Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana has taken over the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe during a time of democratic promise in the Balkans. In an interview with RFE/RL correspondent Robert McMahon in New York, Geoana speaks about the need for closer ties between the OSCE and UN to resolve the security problems throughout the former communist region in transition.
United Nations, 30 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The new chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, has urged the UN Security Council to work more closely with his organization to improve efforts at conflict prevention and crisis management.
Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana is concluding his first month as OSCE chief with a visit to UN headquarters in New York. He met behind closed doors with the Security Council yesterday (Monday) in a meeting that focused on the prospects for provincial elections in Kosovo later this year.
The OSCE currently trains candidates for the Kosovo police force and is involved in promoting democracy and civil society in the Serbian province. Geoana told council members closer cooperation is needed between the OSCE and UN mission that runs Kosovo to prepare for elections later this year.
He said any decisions by the United Nations on setting up new elected institutions should be made in consultation with the OSCE, which has the responsibility for organizing elections.
Following yesterday's meeting, Geoana discussed priority areas for the OSCE under Romania's chairmanship in an interview with RFE/RL. Cooperation with the Security Council, he said, is crucial and he was encouraged by the 90-minute meeting.
"I think it's a very good start. It's a first in the history of both organizations to have such a meeting and our intention is to work ever closer with the UN, its agencies and really have a synergistic vision about the mutual role our two institutions are playing at the global and regional levels."
The Romanian foreign minister proposed that the two organizations could start by establishing a formal method for exchanging information gathered from common field missions in crisis areas. He said the UN and OSCE should also attend each other's meetings on topics of common concern, such as conflict resolution and organizing elections.
The council issued a short statement after the meeting saying it had a "constructive discussion" with Geoana but did not mention any specifics.
Geoana told our correspondent he was encouraged by the support his organization has received so far from the new government of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica. The OSCE is in the process of setting up a Belgrade office that will deal with sensitive issues such as the future role of Kosovo and the republic of Montenegro in a future Yugoslavia.
Geoana says Romania's chairmanship of the OSCE will try to strengthen democracy in Yugoslavia and bring it back into what he called "the European mainstream."
"There are lots of things of concern there -- the relationship between Belgrade and Podgorica, the situation in Presevo and southern Serbia -- and of course we're trying to look at the role of OSCE missions in southeastern Europe and the western Balkans mainly in a more integrated way."
The OSCE faces a potentially more challenging task in Belarus, where its mission is charged with trying to ensure presidential elections later this year are free and fair. Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in a television address during the weekend that the OSCE was conspiring with domestic opponents of his government to overthrow his rule. He accused the West of trying to find what he called a Belarusian "version of Kostunica" to replace him.
The OSCE denied the claim, and its chairman yesterday said his organization was committed to helping Belarus hold democratic elections.
"I do believe the OSCE has a role and a duty in engaging the authorities in Minsk for making sure that this time the upcoming elections will be in compliance with European norms of democratic elections, free access of the opposition to the electronic media, and so on and so forth."
Belarus held parliamentary elections last October after a campaign in which the opposition was largely shut out of government-controlled media. The OSCE and other international organizations described the polling as undemocratic.
Geoana said his discussions with Security Council members yesterday also covered what he termed "frozen conflicts" such as in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenian and Azerbaijani officials remain far apart over the status of Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan. But Geoana said last week's admission of the two countries into the Council of Europe and subsequent talks by the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Paris indicate there may be some new willingness to reach a political settlement.
He said he is also hoping to return OSCE monitors to Chechnya. Geoana is due to make a one-day trip to Moscow next week and hopes to get security assurances from Russian officials that will allow monitors to return to northern Chechnya.
Geoana said he also is optimistic about making progress on political and economic reforms in Central Asia, despite recent surveys that show some countries in the region regressing.
"Central Asia represents one of the most significant areas of the 21st century. There is a significant strategic, economic and, I would say, even moral importance that we attach to the future of this part of the world."
The OSCE chairman said his organization needs to continue to promote democracy and open society in Central Asia but also must not neglect economic reforms. He said areas of particular concern in Central Asia are water resources, organized crime, and terrorism.