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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Working Document
EU Statement in response to the presentation of the director of ODIHR, Ambassador Christian Strohal

Date of release : 27-01-2005

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

On behalf of the EU, I would like to welcome Ambassador Strohal back to the Permanent Council and thank him for his presentation. The OSCE can look back on a rich and successful year in the area of human dimension activities. Consequently, it has been a very busy year for ODIHR and our gratitude goes to the dedicated work of ODIHR’s director and staff. Allow me to stress here only a few of the points raised in Ambassador Strohal’s very comprehensive presentation.

The problems of intolerance in the OSCE area rightly received great attention by the organisation in the past year. Berlin, Paris and Brussels hosted important conferences on Anti-Semitism, on the Relationship between racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic propaganda on the Internet and hate crimes and on Tolerance and the fight against racism, xenophobia and discrimination. Three personal representatives were appointed at the end of the year with the task to combat discrimination and promote tolerance. We thank ODIHR for their valuable support and assistance in the past year's Tolerance events and for their continuing efforts in this field. ODIHR was tasked with important work and we are looking forward to a first report on findings of ODHIR to the Permanent Council. The EU will follow the work of the personal representatives closely. We trust their contribution will strengthen and give further impetus to ODIHR’s work in this area. We also look forward to this year's conference in Cordoba on Anti-Semitism and on other forms of intolerance.

We find the outline of the new Tolerance and Non-Discrimination programme at ODIHR very promising. At the same time we are concerned by the fact that the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination programme will not be able to pursue its work as planned unless a budget agreement can be reached soon. We share Ambassador Strohal's worries about the unresolved budget issues and the consequences it will have on ODIHR’s work.

ODIHR election observation activities have been in focus more than ever during the past year. The number of elections observed is impressive as is the effective deployment of ODIHR’s largest observer mission to date, namely to Ukraine. ODIHR has in numerous elections used its expertise to highlight improvements as well as shortcomings. We extend our appreciation to all those who took part in the past year's election observation missions under the leadership of ODIHR. 2005 will be another important year with elections coming up in many countries. The EU takes careful note of ODIHR’s request for observers and is confident that a significant contribution will be provided. We welcome the fact that ODIHR is regularly invited to observe elections.

Election observation is a core activity of the OSCE. The expertise and methodology have been built up over many years and have earned broad support, credibility and worldwide public recognition. The standards set by ODIHR in organising and managing election observation missions are high and used by many international actors, including the EU, as a model. The EU is convinced that ODIHR must continue to play an independent and important role in leading election observations. The EU stands ready to discuss possible improvements in any area of OSCE activities, election observation being no exception. However, we must ensure that such discussions do not lead to any weakening of existing commitments, but rather to complementing commitments as indicated in the formula “Copenhagen Plus�?. We must also ensure that there is no weakening of ODIHR’s autonomy and leading role in the field of election observation within the OSCE region. ODIHR’s credibility has always been a compelling argument for us not to deploy separate EU Election Observation Missions in the OSCE area. The supplementary human dimension meeting on elections will be an excellent forum for discussing these issues, and we very much look forward to such an opportunity.

2005 will also be another busy year in the human dimension of the OSCE. The EU welcomes the choice of topics to be especially highlighted in 2005 and is ready to participate actively and constructively in all the seminars, the supplementary human dimension meetings as well as in the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting. Migration is becoming an increasingly important issue, which has been pointed out on many occasions, most recently by the Coordinator of Economic and Environmental Activities. The EU has indicated on several occasions that human rights must be upheld in the fight against terrorism. The role of defence lawyers to uphold the rule of law is another key issue.

The discussion of the HDIM last year re-affirmed the importance of co-operation with civil society. We are looking forward to placing special emphasis in all our work this year on ways and means how to support and further enhance participation of citizens, civic organizations and especially human rights organizations in building democratic, free and fair societies.

Within little more than a year, three Action Plans in the human dimension have been adopted and deservedly put our attention to specific areas we need to address: Improving the situation for Roma and Sinti, combating trafficking and promoting gender equality. We appreciate the efforts of ODIHR to start doing what is most important, namely to implement the plans. As for the Action plan on combating trafficking, we should swiftly start elaborating the addendum on child victims. We share Ambassador Strohal’s view that the Experts’ Working Group on violence against Women taking place in Paris on 28 and 29 April 2005, will provide an excellent opportunity to tackle this important issue. Another important event during 2005 will be the Seminar on Women in conflict prevention and crisis management to be organised by Sweden.

Finally, we wish Ambassador Strohal and his staff all the best as they continue another year of highly demanding tasks within the human dimension. Tireless efforts of ODIHR in all its areas will remain of pivotal importance for the credibility of the OSCE as an organisation, and ODIHR can rest assured that it will continue to have the full support of the EU.

The Candidate Countries Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Croatia* align themselves with this statement.

*Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process

This page was last modified on : 27-01-2005

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