Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and good morning to you all. Welcome especially to President Lennmarker, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, and to Spencer Oliver, General Secretary of the OSCEPA.
I have been active in the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE for almost ten years. I have seen the value of the Parliamentary Assembly in the fight against human trafficking and anti-Semitism. In both cases it was the Parliamentary Assembly that put these issues on the OSCE agenda.
It was only a few months ago that Rep. McIntyre and I were able to strengthen a Ukrainian resolution against trafficking. This week the OSCE is working in Vienna on combating the sexual exploitation of children. This effort originates in work we did in the Parliamentary Assembly, and in the Helsinki Commission. In the fight against anti-Semitism I worked closely with German and Canadian parliamentarians, and several of them testified at Helsinki Commission hearings that I chaired.
The Parliamentary Assembly is a vital part of the OSCE. Within the OSCE it has been the Parliamentary Assembly that has consistently pushed human rights issues to the top of the OSCE agenda. The governments of most OSCE Participating States have often been reluctant to put human rights first. They have criticized so-called “parliamentary interference” in OSCE policy, but they have been quick to take the credit for the PA’s human rights initiatives.
Few people know the OSCE as well as President Lennmarker. Mr. President, I look forward to hearing you testify on issues of concern to us all.