Madrid, 29. November 2007 Press release

Winkler: "OSCE election monitoring must continue to play a strong and independent role"

29.11.2007

State Secretary Hans Winkler at the meeting of OSCE foreign ministers

Madrid, 29 November 2007 - "We all have the obligation to protect and respect democracy, the rule of law, and good governance. It is still one of the core tasks of the OSCE to remind its participating states of their voluntary obligations and to support them in implementing these", said State Secretary Hans Winkler at the meeting of the OSCE foreign ministers.

With regard to the OSCE mission in Kosovo, Winkler stressed that "Kosovo is a great challenge not only for the stability in the Western Balkans, but also for the European Union. Our objective remains the creation of a multiethnic Kosovo in which all citizens can live in freedom and security and have good prospects for the future. The development of functioning institutions and democracy, the protection of human rights, and the strengthening of the rule of law are basic requirements. The field presence of the OSCE mission in Kosovo is an important contribution in this respect. Therefore, we are keen on seeing the mission continue its activities in the year 2008 - regardless of the results of the status debate", said Winkler.

As to the role of the OSCE in election monitoring, the State Secretary emphasized that "The monitoring of human rights and election standards is one of the most politically relevant and most visible activities of the OSCE. In recent years, the ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) has developed an excellent method that does not only enjoy international recognition but was also adopted by several other international organizations."

"For the first time since 1990, it was made impossible for the ODIHR to carry out a comprehensive election monitoring as an independent OSCE institution responsible for elections. This constitutes a deviation from the usual practice and the well-established approach for election monitoring. We expect from Russia to enable the ODIHR to assume its role as election observer", stressed Winkler.

"In view of the threat from international terrorism and the renewed strengthening of authoritarian regimes, the pitting of values like democracy and stability against each other must not be allowed to succeed", said Winkler. "Of course, the OSCE must also be reformed and adjusted to current structures, but this must by no means lead to a weakening of the OSCE as an institution", warned the State Secretary.

Winkler also spoke in favour of a balanced geographic distribution of the organization’s tasks. "Every participating state that is committed to the principles and obligations of this organization and also fulfils these should have the opportunity to chair the OSCE. Therefore, I welcome the agreement on the next three chairs of the organization and I am convinced that Kazakhstan’s presidency will have a positive impact not only for the region of Central Asia, but also for the OSCE."

Other topics discussed included disarmament issues in connection with the suspension of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe announced by Russia, which is to enter into force on 12 December 2007. "We should build up on what has been achieved so far, and must not question the several confidence and security-building measures already introduced in the area of arms control. Especially in a country in the centre of Europe, the people still have a vivid memory of the arms race during the Cold War", Winkler concluded.

Contact:
Federal Ministry for
European and international Affairs
Katharina Swoboda
Office of the State Secretary
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3469
katharina.swoboda(at)bmeia.gv.at