Address by Minister Cowen to the 11th Ministerial Council of the OSCE, Maastricht, 1-2 December 2003
Our Council meeting takes place at a time when democracy in our region is facing serious tests. I believe that democracy will meet those tests because the demand of ordinary people for their fundamental rights and freedoms cannot be ignored. The events in Georgia remind us of the high value people attach to the basic right to have a free and a fair election to choose their leaders.
The Georgian people have sent a strong message to the international community. We should heed that message and we should stand by them and their right to have a free and fair election on 4 January. In Georgia, and in other countries in the OSCE region where democracy is under threat, there is only one right thing to do and it is this: We must engage on the side of democracy. And we look to the OSCE to help us to make sure that where democracy is tested, democracy wins.
I am pleased, therefore, to confirm that the Irish Government have decided to make a significant contribution to efforts to ensure free and fair elections in Georgia in 33 days time.
At earlier sessions, we reviewed some of the key challenges we face in terms of the security of our region. There are many challenges. Some take new, cruel forms: such as terrorism and human trafficking for example. Other challenges are far too familiar. I'm thinking here for example of intolerance and bigotry, of underdevelopment and poverty and of the blatant denial of democracy and human rights in many states. Each one of these challenges is complex, each has root causes. None of them can be ignored.
I know that the OSCE has deep concerns about developments in Turkmenistan. In a recent resolution which we co-sponsored in the General Assembly, we called on the Government of Turkmenistan to implement fully the recommendations of the OSCE rapporteur's report and to facilitate the work of the UNHCHR and the ICRC. I repeat that call here. We know too that the worsening human rights situation in Belarus is a matter of grave concern to all the friends of the people of Belarus. I am glad to have this opportunity to call on the government of Belarus to fulfil its obligations to promote and protect human rights. I repeat my recent call for Belarus to embrace the principles of the Council of Europe and to uphold OSCE commitments to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
The long running conflicts in the OSCE region undermine the values the Organisation stands for. They remind the people we represent that we have a long way to go to translate our rhetoric and our commitments into reality. As we look into the period ahead, I am hopeful that good will and political realism can start to prevail at long last. If it does, it could remove remaining obstacles to early progress to resolve the conflicts over Nagorno-Karabakh and Trandnistria. I believe that the OSCE is the only viable framework for fair and workable solutions to these conflicts which will command widespread international support.
I commend the OSCE for the hard work over the past year to formulate a major response to the new security challenges. I endorse the Strategy to Address Threats to Security and Stability in the Twenty-first Century which outlines the need for a comprehensive arrangement to reach our goals. Above all, this strategy reminds us that we will fail if we do not anchor our work in a real commitment to democracy and human rights in our states.
Addressing new security threats is a fundamental challenge to the ways and means of international co-operation. It is heartening to see that the OSCE recognises the need for it to take a new, vigorous and strategic approach to the work to be done.
I agree that the OSCE has an important role to play in the comprehensive fight to counter terrorism. The three decisions we are adopting on the setting up of a Counter Terrorism Network, on Travel Document Security and MANPADS demonstrate our new engagement. Together with the Annual Security Review Conference, they confirm the significant role of OSCE in providing security through its politico-military dimension.
I believe that effective multilateralism, anchored in the UN charter and the Helsinki agreement, is our most powerful instrument for peace and democracy. Yes, security requires clarity of vision about the threats we face. Yes, true security comes from working together. But, it also requires us to face tough choices and make the decision to stand up for democracy, law and right of ordinary people to build a better future for themselves .
Therefore, I endorse fully the new Strategy in the Economic and Environmental Dimension. I attach importance to moving quickly to implement it . I am looking forward to hosting a seminar next February in Dublin as part of the follow up. Our aim will be to show that democracy and good governance are not only good in themselves, but are in fact prerequisites for sustainable economic growth.
As we look ahead of us in 2004, there are three issues I would like to highlight.
Like many delegations, Ireland looks forward to a comprehensive follow-up to the seminar on combating anti-Semitism, Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, including the Anti-Semitism Conference in Berlin next May.
In that regard, I would like to avail of this opportunity to draw delegations' attention to the draft resolution being developed by Ireland on Anti-Semitism, which we hope to table for vote shortly at the UN. We are currently in discussion with the OIC on the possibility of introducing to the resolution a similarly strong condemnation of Islamophobia. We already have the full support of our EU partners, including the Acceding States and Romania and Bulgaria. I would like to appeal to the rest of our OSCE partners to support this resolution. Here in the OSCE, the struggle against intolerance and xenophobia of all kinds is central to our approach. Ireland looks forward therefore to the support of all delegations for such a UN resolution which we believe has an important role to play in our common struggle against intolerance.
During the first six months of 2004, Ireland will exercise the Presidency of the European Union. Our term will see the EU become stronger as a result of the accession of ten new member states. We all agree that enlargement will not lead to new dividing lines in Europe, or open up any gap in mutual understanding and shared values. As we take on the responsibility of the EU presidency, we believe that a new engagement by the OSCE in support, and defence, of shared values and democracy is as important now as it ever was. Therefore, a priority of the Irish Presidency is to give effect to the recently agreed conclusions of the European Council on EU-OSCE co-operation in conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation.
Finally, Madam Chairman,
I would like to express my gratitude to the Netherlands' Chairmanship, and in particular to Minister de Hoop Scheffer for the leadership he and his team have provided our Organisation over the last year.
I look forward to working with the incoming Bulgarian Chairmanship-in-Office, during Ireland's EU Presidency and beyond. The Government of Ireland will continue to give the highest level of support to the work of this very valuable organisation. We wish you well in all your future work.
I would like first to associate Ireland with the statement by Italy on behalf of the European Union and to make the following additional comments.