EU Statement in Response to the Report by the Director of ODIHR

EU Statement in Response to the Report by the Director of ODIHR

Finnish Presidency of the Council of the European Union
Permanent Council No. 633
2 November 2006

The European Union warmly welcomes Ambassador Strohal back to the Permanent Council and thanks him for his report on this year's Human Dimension Implementation Meeting.

The eleventh HDIM fulfilled the high expectations, again with, record participation, and a rich debate that resulted in many useful recommendations. The wide range of side-events provided excellent opportunities for further discussions on individual topics brought forward by governments and NGO's.

In the closing statement in Warsaw the EU expressed its appreciation to the members of the more than 300 Non Governmental Organizations who took part in the meeting. Their work, often in difficult circumstances, in defending democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms, is vital and NGO participation at the HDIM is a unique strength of the OSCE. 

Discussions in Warsaw rightly highlighted the role of human rights defenders and the closely related issue of freedom of assembly and association. Current trends in a number of participating States are a cause of concern to the EU. Independent journalists, civic groups and Human Rights NGO's should be recognized as important contributors to the development of democratic societies. We support further efforts by ODIHR to strengthen co-operation and interaction with civil society, including through the focal point for human rights defenders and National Human Rights Institutions within the Human Rights Department. We also support a Ministerial Council decision on human rights defenders.

Mr Chairman, free and fair elections are fundamental for democracy. The OSCE participating States have freely entered into a number of election-related commitments. The good conduct of democratic elections can only be established and maintained through genuine political determination to uphold these principles, values and commitments. ODIHR has developed an election observation methodology which is widely regarded as impartial, objective and effective and is held in high esteem including by the European Union. The EU will continue its support for ODIHR's election-related activities. 

Combating intolerance and discrimination, which was one of the special topics of the HDIM, remains high on the OSCE agenda. Much remains to be done in the OSCE area to promote mutual respect and understanding and to fight racist, religious and other prejudice, xenophobia and discrimination. Disputes on issues of critical importance arising from different understandings can be solved only on the basis of shared values by means of an open and responsible dialogue between government authorities, civil society and other relevant actors. The EU recognizes the need highlighted during the meeting for adequate responses to hate-motivated crimes in the OSCE area.

As noted in Ambassador Strohal's report, discussions on the situation of Roma and Sinti were vibrant at this year's meeting, as the implementation of the Action Plan was discussed. Clearly, numerous issues remain to be tackled in order to achieve the goals put forward by this important document. Therefore, we support further consideration of ways and means for a better implementation of the Action Plan.  Allow me, Mr Chairman, to extend our gratitude to Mr Nicolae Gheorghe, the departing Head of the Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues, for his dedicated work for the OSCE and Roma and Sinti Issues and wish him the best of luck in his future engagements.

The EU agrees with Ambassador Strohal on the leading role of OSCE in combating all forms of human trafficking. Against this background, the EU recalls its support for the proposal of the Belgian chairmanship, co-sponsored by France and the United States, to adopt a Ministerial Council decision on combating the sexual exploitation of children.

Mr Chairman, every year delegations are encouraged to submit ideas for the following year’s human dimension activities. I wish to reiterate here the suggestions the EU made in Warsaw on topics to be discussed in human dimension events next year:

- political parties and civil society
- human rights defenders and national human rights institutions
- freedom of assembly, association and expression
- promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination
- combating racism and xenophobia
- women's political participation reinforcing democracy
- combating trafficking in children.

In concluding, the EU would like to thank Ambassador Christian Strohal and his dedicated staff for their excellent work that made the 2006 HDIM a success.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia, EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this statement.

* Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process