RFE/RL: Can you tell us why you are in Washington?
Marc Perrin de Brichambaut: It's always good to be in Washington and make the case that OSCE is a very effective, capable organization that addresses many of the concerns of the parties in Washington, in terms of promoting stability, promoting security, promoting democracy and freedom, and being an inclusive organization -- does so along with 56 other participating states. So that the message here that I'm carrying is that the OSCE needs U.S. engagement politically, in terms of manpower, in terms of resources, and it needs U.S. suggestions, inventions, attention.
RFE/RL: What are some of your hopes and fears for Kosovo?
De Brichambaut: Well, Kosovo is a place where the OSCE is involved in a rather big way. We have 1,000 people working there, trying at a grassroots level to create democratic practices, sound institutions, the protection of minorities. And this is demanding, and this also includes assistance to the central authorities in Pristina in terms of the parliamentary assembly, in terms of judiciary, in terms of the media. So we are in a long-haul relationship based on trust, and based on creating the capabilities of the Kosovars themselves to run a viable state. We are, in that sense, not directly involved in the discussions on the future status, but we stand ready to do our work with whoever will be in charge of Kosovo provided of course that the conditions are right and our participating states can unanimously give us a mandate to do so.
RFE/RL: How is the OSCE's work in Belarus going?
De Brichambaut: The presence of the OSCE in Minsk has always been trying to be in contact with various political candidates who are being [detained] or who are under [surveillance]. Reporting on these developments does raise some difficulties with the Belarusian authorities. We shall see how we report it, but it is our firm intention to do it, on the ground.
RFE/RL: Do you agree with those who believe Lukashenka's position toward the West might be easing?
De Brichambaut: Because [Lukashanka] has delicate relations with [his] other neighbors, particularly in the field of energy, I understand that the leadership of Belarus is trying to also diversify its contacts. But it seems from the EU side, improvements in the respect for civil liberties is a serious precondition for those new contacts to materialize. As far as the OSCE is concerned, Belarus is a full participating state -- a very present and active one -- and it accepts a presence in Minsk, which has done some useful work and projects with the Belarusian authorities.
RFE/RL: On March 24 violence broke out in the unrecognized republic of Abkhazi in Georgia. Do you have details on the incident, and has this raised the OSCE's level of concern?
De Brichambaut: Abkhazia is not directly followed by the OSCE -- it is the responsibility of the UN. But nevertheless, we follow [it] very closely. ]On March 24), by nighttime, there were a number of explosions in a number of villages and facilities in the Khodori [Gorge], which is currently the place where a counter government supported by Georgia has been installed. An inquiry is taking place as to the origins of those explosions, which do involve powerful weapons. The Russian Federation has said in Vienna publicly that it had no involvement and no role in such damaging events.
RFE/RL: Russia has been an outspoken critic of the OSCE. What are some of the reasons you think it opposes the work of the OSCE and do you see any areas of possibly cooperation?
De Brichambaut: Russia is a major stakeholder in the OSCE. It has always been, and has been for a few years a voice of active criticism and desire for reform of some aspects of the work of the OSCE, demanding more balance between the different dimensions of the OSCE, demanding more changes in the way the OSCE organizes its work in the human dimension, particularly the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and demanding more presence of Russians and of Russian nationals, and of Russian interests in the organization. And Russians are genuinely interested in working through the OSCE on issues like drug trafficking, like fighting against terrorism, like promoting environment, like promoting border management. So we are trying to take every opportunity to promote those possibilities with them.
RFE/RL: In Central Asia, where do you see progress? Is Kazakhstan's bid to take over the OSCE chair propelling reforms in that country?
De Brichambaut: Kazakhstan is trying to get the chairmanship of the OSCE in 2009. It has been campaigning vigorously for this in the course of the last two years at the highest level and has been deploying signs that it wants to make adjustments in its institutions, in its practices, to show that it cares about OSCE values and commitments and that it is making progress in implementing them, i.e., that it is worthy of chairing the organization. They are continuing and the official policy of Kazakhstan is that they do expect at the Madrid ministers' meeting [in] November to be given the responsibility of chairing the organization during calendar year 2009.
RFE/RL: Has the change of leadership in Turkmenistan brought any positive developments?
De Brichambaut: I met with President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. He spontaneously asked me [for] help, in order to improve the election system, the legislation, the Central Election Commission. He spontaneously asked the OSCE to get involved in the field of education, in the field of border management, and he pledged that there would be very active Turkmen participation in our meetings and very active invitations from Turkmenistan to have OSCE's meetings in Ashgabat and [other] Turkmen cities. So this is a very encouraging and welcome development.
RFE/RL: Do you have reason for optimism in Uzbekistan?
De Brichambaut: Well first, Uzbekistan is having an active dialogue with the European Union on the assessment of the [May 2005] Andijon events, on future cooperation in the field of human rights. And we are developing, in our office in Tashkent, a number of new programs with Uzbekistan, which are quite promising and quite positive. And we certainly expect that this is going to lead us to broaden our involvement in the development of Uzbekistan, which will probably have to have a presidential election by the end of this year.
READY TO LEAD THE OSCE? Kazakhstan has been lobbying to be granted the rotating chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2009. In March, current OSCE head Karel De Gucht visited the country and said Kazakhstan is better prepared to head the OSCE than any other Central Asian country. But concerns about the state of democracy, the media, and ethnic relations make Kazakhstan's bid extremely controversial....(more)