The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is completing a draft of what Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana is calling "an OSCE-wide plan of action" for the fight against terrorism. The plan is to be polished and adopted in early December at an OSCE Ministerial Council in Bucharest. The plan will also inform an OSCE-sponsored conference on counterterrorism the following week in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. RFE/RL correspondent Don Hill traces the OSCE's efforts to move its counterterrorism activities from the general to the specific.
Prague, 28 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is determined to get specific about the fight against terrorism.
Romania, the present holder of the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE, is urging all 55 OSCE participating states to join in developing a counterterrorism action plan for consideration at an OSCE Ministerial Council meeting next week in Romania's capital, Bucharest.
And Kyrgyzstan has offered to host an OSCE conference on counterterrorism in Central Asia in its capital, Bishkek, in mid-December.
These two meetings are seen as crucial toward helping the OSCE develop a systematic program for moving its part in the global fight against terrorism from the general to the specific -- that is, from talk to action.
Keith Jinks, acting spokesperson for the OSCE, said by telephone today from Vienna that the OSCE Ministerial Council in Bucharest will differ from typical sessions. The OSCE commonly schedules its ministerial-level councils in years when it has not set a summit. And the meetings ordinarily are general, their agendas listing virtually all of the live issues before the organization.
Jinks said the two-day council in Bucharest, which begins on 3 December, will concentrate on one topic above all others: counterterrorism.
"The OSCE is holding its Ministerial Council on the third and fourth of December. High on the agenda will be a decision on an action plan on combating terrorism. This plan was actually called for by the foreign minister of Romania, Mircea Geoana, who is the current chairperson of the OSCE."
The OSCE is not prepared yet to talk in detail about the action plan, nor about the conference scheduled for 14 and 15 December in Bishkek. But preparations for both have made its direction evident.
The OSCE began life almost 30 years ago as a conference -- the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, or CSCE. Its mission? To promote East-West relations. In November 1990, the CSCE played a central role in developing the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, a significant arms-control agreement.
By 1994, the conference's participants recognized that it had grown beyond a mere conference and changed its name to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov agrees with Romanian Foreign Minister Geoana that the OSCE's approach to counterterrorism is one of the most important issues the group has ever addressed. The Russian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement calling the upcoming Ministerial Council vital for the future of the OSCE.
The Russian statement said terrorism comprises a direct challenge to the world community and that the OSCE faces -- as the statement puts it -- "a complex task of developing collective responses of the civilized community to this and other threats."
In calling for an OSCE-wide counterterrorism action plan, Geoana said a broad coalition is needed. He said elements of the action plan should demonstrate political solidarity, address root causes, use partnerships and cooperation, and join sub-regional and regional initiatives.
Jinks, the OSCE spokesman, said today that the OSCE's staff is completing a draft version of the action plan. It will be polished next week by the Permanent Council -- comprising member nations' ambassadors to the OSCE -- and then adopted by the foreign ministers at the Ministerial Council. Jinks says: "At the moment, the work is still continuing on formulating the action plan. There will probably be another meeting at the weekend prior to the Ministerial Council where all the T's will be crossed and the I's will be dotted on the plan before [it is] submitted to the foreign ministers of the 55 participating states."
Adrian Severin, chairman of the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly, expressed views during a recent visit to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, that have been widely held in the OSCE since the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States. He said stability in Europe depends directly on stability in Central Asia.
Tashkent was the venue in October 2000 of a conference on ways to fight terrorism, illegal drug commerce, organized crime, and trafficking in human beings. This year's conference in Bishkek, which will follow a similar theme, assumes a larger significance after the events of 11 September.
Kyrgyzstan's ambassador to the OSCE, Alikbek Jekshenkulov, proposed on 20 September that this year's conference be held in his country.
The action plan that the OSCE's Ministerial Council expects to adopt in December will certainly provide a basis for deliberations at the Bishkek conference.
The talks in Bishkek are to be both broader and more detailed than previous such discussions. They will be broader in that they will involve not only the OSCE but also UN agencies, NATO, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and other international bodies. They will be more detailed in that they are to take aim at problems specific to Central Asia, including criminal activities that help provide funding to terrorists.