THE HAGUE, June 29 (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya). Reform of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was central to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's talks in the Netherlands on June 27-28.
Russia is above all unsatisfied with the election monitoring procedure and frequently biased work of the OSCE missions.
This is a painful issue for Russia, particularly after the OSCE focused on monitoring elections and the political situation in former Soviet republics, including the self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia (the Caucasus) and Transdnestr (a region in Moldova where ethnic Russians are in the majority) that traditionally rely on Russia's support. Moscow is also unhappy that OSCE observers had the final say in judging the transparency and democratic character of the elections. However, Russian diplomats doubt the objectivity of OSCE observers.
"It is important for us to understand who appoints heads of various OSCE missions, including those that monitor elections, and who authorizes them," Lavrov said following talks with his Dutch counterpart, Bernard Bot. Lavrov said the procedure for appointing mission heads remained unclear.
Diplomatic sources in the OSCE told RIA Novosti that the organization's decision-making mechanism had been unregulated for 15 years, which meant OSCE mission leaders could maneuver and make conclusions depending on the political situation.
By way of example, Lavrov said William Walker, the head of the OSCE mission in Yugoslavia in 1999, came up with conclusions under U.S. pressure that led NATO to decide in favor of launching air strikes against Yugoslavia. Walker then visited the village of Racak where he found tens of corpses, and immediately said it was an act of genocide. Lavrov said Walker's "statement prompted many governments that planned to use force to bring the order to Yugoslavia that they thought was correct to say 'our patience has been exhausted, we're using force'."
It is still unclear what exactly happened in Racak. According to Lavrov, the EU later ordered a report from Finnish pathologists. The report was given to the EU and then handed over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Some details then leaked to the press. According to media reports, the pathologists' conclusions refuted Walker's statements and said the dead bodies had belonged to soldiers dressed in civilian clothes. Ironically, despite Russia's insistent requests, the report was never presented to the UN Security Council, which had actually set up the Tribunal.
"I have personally spoken to Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the Tribunal," Lavrov said. "Under various excuses such as confidentiality or technical problems, she only provided the UN Security Council with a few general summaries of the report, which gave no answers to the key questions. We recently tried to obtain the report, but we were told that it had been lost." This example indicates once again the responsibility of the OSCE mission heads and what serious consequences a single mistake can have.
"Therefore, we want to know who authorizes them to do what," he said. Moreover, they represent Moscow's interests too, though de jure and not de facto, as Moscow is a full-fledged member of the OSCE. In other words, Russia basically pays for its interests to be undermined in the former Soviet republics.
Russia raised the question of the OSCE reform, including its financing mechanisms, at the summit of the OSCE Foreign Ministers' Council in Sofia in November 2004. Moscow does not want to be responsible for others' mistakes. However, the organization's highest-ranking officials failed to take Russia's proposals into consideration then. Presently, the situation is changing, slowly but surely, according to Foreign Ministry officials. However, if OSCE nations do not apply their current realization in practice, Russia might have to implement the emergency measures it has promised: blocking the OSCE budget.