in
Nigeria pushing against Boko Haram, which we all know is a horrific offshoot of
al-Qaida. And they to terrible things just like the other offshoots have done,
including al-Shabab in Somalia. This morning a number of people in university
– men, 40 is the estimation – were slaughtered, throats were slit.
Well, I met with a man while I was in Jos – because they have firebombed so
many churches there. And of course Nigeria is not an OSCE country or even a
partner country but is part of a global trend of gross intolerance on the part
of radical Islamists. And this man, who came – I met him. He was a survivor
of a church bombing and – not a bombing but an attack on a church. They came
to his house, put an AK-47 to his – to his jaw and said: You will renounce
Jesus Christ or else – and become a Muslim or we shoot you. And he said: I’m
ready to meet my Maker. I will not renounce my Lord. And they shot him, right
to his jaw. Obviously he’s had some serious reconstructive surgery. He
And I invited him and he came and testified. And he said, you Americans
underestimate the vehemence and the hatred and the prejudice and the bias that
this people bear Christians, and unfortunately much of the diaspora,
particularly out in the Middle East, that carries some of those extremist views
has made its way into many of the OSCE countries. So I would respectfully ask
that there be a really robust look at that during your chair in office.
Thank you for coming and thank you for your leadership. And, Mr. Chairman,
CARDIN: All members’ opening statements will be made part of the record
without objection, including the president’s statement will be made part of our
Mr. President, again, it’s a pleasure to have you here. We acknowledge the
members of the embassy. Your ambassador is here. He’s a good friend and does
a great job for you here in our country. You may proceed as you wish.
BURKHALTER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Co-Chairman, ladies and
gentlemen. Let me start by answering to your question you asked at the
beginning of your introduction, how it was possible that I was president of the
confederation and at the same time minister of foreign affairs? Frankly
speaking, Mr. Chairman, it happened during the last two months that I asked
myself the same question. (Laughter.)
Actually, and paradoxically, this is a result of the willingness of our nation
to chair the board. We are seven members in the government. There is a
rotation for the presidency each year. Every year there is a new president.
In the government seven members but all main parties are integrated. The idea
is to share or to integrate the main parties to the responsibilities. And the
fact that we don’t have any presidents that last more than one year, it is a
way to feel integrated for all parties, all great tendencies in the politics in
Switzerland to feel integrated. And this is also an expression of a consensus.
And I will speak to the consensus and the framework of the OSCE, which is
something that works and some – to some extent like the Swiss Confederation.
Thank you once more for the invitation to speak before your Commission. It’s
my very first time in Washington in my whole life, and a very nice city, I must
say. And I feel it as a privilege to discuss with you and also with Vice
President Joe Biden later on this day. It’s a great honor. It’s also an honor
and a pleasure for me to address the issue of security and of Europe and
security in particular. Over the past 100 years, United States has played a
vital role in defending the values of liberty and security in Europe, and I
wish to start by acknowledging this role. And let me maybe, Mr. Chairman, give
you a personal story.
I have three sons, and my wife and I, we wanted to give them a taste of liberty
– not liberty for fun but liberty for people, liberty for the societies where
we live. And we wanted to do that very early, and they were teenagers. And we
decided to move to Normandy to Omaha Beach, and to symmetry – the American
symmetry of Omaha Beach, to – (inaudible) – the sea and the beach of Omaha.
And I’m convinced that my sons won’t forget during their whole life what they
saw, the courage they felt, the courage and the sense of liberty of the young
Americans that were fighting and they were falling for another continent, for
Europe. And I just would like to start to say thank you.
Coming again to the time being, the tragic developments in Ukraine in recent
weeks have been sobering reminders that security in Europe cannot be taken for
granted. These developments have also revealed the need to force a dialogue to
rebuild trust, to reaffirm shared norms, and to consolidate bridges across the
Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian region. It is my firm conviction that the OSCE has
a major role to play in this regard to build – we’re each building bridges,
building bridges between East and West for the benefit of everyone.
The Swiss chairmanship wishes also to acknowledge the important role the
Helsinki Commission plays within the OSCE. We also appreciate the close
cooperation with the U.S. Department of State on a wide range of OSCE issues.
United States is a crucial participant in the OSCE, the biggest contributor to
its budget, which is a modest one. I will come back to that. And in many ways
the U.S. is indispensable to move the OSCE forward.
Switzerland has agreed to take the helm of the OSCE. Why? I should say first,
strategic reasons. First of all, because promotion of stability in Europe and
beyond is a priority of our foreign policy. We have a new strategy for 2012 to
2015, but we aim to 2022. By the way, it will be the year where we will apply
for a first-time seat in the Security Council. But we have the idea to have
really this security issue as a main priority for 10 years.
We also believe that we have something to offer: the neutral country. I know
that neutrality is not really very well-understood in the States, but we think
there is a place and an importance for a neutral country with a tradition of
good offices and mediation.
The third reason, that the United States and a number of other countries asked
us to take on this role. Actually we were not candidate at the beginning, and
then it was a problem with Serbia, and in line with this problematic of Serbia
being candidate for 2014, there was this idea to have a package or a situation
with two consecutive chairmanships working together. And I therefore very much
count on your valuable support. You supported us for taking up this
chairmanship-in-office; you should support us as we have met our
responsibilities. Above all, I’d like you to have supporting – to support our
Therefore, let me make some general remarks about the OSCE and the priorities
of the Swiss chairmanship. First point, I’d like to underline that the OSCE is
very important to us, simply. The fact that Switzerland is the first country
to chair the OSCE for the second time indicates that we attach great importance
to this organization. We value the OSCE as a forum for dialogue, a platform, a
platform to generate and assist implementation of common norms and a
We also acknowledge that the OSCE performs its many important tasks with – I
already mentioned that – a surprisingly low budget. Its annual budget is not
much higher than the transfer fees paid for one top-class soccer player, 145
million euro. I mean, if I calculate well, that’s something like $470 million.
It’s not very high for an organization with 57 member states. 11 partner
states, four institutions, specialized, 16 field missions from Bosnia to
Kyrgyzstan; $170 million, it is 15 times less than the yearly expenditure of my
country for the international cooperation.
That said, the OSCE is currently not in a position to tap its full potential.
The fact that its membership spans three continents is a key asset, which is
also a major challenge for decision-making. This is why, as
chairperson-in-office, I encourage all participating states to approach the
OSCE in a spirit of cooperation and compromise.
You cannot progress, Mr. Chairman, if you just want to affirm and maximize your
national position. You need the spirit of consensus. And it is something like
Swissness. In Switzerland we are used to look for this consensus, as I said at
the beginning. If we want the OSCE to move forward, we need to be both
principled and pragmatic – principled in the sense that we should all stand up
for our shared values and our commitments in the OSCE, and pragmatic because no
participating state will be able to see its objectives in the OSCE realized if
it ignores the priorities and needs of others.
Let’s remind us, in the mid-‘70s the CSCE, at that time, was a success. Why?
Because participants made compromises and tradeoffs across the three baskets –
political-military, environmental, economic and human. And today I strongly
believe that if all participating states engage with a balanced approach among
the OSCE’s three dimensions, we will find much common ground.
The OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security is a key asset of the
organization and corresponds to today’s security needs. Making full use of
this holistic approach, of this integrated security approach, will make it
possible to increase the level of security not just of states but also of
citizens, and that’s what precisely we Swiss want. As you are well aware as
senators and members of Congress, your citizens are no longer primarily
concerned about traditional military threats. The OSCE’s security approach is
very much consistent with a broader security perception.
This is all the more important because the future relevance of the OSCE will
much depend on its ability to produce tangible results for the individuals and
communities of its participating states. Good politics, after all, is a
service of the people. And like Abraham Lincoln said, I could add, by the
people, for the people. This is why the leitmotif of the Swiss chairmanship is
to create a security community for the benefit of everyone.
Calling for pragmatism does not mean that we should shy away from criticism in
the OSCE. Recalling the OSCE’s principles is more vital today than ever,
especially when adherence to these principles is uncertain. I therefore
encourage participating states to engage with each other in constructive ways
to pave the way for shared solution rather than alienation. With its
consensus-oriented political system and linguistic diversity, Switzerland is a
kind of mini-OSCE. Based on our own experience, we seek to revitalize the
OSCE’s culture of dialogue by calling on all participants to take a step
towards one another. We encourage all states to make gesture of good will, to
rebuild trust and allow for progress within the OSCE.
Since assuming the chairmanship of the OSCE at the beginning of 2014, my agenda
has been dominated by something which was not on the program. It was dominated
by the political crisis and recent escalation of violence in Ukraine. During
the past weeks, I have repeatedly called on all sides to refrain from violence,
to resolve the crisis through dialogue and political means and respect human
rights. In a series of meetings, I have discussed options for OSCE assistance
with the then-Ukrainian government as well as with members of the opposition.
The agreement reached on February 21st, you mentioned beforehand, marked an
important step towards ending the violence and paved the way for a political
solution of the crisis. I congratulate everyone involved who made these
breakthroughs possible – like you said, the Polish chairman and French foreign
minister and the special envoy of the Russian Federation.
With the appointment of an interim president by the parliament, Ukraine has now
entered a new phase. It is now a new phase, a transition. Formidable
challenges lie ahead. We should unite in our effort to support Ukraine in
these difficult times. A stable, democratic and a united Ukraine is in the
interest of all.
Against this background, I proposed yesterday during my briefing at the U.N.
Security Council to establish an international contact group on Ukraine.
Ukraine should, of course, play a prominent role in the group, and all
international key actors should be included. We are currently consulting with
the idea with all actors concerned.
The main task of the proposed contact group would be to support Ukraine in its
transition period. The contact group would serve as a platform for
coordination and sharing information on international assistance (and project
activities ?) in Ukraine. The OSCE, through its impartiality and inclusivity,
has the necessary attribute to host and moderate this group. Ukraine and all
international actors involved in this crisis are, in fact, participating states
of the OSCE.
I also announced yesterday my decision to appoint Ambassador Tim Guldimann as
my personal envoy to Ukraine. He will coordinate all ongoing and planned
activities of the OSCE in Ukraine on behalf of the chairmanship. He will
rapidly take consultation with all sides and will cooperate closely with
A small OSCE core team has been sent also to Ukraine to conduct a needs
assessment mission. There is an urgent need to rebuild trust among all parties
involved. As I underlined yesterday at the U.N., I encourage the new leaders
of Ukraine to invite ODIHR to send a human rights assessment mission to the
country to establish the facts and circumstances of the incidents that took
place in Ukraine. The human rights assessment mission would recommend measures
to deal with serious violation of human rights allegedly committed during this
crisis. Its findings would be presented in a report and would help advance
national reconciliation in Ukraine.
Presidential elections will be a crucial moment in this current transitional
period. We expect the Ukrainian authorities to issue an early invitation for
an ODIHR election observation mission in view of the rapidly changing
developments. We are also ready to review and further specify the activities
of the OSCE’s project coordinator’s office, which is in Kiev.
We are currently witnessing a phase of de-escalation in Ukraine. It is
essential to support a fair and an inclusive process of transition which does
not marginalize any part of Ukraine or any community. Ukraine deserves full
international attention and support. I’m convinced that the OSCE has the
necessary tools to assist Ukraine in this difficult phase.
Let’s move to Afghanistan, Mr. Chairman. Afghanistan is one of the OSCE’s six
Asian partners. It is another hot spot where the OSCE can play a valuable
role. While the international community develops a strategic vision for
Afghanistan after 2014, the OSCE remains a good platform for practical,
forward-looking regional cooperation and dialogue among all stakeholders. We
continue to work closely with other international actors to ensure stability in
Afghanistan and the wider region, at least to contribute to.
OSCE activities worth mentioning in this context are police training, borders
and customs training and counternarcotics. Our Central Asian field offices,
the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and the Border Management Staff
College in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, are building local capacities and expert
networks linking Afghanistan and the Central Asian states. We are currently
also working towards establishing an OSCE research center on Afghan-Central
Asian issues. In addition, ODIHR will send an election support team to
Afghanistan to assist with preparation of the Afghan elections this year, and
it will be, by the way, the fifth time that ODIHR will work there.
And let me now submit an idea for Asia-Pacific, for this region, Asia-Pacific.
With Switzerland chairing the Asian Partner for Cooperation next year, we are
eager to discuss ideas of applying elements of the OSCE’s cooperative security
model to East Asia. Against the background of unresolved territorial disputes,
rapidly rising defense budget and growing risks of political polarization, East
Asia could well benefit from the OSCE’s experience in creating confidence and
common norms through dialogue and transparency. That should be interesting for
member of the U.S. Congress. The zone Asia-Pacific is an economic motor and
integrated region for economic reason. But nothing or almost nothing happened
at the level of subregional security platform. And I submitted this idea this
year to the heads of state of South Korea and Japan, and we will see if it is
possible to invent or to see something growing next year.
Ladies and gentlemen, now I would like to go over the chairmanship in office
2014 and to outline the priorities of the Swiss chairmanship. You can see in
our tableau, which is a summary, in one page, one-page summary, it’s something
very rare in the politics, and we try to do that because that give a clear
picture of what we want in a nutshell.
First, the big picture. Precisely, the Swiss chairmanship has set three (over
?) objectives. We seek to contribute to fostering security and stability, to
improving people’s life and to strengthening the OSCE’s capacity to act. In a
nutshell, our mission is to enhance security, freedom and responsibility.
These three values – also Swiss and American values, in the Constitution –
these three values are important, and the objectives, main objectives, they
stem from these values. For each of our values and objective, we have defined
a number of priority areas. You have also received a fact sheet on these
priorities, and I would like to highlight a few point here.
With regard to our first objective of fostering security and stability, the
Western Balkans figure prominently on our agenda. My special representative
for the Western Balkans – it is Ambassador Stoudmann, a former head of ODIHR –
has been tasked with facilitating regional cooperation and reconciliation.
I plan to visit this region in the coming months. The OSCE should play a
supporting role in the implementation of the Belgrade-Pristina agreement.
Indeed, the OSCE has recently facilitated local elections in northern Kosovo
and will continue to monitor this year’s electoral processes in southeastern
Let me add that we have arranged with Serbia, the next chairmanship in office,
that Ambassador Stoudmann will be reappointed next year, will be so a Swiss
ambassador and special representative for the Western Balkans during the
Serbian presidency in 2015.
I’m also planning to travel to the South Caucasus. My special representative
for this region, Ambassador Gnadinger, who will also be reappointed next year
by the Serbian presidency, is co-chairing the Geneva international discussions
on the conflict in Georgia. His discussions are a unique, albeit fragile,
platform to tackle the security and humanitarian aspects of the conflict. It
is our hope that they will one day evolve into a forum that lays the grounds
for a real settlement of the conflict.
Nagorno-Karabakh is one of the most dangerous conflict in Europe. One of my
first meeting as chairman in office was with the three co-chairs of the Minsk
Group. I wish to emphasize that (this bond ?), both in Karabakh and in
Georgia, United States involvement at the highest political level would be
helpful for our efforts. I’m convinced that the stalemate in these protracted
conflicts can only be overcome with greater engagement and attention by
international key players such as the United States. We very much appreciate
the work of Ambassador Warlick, U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, and of
Deputy Assistant Secretary Eric Rubin, the U.S. representative in the Geneva
Conventional arms control, Mr. Chairman, and confidence and security building
measures play a key role in joint efforts to strengthen military stability,
transparency and predictability in this OSCE area. Yet while the need for
conventional arms control remains undisputed, the treaty on conventional arms
forces in Europe has reached an impasse. Conventional arms control in Europe
can likely only be relaunched on the basis of a new conceptual approach. This
will require many countries to modify long-held positions. We should also seek
ways to ensure that unresolved territorial conflict do not block progress on
(ban ?) regional arms control. All this will require initiative and leadership
by the United States. The Swiss chairmanship regard the OSCE as a useful
marketplace for ideas on conventional arms control. We are ready to facilitate
conceptual discussion in this respect.
These were, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Co-Chairman, some comments about the first column
on our tableau. Let’s move now to the second.
As for our second objective of improving people’s lives, implementation of all
existing commitments in the human dimension is a key priority for us. As
co-chairman just said before, implementation, implementation, implementation.
We have defied and prepared our activities in this area on the basis of our two
years’ experience as chair of the human dimension committee. We aim to
strengthen the implementation of commitments in full cooperation with the
participating states, with the OSCE structures and with the civil society. So
our focus is not in new – in having new commitments, our focus is clearly about
respecting the current commitment, giving assistance to member states for
monitoring and improving the situation.
Switzerland will host a chairmanship event on human rights defenders in Berne,
our capital, in June. On this occasion, the director of ODIHR, Ambassador
Lenarcic, will present guidelines prepared by ODIHR on the protection of human
rights defenders. I should add I visited ODIHR in Warsaw at the end of January
and that recruiting a successor for Mr. Lenarcic will be another major task in
2014. We now have had the application time till the 6th of February. We have
four candidates. A good situation is possible. We have candidate from
Germany, from Latvia, from Czech Republic and from Iceland.
The Swiss chairmanship will also put the issue of torture back on the agenda of
the OSCE. We are planning an event on torture prevention in Vienna at the
beginning of April. Cooperation between national mechanisms, NGOs, (on-boots
?) persons, international organization, the U.N. and the OSCE will be at the
center of the discussions at this event. Preventing of torture will be clearly
a priority for respecting the commitment precisely.
Another theme, the fight against human trafficking, hundreds of thousands of
people, mainly women and children, are being forcefully trafficked in their own
countries and across national borders. These victims are often sexually
exploited or forced into slavery. This is a terrible crime. And I wish to
commend Co-Chair Smith for the three comprehensive bills you authored in the
United States to combat trafficking (to help ?) victims.
A week ago, the Swiss OSCE chairmanship together with the Austrian chairmanship
of the Council of Europe organized a conference against trafficking human
beings. The goal was to discuss how legally binding standards, monitoring
mechanisms and political strategies can mutually reinforce each other and lead
to effective action to counter trafficking in human beings. It was a success
with a lot of participant and a strong testament that human trafficking remains
on the top of the agenda.
As for the priority of more reliable management of natural disasters, this is
very much in the interest of the security and safety of our citizens.
Disasters can hit anywhere at any time. And United States knows from its own
experience that the scale, frequency and severity of disasters triggered by
natural hazard will continue to grow at an accelerating pace. Senator Cardin,
Congressman Smith, you witnessed with your own eyes the destructive force of
Tropical Cyclone Sandy in October 2012. You visited the impacted areas on
Maryland’s Eastern Shore and New Jersey, where over 30 of your compatriots lost
their lives and where 357 housing units were damaged, causing economic losses
of well over $30 billion.
Switzerland considers that disaster risk reduction should be firmly embedded in
the sustainable development goals. Our aim must be to move from a disaster
response to a disaster prevention and climate change mitigation. There is a
lot on our plate for that. We’ll address this issue at the meetings of the
second OSCE economic and environmental forum. In so doing, we seek to
contribute to societies becoming resilient to climate change and disaster risk.
There is also a strong link between the human the political-military dimensions
of the OSCE in combatting transnational threats. For instance, this year we
are tackling issues such as human rights in countering terrorism, kidnapping
for ransom that we have to fight against at an international level, and the
return of foreign fighters, which could become a major issue after the Syrian
A major opportunity to do so will be the annual OSCE conference on
counterterrorism, which will take place in Interlaken in my country. We are
counting on the presence of American (experience ?) at the Interlaken
conference and on your continued support in tackling these issues. And I would
be interested to have your point of view about these topics of
counterterrorism, kidnapping for ransom, return of foreign fight in the
discussion after on – later on.
In the area of cyberthreats, the Swiss chairmanship will focus on the
implementation of the initial set of OSCE confidence-building measures agreed
last year. And at that place I would like to acknowledge the successful work
of the U.S. chair of Ambassador Baer. Thank you very much for having worked
very efficiently, U.S. chair of the informal working group. The Swiss
chairmanship is grateful that the United States accepted to continue to chair
this working group and will support its efforts to develop additional
confidence-building measure. Let me also add that we will hold an OSCE-wide
conference on drugs in October in Vienna.
And now, regarding our third objective of strengthening the OSCE’s capacity to
act, the Helsinki +40 process is of particular importance. Adapting the OSCE
to the security needs of the 21st century is both challenging and vital. This
process is in itself an important confidence-building measure if it helps
address divergent security perspective in a result-oriented manner. But it
should be more than that, as Helsinki +40 is about defining the ways and means
of the OSCE, and hence its future relevance. There are no road map. There are
also aid coordinators in place to structure these discussions in Vienna.
Again, participating state will need to show a degree of flexibility for this
process to translate into meaningful results.
I also believe that we need ministerial level debates to get the solid idea of
where the OSCE should be heading. Numerous issues are being addressed in the
context of Helsinki +40. Let me mention here one issue where the Swiss
chairmanship would particularly appreciate your support, U.S. support. I’m
referring to the need to improve the effectiveness of OSCE field operations.
These field operation have proven very valuable in assisting host countries in
implementing their commitments. But they have increasingly come under pressure
in a number of countries, the fact that we cannot maintain field operation with
far-reaching mandates against a will of host countries. This is why it is
important to achieve a balance of OSCE activities that takes into account the
interest of the host state. Support for the United States for this discussion
will have to carry them forward. For instance, we can move here or there from
a specifically third basket mission to a more balanced mission with element of
the second basket.
As for the other means of rendering the OSCE more effective, I would argue that
the model of consecutive chairmanship, as carried out by Switzerland and
Serbia, has already proven its merit. Berne and Belgrade have developed joint
work and implementation plans. We have also agreed that our special
representative would be reappointed by the end of this year. As I said,
consecutive chairmanship can provide the OSCE with more continuity and –
(inaudible) – considering for the future, and support of the U.S. would be
Linked to the Helsinki +40 debates is the Swiss priority of strengthening the
OSCE’s role in mediation. The peaceful settlement of disputes that was
included in the Helsinki final act remains one of the core tasks of the OSCE
today. This is why we are contributing to the mediation support capacity that
is currently being built in the OSCE secretariat. The aim is to capture
knowledge about mediation processes and make sure that OSCE mediators are
supported with training – (inaudible) – expertise. In this regard, I wish to
acknowledge the important assistance provided by the United States Institute of
Peace and the Conflict Management program at the Johns Hopkins School of
Advanced International Studies.
The Swiss Chairmanship attaches great importance to our final priority of
enhancing involvement of civil society and in particular of young people.
Young people is also the main priority of the presidency of Switzerland this
year. We firmly believe that offering a platform for a dialogue with civil
society contributes to assisting OSCE institution in participating states in
It also provide an opportunity for our governments to listen and to respond to
the needs of our citizen once more, by the people, for the people. Four
original workshop are being organized in four different regions of the OSCE in
the coming months. The first workshop is recently taking place these days in
Belgrade. The two topics identified by civil society at the most pressing
issue were torture prevention and hate crime and hate speech, the latter with a
particular focus on Roma and Sinti.
It was an inspiring start to our workshop series, and the next destinations for
this workshop being Austria, Tajikistan and Georgia The recommendations
resulting from this process should feed into the final (city ?) society
conference that will be held in parallel to the Minister Council in Basel in
December 2014, this year.
Finally, there is something very important in our chairmanship – our use for
Security and Cooperation in Europe Project, which brings together 57 young
people from all 57 OSCE participating states. The project is particularly dear
to me as our shared responsibility as politicians is to shape a more
prosperous, equitable and sustainable future for the generation to come.
In the course of this year, our youth ambassadors will simulate a whole OSCE
negotiation cycle, last month assimilating for the first time a permanent
council meeting in Vienna. I also invited three of these youth ambassadors to
already address the real permanent council that met in the Hofburg Palace in
Vienna. There were applause for them, and it’s the very beginning of their
In July, a ministerial council meeting will be simulated in Belgrade. The
purpose of these meetings is to negotiate a youth action plan with
recommendation for the OSCE and its participating states. The youth
ambassadors will present their action plan at the ministerial council in Basel;
it will be supportive, which I hope will serve as an inspiration for the OSCE
to work out its own action plan for youth next year.
Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude my statement by a great thanks
to you, thanks to the United States for your continued commitment to the OSCE,
of an institution complementary to NATO. The OSCE constitutes America’s second
foothold in Europe. It is a bridge between the Euro-Atlantic and the Eurasian
region. The stronger the bridge, the stronger our common security. Thank you
very much for your support.
CARDIN: Well, Mr. President, thank you for your very comprehensive outline of
your priorities for chair and office. As you were explaining the dual role you
hold as president and minister, I first thought that was just a budget-saving
matter for your country but now – (laughter) – with your explanation, I fully
And you for a one-page summary. That does help us. You’re right; our
attention spans cannot take too much more than that. But that’s – I appreciate
the conciseness of the priorities that you have spelled out here. And I agree
with your title – “Principled and Pragmatic.” That’s OSCE – a consensus
organization. You need to be able to bring about consensus among very
different countries. That requires pragmatism, but OSCE is built upon
principle, and principles are very important.
So let me challenge you on how you are going to proceed under that banner as it
relates to Ukraine, recognizing that Russia will play a very important role.
The United States and the international community has been working with Russia
and Syria (and Iran ?) with some success, although it’s been a challenge to
maintain our principles, recognizing the need to get broader support. How do
you see the future of the Ukraine as an independent country, recognizing the
role that Russia is currently playing?
BURKHALTER: (Off mic) – comment on one-page summary – (off mic) – you always
find a lot of people saying that is not possible for making summary in one
page, but I think it is always possible to go to the essential, and politics is
also to find a way to go the essential. About your second comments and
questions, we have to be principled and pragmatic, and the question is, are we
able to find not only balance but a common balance between principled and
pragmatic? Because we have to be principled and pragmatic together. And there
is another conception of being principled and pragmatic in all the countries of
With Russia, we tried to build on the good relations we have developed from my
country, not as chair of the OSCE but from my country with Russia. In the last
years, we have to have a lot of contacts, because, for – (inaudible) – the
issues of South Caucasus – we have always now the mandate of (protecting ?) for
Georgia to Russia and for Russia and Georgia, and we had also to assume or
achieve the mediation for helping Russia to become a member of the WTO.
And this gave the possibility to build a relation and to build a dialogue in a
lot of issues with Russia, and therefore, we think that we can give help and be
helpful in this difficult situation for finding a solution in a political – an
inclusive solution, which will be very difficult in Ukraine with a dialogue
with Russia and not without that dialogue with Russia, because we are strongly
convinced that there will be no solid and lasting solution if we don’t find it
with the main actors, and with Russia in particular.
CARDIN: Well, I thank you for that. As you were talking about your youth
ambassadors and their meetings and recommendations, I hope they’ll take a look
– to me, they’ll make decisions a lot quicker than we do in Vienna. So you
might want to get some suggestions on how consensus can move towards
decision-making from our young people. They might help us in that regard.
Let me – you mentioned that you were willing – your country was willing to step
in and take on the leadership of OSCE – it’s the second time and the first
country to take on the burden for a second time, recognizing that Serbia was
one year from becoming the chair in office, and we do have representatives of
the Serbian embassy here with us today, and we thank them for being here.
It seems to me it does present a unique opportunity with your priority on the
Western Balkans and the agreements that key people from OSCE will remain in for
the two-year period. Can you just expand a little bit more as to how we can
move forward during your chairmanship and transition to Serbia, which will have
a unique opportunity to demonstrate statesmanship in dealing with long-time
I mean, Bosnia, by now, we thought we’d be at the next plateau, and we’re not.
We’re still under an interim government structure that everyone understands –
you know, it’ll have to some constitutional reform for their ability to
transition fully into Europe. Kosovo is still not resolved. How do you see
your chairmanship working with the Serbian – (inaudible) – next year to be able
to make significant progress on the Western Balkans?
BURKHALTER: First of all, I would like to add something I didn’t say before
during my intervention, that we will have the Swiss ambassadors reappointed,
but we will also have a Serbian ambassador as special representative
reappointed; it is for the Transnistrian conflict – Ambassador Bogojevic have
been appointed by the Swiss presidency at the beginning of this year, and he
will be reappointed next year with Serbia. That shows, really, that we work
totally together in order to find the best ways to ensure this continuity, and
also, the implementation of the joint action plan – we decided to move together.
About the Western Balkans – as I said, we have three main priorities. First of
all, regional cooperation – and we will work in the frame of the Regional
Cooperation Council – the RCC as well for this regional cooperation. In find –
in looking for the ways to aim at a good result in regional cooperation, I must
say that European Union has made a fantastic job in the last time. The
dialogue – (inaudible) – in Belgrade is a real progress, and we want to support
And this model of the European Union is very strong, also, for Serbia. That is
the first point. The second point is minority protection. We will try to work
a lot in that sense, and also, linked with reconciliation, the issue of missing
persons as far as – is of utmost importance, and we would like to progress
along that way, because we think that if we can use – seize the opportunity of
this consecutive chairmanship for having real progress in the frame of the
reconciliation, then we will have done a very good job, I think.
And I told you that before as it was not official, but I know – (chuckles) – I
say it now once more. And there is also maybe for Serbian presidency, an
interest to show, during this year of chairmanship, this capacity to be a motor
for reconciliation. It will be difficult, but the interest of having a
successful presidency is big, and can be a good advantage if we see this –
those things with a constructive manner.
CARDIN: Thank you. We’ve been working on the tolerance agenda for a long
time, and significant progress has been made. Best practices have been
identified on dealing with anti-Semitism, on dealing with anti-Muslim
activities and dealing with xenophobia. We have had conferences that have
looked at best practices. As Chairman Smith pointed in his opening comments,
yes, we’re open for new ideas, but it’s now about accountability and following
through on commitments that have been made where we show leadership.
In recent years, there has been a disturbing trend of increased activities in
bigotry. How do you see your chairmanship focusing on how we can advance the
human rights agenda – the tolerance agenda, which is – to me, is what OSCE is
best known for internationally? How do you see your year initiating and
following through on a better understanding of all people of the OSCE regions?
BURKHALTER: I think this is, above all, work that we have to move on the
ground, and therefore, the special representative – (inaudible) –
representative on tolerance and nondiscrimination are very important to us. We
have already met them, and we want to build on their job. I think you have
also invited them for coming in front of the Commission and discussing with
you. I would suggest that you wait some months before having this discussion,
because two of them are new, and they can build on their experience this year
for making a review and a report to you of their activities on the ground. But
we will work above all with them direct on the ground.
CARDIN: Thank you. And I appreciate your response to my letter in that regard
for the three representatives as we look forward to having them before the
BURKHALTER: You’re welcome.
CARDIN: I just want to highlight one area that we have made a high priority on
our Commission, and that deals with transparency on corruption. We are strong
believers in the transparency initiative on extractive industries, and we have
passed legislation requiring our extractive industry companies to make certain
disclosures on the exchange. And Europe has followed suit with certain
legislation. I just really would urge your chairmanship to expand upon the
need for transparency with companies that do business in countries where it is
questionable whether the governmental revenues are ending up for public purpose
or for funding corruption. I think OSCE can play a major role here. I’m going
to urge you to make that a priority of your chairmanship.
BURKHALTER: I share this point of view, and we have to be very concerned and
very active at the same time about everything which is linked to corruption,
and we have to fight against everything which is linked to corruption. And it
is also not only the opinion of this chairmanship in office but also for my
CARDIN: I’d like to make two other observations. Then I’m going to turn the
gavel over to Chairman Smith. We have votes starting at 11:15 on the floor of
the United States Senate, so I’m going to have to leave during Chairman Smith’s
questioning, but I want to make two other observations.
First, thank you for your comments in regards to the natural disaster in our
states. It was a devastation, particularly New Jersey, but Maryland got hit
very hard on the eastern shore. And these are now the new norms, these types
of extreme weather conditions. And we can argue about the science as to – I
don’t think we can argue about the science. We can argue about the causes.
We’re all but set to take steps in order to deal with the – with carbon
emissions. But one thing we need to have – I don’t think there’s any debate –
is we have to deal with adaptation. We’ve got to deal with the realities of
the current circumstances and how we respond to keep people safe.
And I think OSCE can play a very important role, and I was pleased to see that
as part of your priorities for your chairmanship. And I can tell you, we have
a group in the United States Senate that meets weekly on this subject, so we’d
be glad to try to help provide support for your agenda in dealing with these
natural disasters and how we can be better prepared to deal with it. We also
think we need to deal with climate and OSCE is dealing with the climate issues
You mentioned your role in Asia, and I just really want to underscore one other
point, if I might, and that is when President Park was here from the Republic
of Korea she pointed to an OSCE-type process for Northeast Asia as a way of
having dialogue between countries that have had a difficult past. Two of
America’s closest allies are the Republic of Korea and Japan, yet the
relationship between Japan and the Republic of Korea is not as good as it needs
to be. And of course China represents a unique challenge in that part of the
world, and North Korea is a real danger to regional and global security.
The OSCE process could very well help them deal with better dialogue among
themselves, and in talking with the governments of China, Korea and Japan, they
all agreed. I mention that you to because I think your role in Asia being so
strong, during your chairmanship you might be able to expand our partners in
some way to take advantage of the principles of OSCE for a more stable Asia.
And I applaud you for your activism globally as well as within the OSCE direct
With that, I’m going to turn the gavel over to Chairman Smith. And once again,
thank you very much not just for being here but for your willingness to take on
this responsibility during a critically important time, not only again for
Europe and Asia but also I think globally the work that you do will have great
consequences. And we clearly want to be your partner and do everything we can
BURKHALTER: Thank you very much.
SMITH: I want to thank the chair again for this important hearing. And you
did provide, Mr. President – or, Mr. Chairman, very comprehensive testimony and
the answer to a number of the questions that I know I and other Commissioners
had, but I do have a few additional, if I could pose them to you.
You know, back in 2002, at a hearing of our Commission, I recommended – joined
by Senator Voinovich and of course Chairman Cardin and others, we recommended
that a high-level OSCE meeting occur on combating anti-Semitism. Ambassador
Minikes, like Ambassador Baer, was in the audience. He called down to the
White House – because we had already had, in the OSCE PA, a number of what we
called sidebar events where we focused on combating anti-Semitism, and there
was no doubt there was a rising ever-escalating problem in our own countries,
including the United States, with combating anti-Semitism. Ambassador Minikes
got a very strong thumbs-up from the Bush administration, and immediately there
was a mobilization to make it happen.
And of course we first had the Vienna conference and then the watershed
conference in Berlin in 2004. I remember sitting at that. I was the co-lead
of the delegation – for the delegation. At that and others we had very
high-level people, including Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York, Colin
Powell, and many others at these different conferences bringing the gravitas of
some of our top people in the diplomatic community and the political community,
to bring that sharp focus on combating anti-Semitism. And of course countries
throughout all of Europe did the exact same thing.
A very fine group of – a listing of recommendations were made. We in the OSCE
PA constantly harkened back to the Berlin recommendations as to how well are we
doing. You know, what is ODIHR getting in terms of monitoring? And of course
Rabbi Baker does a wonderful job going country to country to hold countries to
account. He does it in a very, very disarming way, straightforward but very
My question would be about a commemorative event, which I think is eminently
doable. I know you’re looking at it and I certainly hope, you know, under your
chairmanship perhaps in July, maybe after we all meet in Baku, at the end of
that when we’re out of session and both House and Senate members are free to
travel – we can’t travel when we have votes. It’s just our – our rules and
regulations, at least on the House side.
You know, if it happens without us, that’s fine, but we’d love to be there.
But if you could give every consideration to that kind of commemorative event
to really bring a great deal of, OK, 10 years ago, watershed event; how well or
poorly have we done? What remains to be done to combat this millennium-long
insidious hatred towards Jewish people and towards Jews?
BURKHALTER: Maybe just two or three comments.
First of all, we had, last year in Tirana an event – a high-level event about
tolerance and nondiscrimination, and we would welcome this year another event,
but it’s not yet in the agenda. We have to work on it and find a good
solution, but it will be important that it attracts a high level of
participation and not an event more without any – any great results. It is
important to organize that and to find a solution logistically and financially,
which is not the case until now – up to now.
SMITH: Well, I know Ambassador Baer is very supportive of it, just like
Ambassador Minikes was 11 years ago, or 12 years ago in 2002. So whatever
could be done, it would be greatly appreciated and would move that ball
forward. It is getting worse, just like the intolerance towards Christians,
which is now getting onto a lot of people’s radar as an escalating evil. Well,
anti-Semitism is certainly. So I thank you for your willingness to really take
a good, hard look at that.
Let me ask you – let’s say none of – obviously you have appointed as the
special rep for – a personal rep on combating racism, xenophobia and
discrimination, also focusing on tolerance and discrimination against
Christians and other religions. A couple of questions along those regard – in
Intolerance and discrimination against Christians is a phenomenon that is
recognized by the OSCE, and it is on the increase in Europe and even in the
United States. The OSCE held an expert roundtable on intolerance and
discrimination against Christians in Vienna on March 4th, 2009, and the
Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution on combating intolerance and
discrimination against Christians at the OSCE PA in Belgrade in July of 2011.
The OSCE PA decided to intensify efforts to monitor, research and publicize the
need to fight against intolerance and discrimination and intensify consultation
and cooperation with the personal rep of the chair in office on a national and
international level. Let me ask you, if I could, a couple of questions with
regards to that.
There is – I know that further action has been taken by the personal rep, for
example, convening an expert roundtable on intolerance and discrimination
against Christians in Vienna in 2014, five years after the first meeting. Can
you tell us how his efforts might be enhanced by your chairmanship?
Secondly, can the OSCE produce guidelines in parental rights and education?
Under the Spanish chairmanship in 2007, the OSCE produced the Toledo Guiding
Principles on Teaching about Religions and Belief in Public Schools. However,
further guidelines are needed to emphasize the rights of parents in the field
of education. Parental rights are under attack in an unprecented (ph) way –
unprecedented way among several OSCE-participating states.
In a growing trend, parents are being given less and less say in how they can
educate their children, while at the same time, state education has become
increasingly more radicalized.
In Germany, for example, 14 Christian parents were imprisoned, some for more
than 40 days, and most on multiple occasions, simply for opting out that their
9 and 10-year-olds – children from two days of mandatory sex education classes.
One of the hallmarks of American education is that there is an opt-out
capability. If that’s what parents want, that’s what parents can do. In
Germany, many of these parents have gone to jail.
Also in Germany, a 15-year-old girl was placed in a mental institution for
wishing to be home-educated. And we know that issue, you know, home education,
home schooling is a trending issue here in a positive way. It is increasingly
being criminalized in the OSCE space, particularly in places like Germany.
There was also a case where in Sweden, a 7-year-old boy was taken off a plane
bound for India by police and social services simply because he was
home-educated. Now, I’ve been reading these cases and becoming alarmed – not
just concerned, but alarmed about this trend. And it certainly is antithetical
to any concept of freedom and parental rights, and I would hope, you know, you
would take a good, strong look at this, if you would.
And finally, follow-up initiatives (on ?) being planned for the publication of
the ODIHR guidelines on the recognition of religious and belief – or belief
communities. Where is the status of that?
BURKHALTER: Thank you very much, Mr. Smith, for this very interesting
question. They are also very specific, and I would pass – give the floor to my
alternate for giving a complete answer to these interesting questions, Mrs.
Ambassador Grau, chief of the task force, OSCE.
GRAU: Mr. Co-Chair, I’m happy to react to some aspects of your question. I’m
not going into all the details. Maybe again on our representatives on
tolerance and nondiscrimination – as you know, they are – three of them. We
already talked about Rabbi Baker. There’s another representative that is in
charge of questions regarding (inter alia also ?) discrimination of Christians.
What we would try to do or to achieve this year – and this is something that
could really have a direct influence on the quality of the work of all the
three tolerance representatives, including the one that is responsible for
Christians – is strengthened – what we call the institutional setup. Our
feeling is that these three representatives do not yet have the full support
for the work that they would need coming from ODIHR side. I think it is
absolutely essential that we manage to upgrade, improve the support structures
that they should have for the organization of their traveling, but also on
substance, keeping records, support them in each and every manner. And we are
working on that. This is hopefully making progress this year still. It’s very
much also linked to ODIHR, the support that should come from ODIHR to these
Again, maybe also on the country visits, that is very important. In that
regard, what we would like to have this year is make it possible that the
tolerance representatives will get invitation of the three countries they are
coming from. So the U.S. already has issued an invitation, and we are very
appreciative of that. What we would like to see is also an invitation coming
from Turkey, the – kind of the host country of one of the representatives, and
then a third invitation hopefully coming from Russia. And we are working on
that. This is also in a way a political decision that the countries have to
make. But I think that would greatly advance the work and also the attention
to the work of these representatives.
SMITH: Thank you. And if you could get back from – with some additional
answers to the very specific questions on home schooling and children whose
parents opt them out and the criminalization of those decisions by parents –
you know, in terms of children’s rights, I actually wrote and gave, with U.S.
Department of State clearance after I wrote it, the Bushes’ position on the
Convention on the Rights of the Child. I was a special rep to the U.N. at the
time, gave it at – in New York. So I take a backseat to no one for a
recognition of the importance of children’s rights and respect for children,
but there’s also a balance and countervailing issue of parental rights and the
importance of who is the chief mentor for a child. And if governments
increasingly usurp that and deem home schooling as a criminal offense, that is
absolutely outrageous, and I think it cuts against a human rights perspective
(usually ?). So if you could get back specifically on some of those questions,
I would – and the Commission would deeply appreciate it.
Let me ask you, with regards to media freedom and press freedom, can the
representative of the freedom on media revisit the issue of criminal libel and
insult laws in Europe? As you know, in 2004 the representative on freedom in
the media produced a document entitled “Ending the Chilling Effect: Working to
Repeal Criminal Libel and Insult Laws.” We talked about it often in this
Commission. We talked about it at the PA. It was an excellent blueprint for
action. The publication followed a round table in Paris in 2003. Ten years on
from this publication, very little progress has been made. Many countries in
Europe continue to limit speech to an extraordinary degree. For example, again
in Germany, committing an insult is a criminal offense with a one-year prison
sentence. However, the United Kingdom, to its credit, repealed its insult law
in 2013, demonstrating that progress can be made in this area.
Also in the area of press freedom, many of us are really, really concerned
about a deterioration of press freedom throughout the country and throughout
the world. Reporters Without Borders, a group that I highly esteem and have
had testify at many of my hearings on the Foreign Affairs Human Rights –
Subcommittee on Human Rights that I chair, have come out with their rankings,
and I was shocked and dismayed and disappointed that the United States now is
46 on their index. At 44 is Papua New Guinea; 45 is Romania; 46, United States
of America; 47, Haiti; 48, Niger, just to give it some kind of context. So
there is a concern that journalists are increasingly being subjected to
censorship, to prior restraint out of fear of some kind of action being taken
against them. And again, these libel laws, these – the insult laws that,
again, Germany still backs have an absolute chilling effect on a robust inquiry
and the ability to ask the tough questions of politicians and all others.
So if your comments – could there be a follow-up on the 2003 effort, you know,
a reissue, a more robust effort to ensuring freedom of the press?
BURKHALTER: We are fully aware about the importance of freedom of media. I
can just also add that in the very actual current issue of Ukraine, we plan –
the special representative of freedom of media plan a country visit in the next
weeks, and also at the same time, there should be also a visit of the high
Commissioner on the minority protections.
About freedom of expression, we will work very closely during our whole year of
presidency with the special representative of freedom of media. She made a
very good job, and she will make in the future also a very good job, we are
sure of it. And we have also supplementary human dimension meeting on the
freedom of expression, which will take place in Vienna during the month of
July. Then we have already a series of events or of activities in that case
and in that field.
SMITH: Thank you. If I could, just a couple final questions, Mr. President.
And thank you for, again, your extensive testimony and answers.
With regards to the Ukraine, what – I know you spoke about it, and I appreciate
that, but just a – some final insights or comments as to what role do you think
the OSCE can play, particularly in bringing Russia into an effort to ensure
that the bloodshed does not re-erupt? We all know that this isn’t over by far.
Even though it looks like the immediate problems in Kiev have abated, there
are flare-ups that are going to occur in all kinds of areas. And it could
happen with provocation, obviously, from Moscow.
Are you planning any kind of special initiatives, like a visit to the Crimea,
for example, which I think – you know, just like Abkhazia and South Ossetia –
you know, when pushed terrible react, but that’s what the Russians did. Who
knows what they might do with regards to the Crimea. And what would be your
recommendation to us, the United States of America, Congress and the president,
as to what we should be doing vis-à-vis Ukraine?
BURKHALTER: Beside everything I already said about the Ukraine, you’re right
that a special initiative, which shall be good organized, in the direction of
Crimea is – are very important. We plan to have a visit of our special envoy,
Ambassador Tim Guldimann. And at the same time, it will be very important to
have what I said before, this visit of the high Commissioner on national
Once more, I would like to underline the fact that clear U.S. support to the
OSCE actions – the proposal of the international contact group and the decision
of sending a special envoy and the need assessment mission – during these days
would be very important for us and for the OSCE to be efficient and to give
real assistance to this aim we all have, finding a political-inclusive solution.
SMITH: Just let me ask you, if I could, on trafficking. Last year we did ask
– I asked the chair in office if they would make trafficking a serious part of
their agenda. They did. The chair in office who sat where you sat – sit now,
who has recently been, obviously, sacked, actually had a huge conference in
June in Kiev. And it was an excellent conference.
And one of the focuses was the training of flight attendants, buses, trains –
you know, the people involved with transportation because every trafficking
victim, or almost every one of them, are transported at some time in their
enslavement. And eyes and ears are on every aircraft, if they’re properly
trained, situationally aware. Tell the pilot and the pilot then tells law
enforcement, who then separate.
And there were dozens of examples given in testimony at a hearing that I had
again just a few weeks ago. Delta Airlines is doing it. I’m sorry to say some
of our other airlines are not – like American, which is – you know, we’ve asked
them repeatedly, we asked them to be at the hearing. And for no cost – or
absolutely a de minimis amount of money they can do this kind of training.
And what happened in Ukraine was that there was a training of the flight
attendants. And the enthusiasm with which they embraced this – some many, as
you know, of the Ukrainian women are trafficked into the Middle East, where
they think they’re going to be waitresses and they are put into brothels and
they are horribly exploited.
Would you consider making such a continuance effort of that training? We
passed, as Spence remembers, a parliamentary assembly recommendation. It is in
the addendum which came, we think, in part out of our request. And thank you,
Ambassador Baer, for fighting so hard for that in December.
This is a low-cost, highly efficacious way of training those eyes and ears to
say: That doesn’t look right. Let me find out who – when the lady goes to the
restroom – they have all kinds of ways of doing it in a nonconfrontational way.
And they will save lives. And it’ll also have a potential chilling effect on
how the bad guys move these women.
One of the great takeaways from the recent World Cup – not World Cup – Super
Bowl, was that because there was so much preventive aspects done, particularly
in the training of hospital employees and the trains – Amtrak, for example, and
the top cop for Amtrak testified at my hearing just a few weeks ago – they
said: We’re serious about this. If they’re not a plane, they could be on a
train, the buses are still laggards so they need to be involved in this.
But we can shut these people down and make it harder and harder and harder for
this – these nefarious enterprises to do the horrible things they do. So if
you would seriously consider – you know, obviously it’s an addendum item that
was passed, but make it a priority, please. I know you care about it, but I
know you have so many balls in the air. You’ll save lives by doing it.
I mean, Swiss Air could do it. Obviously we have Delta, but our others have
not done it and that’s shocking. Homeland Security has put together an
excellent packet called blue lightning, lays out best practices. Nancy Rivard,
who was kind like the – one of the originated of this originally, a flight
attendant with airline and passengers international – she’ll travel anywhere,
anytime. We’ve invited her to other parts of the world. She’s gone. She was
And she says: Look, we saw little kids coming out of Haiti – it was a
pedophile ring. And 80 kids, according to her estimations, were sold into the
cruelest exploitation imaginable. They broke that up. Law enforcement got
involved. And they shut that thing down like it was a tourniquet. And of
course, they held the bad guys to account. She told another example of a
Moscow to Chicago flight that was – you know, there were all these young,
Russian girls, time and time again, five, six of them per flight, with some
guy. And they said there’s something wrong.
In the past they would have went, oh, not my business, not going to – look
away, look askance. And finally they got involved because they were trained.
And they broke up that ring because when they got onto a bus after being
offloaded in Chicago, that was the last anybody heard of those girls who
thought they were going to be waitresses or even models somewhere, or au pairs.
So it’s a low-cost, highly efficacious way of saving women’s lives, if you
could consider that.
BURKHALTER: Thank you, Mr. Co-Chairman, for your enthusiasm and for your
engagement, commitment in fighting human trafficking. As I said before, it is
a – to recognize what you have personally done in this field. We have decided,
generally speaking, to let and to do so that the issue of human trafficking
remains very clearly at the top of the agenda. We have already during these
first months of presidency and in collaboration with the Council of Europe
demonstrated it was possible to mobilize not only one organization but a series
of them, and with two organizators (ph) with the conference of Vienna, last
week or two weeks ago.
And I’m sure that we can make some progress during the whole year in this
important field. For the details and modalities, I would like to give the
floor to Mrs. Grau.
GRAU: Yeah, thank you, Mr. Co-Chair. And I would like to join my president in
praising your engagement for this really important issue. What I think is also
important to keep in mind that this is an issue that all the participating
states of the OSCE are in full agreement that this has to be countered and we
have to fight against it. So I think it’s quite unique that all the countries
agree on the importance of a specific issue and show commitment on that.
What is important is also the work of the field missions in that regard. We
try to support them wherever possible in very practical examples of fighting
against trafficking. The example that you just mentioned I think is a very
valid one, a very important one. There is another example of joint work, of
cooperation between Switzerland and the U.S. in the OSCE framework, where we
fight together against domestic servitude in diplomatic households.
This is, I think, for your country with a big diplomatic community here in
Washington but also as well in New York, as well as for our country with
Geneva, the international Geneva, of course, a very important topic. And that
is an initiative that we would like to continue this year. I think there will
be – this month, still, there should be a workshop, a training, in Brussels.
But there are many other ways how we can join forces and support this important
cause. And once again, I would like to thank you for your engagement.
SMITH: Thank you so very much. And thank you both. Was there anything else
you would like to add before we conclude? Thank you for your time as well,
because I know you’re a very busy man.
The hearing’s adjourned and we’ll look forward to working with you going
[Whereupon, at 11:43 a.m., the hearing ended.]