It is appropriate that we welcome Foreign Minister Geoana to the Commission in his capacity as Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The Minister met with Commissioners at the beginning of 2001 and we have been in close contact as the events this year have unfolded. Mr. Minister, I appreciate the close working relationship you have maintained with the Commission, a tradition I hope to continue with your Portugese successor next year.
Romania has encountered many challenges and accomplished a great deal since assuming the chairmanship of the OSCE earlier this year. Yet, much remains to be done. Indeed, Romania's chairmanship will conclude as the international community faces a new set of challenges that affect every one of the 55 OSCE participating States.
My hope is that "Operation Enduring Freedom" will bring enduring freedom to all of the countries in the vast OSCE region, including the countries of Central Asia. In this regard, I see the OSCE's role in promoting democracy, human rights and economic liberty and the campaign to root out terrorism as complementary.
Americans are united and determined to see the war against terrorism -- in all of its forms -- succeed. The Helsinki Commission itself has faced serious disruption as a direct result of terrorism, but we will not be deterred.
Erosion of our common commitment to human rights would only lead to greater instability, not less. It will be essential to dissuade despots of any notion that we are abandoning our firm commitment to democracy and human rights. To do otherwise would imperil the very values and principles which terrorists seek to destroy. Paying lip service to human rights will not suffice.
As President Bush has said, "it is important to distinguish between those who pursue legitimate political aspirations and terrorists." History has shown that the seeds of repression bear very poisonous fruit.
Mr. Minister, I appreciate your leadership in focusing the work of the OSCE on combating corruption and organized crime, as well as your strong support for the Southeastern Europe Cooperation Initiative's center for combating transnational organized crime, located in Bucharest. Clearly there is a strong nexus between the operations of transnational criminal organizations and international terrorist organizations. Indeed, according to experts, they frequently work together in the fields of drug trafficking and money laundering. I strongly urge the OSCE participating States to redouble their efforts to pursue practical cooperation to fight international crime and corruption.
The past year has provided Romania with a unique opportunity to "lead by example" in implementation of its OSCE commitments during its chairmanship. Indeed, several of our Commissioners have followed developments in Romania for decades. We appreciate Minister Geoana's work to ensure that longstanding human rights concerns in Romania be addressed by Bucharest. In this regard, we look forward to continued action to overcome the legacy of the past, including anti-Semitism, while protecting the rights of all Romanian citizens, including Roma as well as ethnic and religious minorities.
Mr. Minister, we wish you continued success in the closing and challenging days of Romania's chairmanship of the OSCE and your views on how to strengthen the OSCE process.
I am please to yield to Co-Chairman Smith for any remarks he would like to make at this time.