Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Ambassador Robert Barry
Former Head of Mission to Bosnia-Heregovina - OSCE


Thank you for the invitation to testify today on U.S. policy towards the OSCE. I had prepared a statement before September 11 but, as with so much else in our lives, we need to look at OSCE through a new prism. OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Romanian Foreign Minister Geona, has already announced that fighting terrorism will be a central priority for OSCE, but how can the OSCE contribute? How does the OSCE fit into the alphabet soup of international organizations active in Europe – the UN, NATO, EU, EC, Council of Europe, the Office of the High Representative, the Stability Pact – to name just a few. The tendency of each of these organizations is to claim that it is the best at everything, and to launch duplicative programs to demonstrate relevance to the issue of the day. The OSCE, like others, has tended to bite off more than it can chew and to waste time and energy in competition with supposed rivals. The United States should have a clear vision of what it wants the OSCE and others to do, and should be vigilant in preventing duplication of effort.

Since terrorism is a universal problem, efforts to create international conventions and model laws to deal with terrorists should remain in the hands of the UN. Much good work has been done there already but, unfortunately, the United States and many other member states have paid little attention. The OSCE, the EU, NATO and others should work with the UN to bring these conventions into force and to insist on their implementation rather than by starting new drafting exercises.

As my recent experience with the OSCE has been as head of one of its large missions, I see the OSCE field presence throughout the region as a unique asset. OSCE field missions can be extremely agile and quick to adjust to changing priorities in areas of competence. The United States ought to encourage these field missions to take on more responsibilities and discourage others, such as the Council of Europe, the EU, or the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia, from developing parallel and redundant field structures.

Policing and the administration of justice are key elements in the battle on terrorism, and I am convinced that the OSCE field missions can play a central role here. Last month several witnesses testified before the Commission concerning the OSCE role in police training and executive policing. With its requirement of universality, the UN must call upon police who are unable or unwilling to deal with terrorism or human rights violations at home. We cannot expect them to be much help, for example, in dealing with mujahedin fighters in Bosnia or Macedonia. Therefore I believe the OSCE ought to be the instrument of choice for both police training and executive policing. In order to fill the latter role the OSCE should change its policy on arming executive police. Unarmed international police have no leverage in societies where every taxi driver packs a gun.

A more crucial element in the fight against terrorism and organized crime is judicial reform. No police force will have a deterrent effect unless arrests are followed by prosecution and, where warranted, conviction. Six years of half-hearted measures have yet to produce judicial reform in Bosnia and, as a result, a culture of impunity continues to this day. Elsewhere in the OSCE area of responsibility, the situation is similar. The United States should urge a more aggressive role for OSCE field missions in judicial reform, and insist that this is a central issue in the war on terrorism. Depoliticizing the judiciary will require a confrontational stance by the international community and a mandate to remove judges who will not enforce the law with an even hand.

OSCE’s regional presence in twenty-one countries of Europe and Eurasia is a unique asset in dealing with terrorism and organized crime. In a report to the Istanbul OSCE summit in 1999, I urged that the OSCE’s regional dimension be strengthened. Unfortunately, little has been accomplished, because field missions shy away from regional efforts and the Chairman in Office focuses more on the crisis of the moment than on regional efforts. A major emphasis should now be put on regional measures to combat terror and organized crime, perhaps patterned on the successful efforts of the Baltic Council and its subsidiary bodies.

It is time to involve the Russian Federation more closely with OSCE, especially given their current cooperative stance in the battle against terrorism. Too often in the past, we have marginalized Russia by making decisions in NATO and then asking OSCE to implement the decisions. Macedonia is only the most recent example. The Russians have often responded by blocking consensus. This has weakened the OSCE, and the Russians have contributed to this situation by pursuing an unimaginative, nitpicking stance towards the OSCE.

Solving this problem will require new efforts, both by the United States and Russia. Part of the current U.S. effort at coalition building must be to de-marginalize Russia which, since the 1970’s, has seen the OSCE as the only European security forum where their voice can be heard. The United States and Canada have similarly valued OSCE as insurance against de-linkage of Europe from North America. If we are to keep OSCE alive for these purposes we will have to resist the temptation to pre-cook decisions in NATO for the OSCE to execute.

One possible way of encouraging more creative and active Russian involvement in OSCE is through strengthening the Chair-in-Office. As the complexity of the OSCE agenda and the scale of the OSCE field presence have grown, the ability of any country to act effectively during a one-year term as Chair-in-Office has shrunk proportionally. This is especially true of smaller countries, which are dealing simultaneously with such priorities as joining NATO or the EU and thus have few resources to devote to the OSCE chairmanship. If OSCE is going to develop a stronger regional dimension and play a larger role in the fight against terrorism, the Chairmanship needs to be strengthened, perhaps by the permanent assignment to the Chairmanship of two or three senior officials, including a Russian, an American and a European. Their role would be supportive, and they would supply a needed element of continuity.

If the OSCE is to play a larger role, more attention needs to be paid to the quality of field staff. Too many heads of missions are selected on the basis solely of equitable geographic distribution, and many member states nominate candidates who are not well qualified. The organization also lacks an experienced corps of mid-level managers. To remedy this problem, the OSCE should create an elite career track for a small number of those who have proven themselves in positions of increasing responsibility, as seconded staff. These individuals would provide a needed element of maturity and experience in supervisory positions.

In sum, I believe the tragedy of September 11 requires that we have a new look at the OSCE as a tool for building democracy and the rule of law. In many areas, such as judicial reform and policing, it should be the instrument of choice for the US. But we should take care that we do not overload it and cause it to lose focus and become bureaucratized. The United States needs to have a clear vision of what it wants the OSCE to be, what tasks it wants field missions to take on, and where it wants the organization to “Just say, No.” This hearing provides an excellent opportunity for the Congress and the Executive Branch to consider these issues