10:30 A.M. EST
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
AMBASSADOR BAER: Great. Well, first of all, thank you all for taking the time to come today, and I look forward to a good discussion. I wanted to take the opportunity because next week is the annual ministerial council meeting of the OSCE, and obviously because the Chairman-in-Office this year is Ukraine, that meeting will be happening Kyiv and there will be a large U.S. delegation in attendance, as well as a large number from a number of other countries. So I wanted to take the opportunity to give kind of a preview of our expectations for that meeting. But also this is my first trip back since I started at the U.S. Mission to the OSCE, and I wanted to also have the opportunity to talk more broadly about our engagement at the OSCE and the future there.
To start at that broad level, one of the things that my first couple of months have underscored to me is that as we look at the 57 countries that participate in the OSCE, there are number of regional subgroupings around trade, around other issues, around security, et cetera, but the OSCE remains this unique platform that cuts across all aspects of what within the OSCE is called comprehensive security, but meaning what we traditionally call hard security or political-military security, economic and environmental security, and human security, including human rights. It remains a unique platform in covering the broad range of issues, and it remains a unique platform in that it includes members of the EU, all the members of NATO, all the members of the Eurasian Customs Union. It includes a number of subgroups. And so it becomes this place where important conversations can happen between a large group of countries that collectively represent two-thirds of the world’s economy -- a billion people. It’s a significant community that comes together.
I don't expect that any of you are OSCE hobbyists, but for the small group of people in the world who are OSCE hobbyists, one of the things that people will have remarked in recent years is that there are fewer decisions -- particularly at ministerial councils -- coming out, and that is something that a number of people have done some fair amount of handwringing over. And I have to say it doesn’t worry me the way that it worries some people. I think that people forget a couple things. One is that the OSCE was born out of time when there were big divisions between us -- not that we agreed on everything -- and so bemoaning the fact that we don’t agree on everything is really not to acknowledge the purpose of an organization like the OSCE, which is to bring together a number of states and members of the civil society where big challenges, and including ones on which we have dividing views, confront us and to work to engage to try to tackle those.
I think they also miss the point that there were 10 or 15 years, starting in 1989-1990, where the participating states were moving closer together. And it is unsurprising that during that time establishing new commitments, consolidating those gains, was something that was relatively easier than it is today. There has been backsliding in much of the OSCE region, particularly on issues in the third dimension – human rights and fundamental freedoms – and it’s not surprising that as that happens it becomes harder for us to reach new agreements. But that doesn’t change the fact that 57 states have made political commitments to each other and that grown-up states, just like grown-up people, keep the commitments they’ve made. And we can spend all of our time focused on the commitments that have already been made and not run out of practical work to do in the year ahead. We don’t actually need new commitments in order to keep busy. Where we can have them, we should, but I don’t despair at the lack of new commitments.
That being said, let me turn to next week’s meeting where I think we will have some interesting new things on the table. So not to give an exhaustive list, but one of the things that’s currently under negotiation in Vienna and will, I assume, continue to be negotiated in Kyiv is a declaration on Afghanistan. Obviously, the upcoming transition and the withdrawal of ISAF forces in Afghanistan will have a tectonic effect – politically, economically – particularly on neighboring countries. And we have been trying to make sure this is actually an opportunity for the OSCE to contribute to reinforcing a stable, prosperous, open, democratic Afghanistan, as well as to support the neighboring countries as they respond to the shifts that will happen economically, et cetera, as the drawdown happens. So that’s one big ticket item.
Another, we concluded negotiations a couple weeks ago on the first-ever set of confidence-building measures [CBMs], which, of course, are an old OSCE tool, in the area of cyber. And this was a two-year long process. There was an informal working group chaired by the United States. I chaired the last two meetings in October and November, and we concluded negotiations a couple weeks ago with agreement the level of 57, among experts, and our expectation is that those cyber CBMs will be adopted very soon, perhaps on Thursday of this week by the permanent council, and be recognized by the ministers next week. This is an opportunity for us to engage in a new set of issues that weren’t imagined when the OSCE was founded, but to use the old tool of building trust and confidence among participating states.
There will also be follow-up on – last year at the ministerial council there was a declaration to do with good governance and the contributions of good governance to economic development and growth, in particular, and there will be follow-up work that is relevant to that in the second dimension. There’s also a draft decision on critical – non-nuclear critical energy infrastructure and protection of that.
In the human dimension, I think all of these things have to be agreed by consensus, and so time will tell which ones end up going through. But there is a decision on protection of journalists, calling attention to and reaffirming our commitment to counter what is a worrying phenomenon in many parts of the OSCE region of journalists facing death, as well as other physical punishment or beatings, et cetera, because of the work they do and because of their exercising their freedom of expression. There is a draft decision on freedom of movement, which has long been a priority for the Russian Federation, as well as several others.
There is a draft decision on the freedom of religion and belief. This is an area where the OSCE has established commitments already, but it has been a while since we have picked up that topic again.
And there’s a draft decision on Roma and Sinti. In 2003, there was an OSCE-wide action plan on Roma and Sinti, and so this is the anniversary year. And there was a recent meeting in Vienna, a supplementary human dimension meeting that brought together states, as well as Roma and Sinti activists from across the region. And the uptick in violence against Roma and Sinti, the uptick in hateful rhetoric, particularly from political leaders about Roma and Sinti, and obviously, the recent focus of mass media on Roma and Sinti has underscored the remaining work to be done to ensure the protection of human rights and integration of Roma and Sinti in many countries across the OSCE.
There’s also work on trafficking, an addendum to a human trafficking action plan and several other things on the table for next week. But I think I’ll stop there and then welcome your questions, and we can dig back in on some of the topics I’ve covered already, to the extent that there’s interest.
MODERATOR: Okay, why don’t you go first?
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Andrei Sitov. I’m a Russian reporter here in Washington, D.C. I had a question about Ukraine because we are meeting in Ukraine, but I was taken by this unexpected for me mention of the confidence-building measures in cyber, which is obviously a big subject of the day, given the NSA and the Snowden revelations. So does this two things correlate in any way? Do you talk at all about restrictions on spying in the confidence-building measures?
AMBASSADOR BAER: The confidence-building measures are a set dedicated to building trust through increased transparency and sharing of information, and the document that we’ve been negotiating is basically negotiating the basis for that exchange of information. So --
QUESTION: The exchange of information – general, political information, military? What kind of information?
AMBASSADOR BAER: Information about how we are regarding, for instance, threats to infrastructure for information on communication technologies. How do we regard those? How do we organize internally to sort through those and prioritize those, et cetera? So it’s not a normative document or a standard-setting exercise. As with other confidence-building measures within the OSCE context and within other contexts, the value of this is that it calls for us getting together as a group as soon as – hopefully by – in the early part of next year for the first meeting, where we will exchange information on a range of topics related to security and the security of networks, et cetera, on a range of topics relating to cyber.
QUESTION: Right. The Germans – on that same subject, the Germans are talking about creating first a European standard and then maybe an international – a global standard of dealing with information flows. Basically, I think the same thing, but in the context of the Snowden revelations. So do you expect that to come up? And more importantly, how do you view that idea? Is that a good idea? Do you view it favorably, do you view neutrally? What’s your –
AMBASSADOR BAER: So as I said, I don’t think that there is a connection necessarily. I mean, obviously, you say cyber and you can draw a lot of links to a lot of different things. But the work here, as I said, is not a standard-setting exercise. It’s about information sharing. And it’s a voluntary exercise where we can share information about how we’re dealing with the things and others can share information on how they’re dealing with things.
One of the interesting parts about the last negotiation was the cooperation of the participating states around the table that allowed us to come to a final document. It was actually, I think, a reasonably good story of cooperation between the EU, the Russian Federation, the U.S., as well as other states, including Azerbaijan, where we were able to – even though we obviously have ongoing conversations in a number of other fora where we have and will continue to have differences, particularly those around norm and standard setting, we were able to agree that it is worthwhile and useful for us in a practical way to share information with each other about how we’re looking at threats to infrastructure and the rest of it.
QUESTION: And --
MODERATOR: Sorry, Andrei, let me cut you off. We’ve got a lot of folks here.
MODERATOR: If we still have time at the end, we’ll come back.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate more? I’m sorry. You just mentioned the agreement with Azerbaijan, so I thought maybe you could add.
AMBASSADOR BAER: Azerbaijan was a very active participant in the negotiations in this informal working group, and it wasn’t an easy agreement to come to, but everybody worked constructively together and we were able to bridge our gaps in the last couple meetings. And I think it is a testament to the cooperative engagement of all the parties around the table, and Azerbaijan was an active and vocal participant in the discussions all along. And so I think for those who say oh, it’s impossible to find consensus at 57, it’s such a large number and there’s too many divides, et cetera, I think this is a good, recent example of a time where, thanks frankly to constructive engagement by the Russian Federation, in particular, as well as others around the table, we were able to come to a solution that worked for everyone and will allow the kind of practical work to go forward that is kind of the bread and butter of this organization.
QUESTION: And so more specifically, it’s the exchange of security information between the participating states?
AMBASSADOR BAER: It will be the exchange of a range of information. It’s all voluntary, so states can exchange information on what they want. But it’s aimed at security – it’s aimed at decreasing the likelihood of misperception or misunderstandings that we might have of others’ actions and sharing information about how we are addressing threats that stem from – and – threats to ICTs and that stem from the use of ICTs.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Inga, you had a question.
QUESTION: Yes, I’m from Polish Press Agency. I’d like to ask you why, actually, Secretary of State John Kerry is not going to Kyiv. Because now we have a new situation: We have hundreds of people, hundred thousands of people on the street, and they are clearly in favor of the integration with Western world, and yeah, we would expect U.S. Government to be now very engaged. Yeah?
AMBASSADOR BAER: Well, I think the U.S. Government has been and will remain very engaged with Ukraine in the months and years ahead. Ukraine is an important partner for us and that’s not a question. And in every visit that a Secretary has made, there’s always engagement with civil society, and with the people of Ukraine because we recognize that conversation between the people of Ukraine and their government about their future is, as you’re pointing to, where some of the most exciting conversation is happening. And we have long said that we see the reason in the perspective of what we believe is the vast majority of Ukrainians who see a stronger, more durable, more prosperous future for their country and their society in closer ties with Europe. And the European choice is one that many, many, many people in Ukraine support and see that, in the long term, will pay dividends for them.
So there’s no question that we remain supportive of that ongoing conversation and, certainly, it’s been very inspiring for me to see over the last few days. I’ve been reading news stories and looking at pictures to see that the exercise of freedom of expression and association and very clear articulation of the view of so many thousands of Ukrainians in the streets right now about their desire to have a European future for their country. So I don’t think there should be any doubt about that.
QUESTION: But why Secretary of State is not going to Kyiv?
AMBASSADOR BAER: As the Department Spokesperson said last week, his plans have changed and his schedule will not allow it. I think we will be actively engaged with the ministerial. There will be important work to be done there and we will be well represented by Assistant Secretary Nuland, as well as Assistant Secretary Biswal and a number of other senior officials.
QUESTION: So this is not a sign of displeasure with Ukraine?
QUESTION: But it was reported – well, it was announced –just after the decision of Ukraine authorities not to – I mean, to stop the preparation to sign the association agreement in Vilnius at the Eastern Partnership Summit on Friday. So then the decision was announced that he – the Secretary of State is not going to Kyiv. It was clear linked --
AMBASSADOR BAER: I’m aware of the timing of the decision, and as I said, the Secretary’s schedule no longer allows him to attend.
QUESTION: Yeah, but since then, we have this big manifestation on the street, so the situation is changing.
AMBASSADOR BAER: Well, I don’t think the situation is changing because I think our assessment has been all along that the vast majority of Ukrainians rightly recognize that a European future is the best future for the people of Ukraine, and we commend the EU for – despite last week’s actions – leaving the door open to that European future, and we continue to think that in the long run, that European future is the one that holds the most promise for Ukraine. And that commitment to the people of Ukraine is steadfast.
QUESTION: So another follow-up on that: Is this a sign of the displeasure, or isn’t it? And if it – (laughter) – and can we expect – can they expect, the Ukrainians, any further repercussions for the, quote-un-quote, “wrong choice”?
AMBASSADOR BAER: As I said, Secretary Kerry’s schedule no longer allows him to go. In terms of repercussions, I think what is interesting to me about the OSCE meeting next week is one of the principles of the OSCE is that states should be able to make decisions based not on coercion, and I think that there will be an interesting conversation to be had about the range of pressure that has come from outside of Ukraine recently. (Laughter.) And --
QUESTION: Yeah, it will be of interest. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So you expect the decision (inaudible) repercussion about (inaudible) situation on the (inaudible).
AMBASSADOR BAER: Well, I expect that what is on your mind will be on the mind of ministers not only from Ukraine and Russia and a number of European countries, but from every minister in the OSCE area.
MODERATOR: I think we’ve covered that one pretty well. New topics?
QUESTION: Yes. My question is about the OSCE Minsk Group and the upcoming meeting between the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia on the margins of the meeting in Kyiv. What do you expect from this meeting? And to quote one of the Minsk Group co-chairs, have the sides identified clearly their positions? And what steps do you think will be taken next?
AMBASSADOR BAER: I’m going to be unsatisfactory to you in advance, so I apologize, but, the meeting that happened last Tuesday in Vienna, you will have seen the statement from the Minsk Group co-chairs at the end of that meeting. As you said, I think we have long had the position that there needs to be a negotiated, not military solution to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. And in that respect, this engagement, which was the first in almost two years, is an important step, and both leaders are to be commended for that. And we are glad that there will be a follow-up not long after that, a chance for the foreign ministers to meet.
I don’t want to prejudge what the content of their conversation will be, but we will continue to support the Minsk Group, and obviously, the U.S. is one of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group, and Ambassador Warlick has been working very, very tirelessly along with his colleagues. And we will continue to support their efforts to support the parties in finding a durable solution.
QUESTION: Do you know if they’re still using the Madrid Principles as the main base for negotiation?
AMBASSADOR BAER: I don’t know the basis, and one of the things is that when the presidents met last week, they met one on one. And obviously, there’s a value in meeting one on one, in that you can have a kind of conversation that is difficult to have not one on one. It also makes it harder to know exactly what the specifics of the conversation are. And so, like I said, we just continue to support the efforts of the two sides to engage with one another, and to find a non-military solution to the conflict.
MR. CHADWICK: I saw a question in the back from Tolga.
QUESTION: Another frozen crisis, actually. I had a question on Cyprus. The OSCE taking any initiative on this issue? I know that the UN has more – much more information on the process, but you attend – will you take any initiative on this issue, on Cyprus, in terms of – to find a solution to the problem?
And another second one: The human trafficking in terms of the Syrians – Syrian refugees, because the number of Syrian refugees only in Turkey is approximately one million, and there are a lot of press reports that those people are trying to pass to Europe through Turkey (inaudible), maybe last year or maybe the last two years. So do you have any detail that you can share with us on this issue?
AMBASSADOR BAER: Let me take the second one first. In terms of human trafficking, as you know, the OSCE has a special representative on human trafficking who is a force of nature, Maria Grazia, and she is very actively engaged. And a lot of the work that the OSCE has done on trafficking, both in terms of the action plan that states are signed up for, as well as work through field offices, et cetera, is about getting the systems in place to be able to counter trafficking effectively. And certainly, UNHCR has a rep who liaises with the OSCE in Vienna and provides updates – factual updates, et cetera – about refugee flows, et cetera, that – whether they’re stemming from the OSCE area or coming into the OSCE area – that can be helpful for states in responding to those flows. Obviously, any large movement of very vulnerable people opens up the possibility for trafficking and a range of other scourges, and so I think you’re right to draw attention to that. And one of the opportunities, I suppose – assuming that we adopt this addendum to the trafficking action plan – is to ask about how that addendum might apply to new challenges that stem from the conflict in Syria.
In terms of Cyprus, there hasn’t been recently anything new to report in terms of OSCE engagement on Cyprus. Obviously, the way the OSCE works, either you have a formal decisions or formal processes, et cetera, or participating states, including Cyprus can bring up issues at any time. So I don’t think it’s foreclosed, but there hasn’t been – I wouldn’t say there’s anything particularly new to report.
QUESTION: Do you have any concrete data on the Syrians, I mean, in terms of there’s human trafficking or refugees in flux to Europe from --
AMBASSADOR BAER: I mean, I’ve seen a lot of reports, particularly from UNHCR and other organizations, including civil society organizations. I don’t have them with me, but, I have been following that, and I know that, obviously, not only Turkey, but other countries in the region – Jordan and Lebanon – are very acutely focused on the refugee issue.
QUESTION: I’m from Ukrainian News Agency, Natalja Kostina. So I wanted to ask you two questions, one shorter: What could you say about U.S. evaluation of Ukraine presidency in OSCE?
And the second: Could you elaborate please, what you think about outside pressure on Ukraine? Is it – means that OSCE going to discuss the more broadly questions and outside pressure on countries of eastern partnership, and what form of (inaudible) might be some resolution?
AMBASSADOR BAER: In terms of the Ukrainian chairmanship, obviously, I got to Vienna in September, and I would say that I have a very strong working relationship with my Ukrainian counterpart who is chairing the permanent council meetings, et cetera, and running day-to-day the chairmanship on behalf of Foreign Minister Kozhara. And they have worked, I think, very hard to be diligent brokers among 57, which is what the chair does.
And next week will be an opportunity for them to continue to steward the process, and hopefully deliver some outcomes that everyone can get behind. I think this has been an important opportunity for Ukraine to demonstrate its commitment to the principles that underlie the OSCE, and there has been engagement – trafficking has been something that they’ve engaged very strongly on, et cetera.
And right now, what’s going on in the streets of Kyiv – is also relevant to the OSCE. One of the things that we’ve heard from civil society over the last few years is they think that we, the other governments, should do a better job of holding the chair in office to account for living up to the principles that they’ve committed to through the OSCE. And I think this is an opportunity. The world is watching. Freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, go on in a dramatic fashion in the streets of Kyiv right now, and we hope that all sides of the debate will continue to be able to exercise those freedoms, and to do so peacefully going forward. So I think this is – it wasn’t, I’m sure, intended this way, but this is a moment where Ukraine's own record on the OSCE more broadly is on display.
I think in terms of outside pressure, there has been well-documented and visible pressure coming from Russia to dissuade Ukraine from the association agreement. I think that there’s no question that the short-term threats are something that the government was very focused on, and that obviously we continue to see the long-term promise of closer integration with Europe, like the vast majority of Ukrainians, as something that is compelling.
QUESTION: Yet the government cited the pressure from the West and in the form of the IMF, for instance.
AMBASSADOR BAER: I think there’s some interesting statements coming from a number of quarters about pressure, and it’s almost too much to – some of it almost defies reason, but I think there’s been many months where it’s been obvious that there’s been strong pressure exerted not only on Ukraine, but on others to dissuade integration with Europe.
QUESTION: Brian Beary, Europolitics. You mentioned others. My question is on Moldova, the next target of Russia. Has the Moldova and Transnistria conflict – has that come up in the OSCE, and is there any new developments to report on Moldova?
AMBASSADOR BAER: Yes. It’s another one of the protracted conflicts in the OSCE area that hold us back from the kind of vision of a European and Eurasian security community that is whole and free. And last week, actually, in the permanent council, the head of mission for the OSCE mission in Moldova presented, and one of the things she highlighted is that the OSCE mission in Moldova has a mandate which includes work in Transnistria. And increasingly, the access of the OSCE mission to Transnistria is being restricted, and that prevents the kind of confidence building and trust building work that the OSCE mission should be doing in Moldova.
Aside from the work on the ground, the --
QUESTION: Who’s restricting that, then?
AMBASSADOR BAER: The Transnistrians are restricting that.
The work – aside from the work on the ground, the 5+2 talks have – the last round of talks was earlier this month. I think it was November 5th and 6th. Don’t quote me on the dates. But they have continued. There has not been, I would say, a breakthrough. But that continues to be the forum in which a long-term solution is being worked towards. I think there was a very interesting and lengthy statement from the Moldovan Permanent Representative to the OSCE last week that bears looking at. He’s the former Deputy Foreign Minister, the ambassador in Vienna now, and he laid out a number of steps that the government in Chisinau is taking to try to both advance European integration and also bring a solution that works on both sides of the river.
QUESTION: Do you think that there’s actually progress – there’s regress in Transnistria and that there seems to be a movement away from a rapprochement and bringing Transnistria back in, if what you’re saying about they’re not giving access to the OSCE?
AMBASSADOR BAER: I don’t want to characterize – I don’t think that there’s been progress, and I think that in order for there to be the kind of situation on the ground that gives the best economic opportunity and overall social and political opportunity to all Moldovans, including those living in Transnistria, there needs to be the kind of work that allows for people on both sides of the river to engage. And one of the things that the head of office highlighted was that recently they had to cancel a youth program that was bringing together students from both sides of the river, and they had to cancel because they couldn’t get access. And whatever the political process that’s playing out among adults, it seems particularly sad to be denying young people the chance to get together and build bridges.
QUESTION: Can I ask you – sorry, Cvetin Chilimanov from the Macedonian Information Agency. Can I ask you to give a brief overview on the Balkans? There are many situations in which OSCE was involved. There were the elections in Kosovo, Albania, which were – there were casualties, but they were broadly considered to have went well. There was orderly transition of power in Serbia. And there is a country-specific issue which sometimes comes up in Macedonia that – do you think that the resources of OSCE are well-placed? I mean, we have an outsized OSCE mission and it’s the case in other countries in this formerly troubled region which is on the mend of (inaudible). So do you think that this is a proper balance of resources?
AMBASSADOR BAER: I think that overall, we see a range of success stories around the Balkans in terms of the positive contributions that OSCE field missions have made in the region. Obviously, one of the challenges of my job is that some of the most interesting work that the OSCE is doing is happening below the radar screen through these field missions, which include a large number of professionals spread across the OSCE area who are working every day with government and civil society in capitals to try to support progress in meeting OSCE commitments, but the kind of progress that makes people’s lives better day by day.
I think we see the field missions in the Balkans have and continue to play a very important role. Obviously, the – you referenced the recent elections, particularly in northern Kosovo. And there, that took engagement not only from the mission in Kosovo, but also there were staff from neighboring missions who came to help support the carrying-out of those elections, which despite the violence in north Mitrovica, the rerun happened last week and we think the overall story coming out of that is a good one. And that’s the latest, perhaps most visible of late success story of the OSCE field presence.
Overall, I think, as you said, the kind of balance of resources – I think in a gradual way, it makes sense. There’s enormous contributions that can be made, particularly in Central Asia, and to shift some of the resources not in any drastic fashion, but to shift some of the resources from the Balkans to Central Asia to make sure that we are providing as much support to those missions as we are in the Balkans. Given the success that we’ve seen, I think it’s important. And one of the aspects of the success has been being properly resourced. And so I think it’s important that we make sure that the missions in Central Asia are properly resourced to be able to provide the kind of support to progress that they can.
MODERATOR: Are there any other questions?
QUESTION: On (inaudible) issue, I had a quick question (inaudible), especially in touch with the press freedom issues. What is the framework of OSCE in terms of – when it comes to press freedom? Because I know that the Administration is very also sensitive on this issue and that you were raising this question (inaudible) with the allies (inaudible) with the countries like Turkey, et cetera, but what is the framework on the working – framework of OSCE when it comes to press freedom?
AMBASSADOR BAER: Well, there are – throughout OSCE documents from Helsinki forward, starting with the Helsinki Final Act forward, press freedom has often been explicitly treated in OSCE documents. There is a special office, an institution within the OSCE, the Representative on Freedom of the Media – currently is a woman named Dunja Mijatovic who is very actively engaged in doing country visits, providing support, monitoring, and reporting on restrictions on press freedom or things that could be a threat to press freedom throughout the OSCE area. So I would say there is the heritage of political commitments that address press freedom, as well as institutional mechanics to support press freedom. And obviously, it has to do with both the legal infrastructure that exists at a country level or otherwise that addresses freedom of the media, increasingly that addresses online issues, et cetera, as well as specific incidents, violence against journalists or specific incidents of censorship, et cetera. So there’s a range of press freedom issues that make it onto the radar screen.
A couple years ago, we started work on a draft declaration called Fundamental Freedoms in the Digital Age that addressed press freedom, as well as broader internet freedom-related issues, and that draft declaration now has 48 cosponsors and 51 supporters out of 57. So in any other organization, that would be a landslide slam dunk. Obviously, with consensus-based decision making, the last few remain outstanding. And one of the things that we’ve been doing is encouraging people to – of the governments who haven’t yet signed on to ask their governments what they’re so afraid of in signing up to Fundamental Freedoms in the Digital Age. Their not signing up doesn’t mean they don’t apply, but it is a curious thing that some governments seem reticent to do so.
QUESTION: So your job is more to create in this kind of mechanism (inaudible)?
AMBASSADOR BAER: Well, I mean, the OSCE does work in a number of ways, and one of the ways is by establishing political commitments at the level of states. And another way is the practical on-the-ground work that the institutions like the ODIHR and the Representative on Freedom of the Media do, as well as the field offices. And I think the United States sees value in both of those prongs, that it is useful for states to get together and – as they have for almost 40 years in the OSCE context, and to make political commitments. And it’s useful for us to have the practical work that not only helps support the implementation of those commitments, but also many times those people on the ground are best positioned to be able to identify where the gaps are, and that’s very important.
And obviously, one of the unique parts of the OSCE is that civil society has the opportunity to engage on an equal footing with states once a year at the Human Dimension Meeting in Warsaw, and that gives them a chance to give their feedback on where gaps exist. The United States makes a very strong point of engaging with civil society every year at the ministerial, having – giving civil society activists who – the leaders of our delegation, et cetera, so that we can make sure that as we are speaking to our fellow states in a government capacity, we are reflecting views that we are hearing from people on the ground, particularly in those places where governments don’t fully represent their people.
QUESTION: May I have another one on the same subject (inaudible)? You probably saw the Foreign Policy article about the – again, the German president and the (inaudible) on the – encompassing the rights and freedoms of an individual in the international (inaudible) and then including the internet. And they claimed – the Foreign Policy claimed – quoting a diplomat supporting the U.S. position, that the U.S. position is that the human rights basically exist within national boundaries and the governments are supposed to uphold the human rights within their boundaries, but that the U.S. position is that it is not necessarily true that the rights also exist internationally, so to speak. There is – their point obviously was that since the Americans are doing the spying, and they don’t want the spying to stop, so they don’t want this idea of rights to become transnational. Is that true or not? What – that is probably a faulty argument from your point of view, but where is the fault?
AMBASSADOR BAER: The United States has been at the forefront of leading the international movement to recognize and encode human rights in international law for 70 years, beginning with Eleanor Roosevelt, and there is no question and no reason to question the fact that the United States sees every person around the world, every individual around the world, as entitled to human rights and fundamental freedoms.
I think there’s a danger in looking at the minutiae of back-and-forth negotiation over particular textual language and drawing large conclusions from a policy position, but I think if you want to take – if you want an articulation of the policy position, President Obama, when he came into office, was very clear, and many of the steps that he took in his first few days were a sign of his personal and the United States commitment to a world in which there are no law-free zones, a world in which universal standards apply to everyone, including ourselves.
QUESTION: Guantanamo is still there.
AMBASSADOR BAER: Pardon?
QUESTION: And Guantanamo is still there.
AMBASSADOR BAER: Yeah. Guantanamo – the President has made very clear his commitment to close Guantanamo, and has redoubled efforts recently. And there are some political systems that have less problems with obstacles because they are less democratic, and one of the challenges in a democracy is that sometimes change doesn’t come as fast as you would like it. But we continue to see the balance in – we see the payoff in having the opportunity to have people have genuine public debates, and there are genuine public debates happening right now, as well as concrete practical action on behalf of the President.
QUESTION: So you support international rights, transnational human rights? You support --
AMBASSADOR BAER: As I said, I think the United States is clearly on record in being a strong defender of the truth that all human beings everywhere are entitled to human rights.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Do we have any – one last question or – I don’t see any hands, so I think we’ll wrap up for today. Thank you all very much for coming. Thank you, Ambassador, for joining us.
AMBASSADOR BAER: Thank you.
# # #