By Bruce Pannier
Kazakhstan To Assume OSCE Chairmanship In 2010
Kazakhstan will become the first ex-Soviet state to assume the chairmanship of the OSCE, it was announced here at the
close of the organization's annual ministerial meeting. The oil-rich Central Asian state will occupy the chair in 2010
-- one year later than it had sought, OSCE Deputy Spokesperson Virginie Coulloudon told RFE/RL just after the two-day
summit's final press conference yesterday.
The United States reportedly gave its backing after securing a Kazakh "pledge" that Astana would "protect" the OSCE's
election-monitoring body, whose role Russia had proposed to alter.
Contentious Image Boost
Astana had considered it symbolically important that Kazakhstan be the first of the former Soviet republics to lead the
56-country organization. The Kazakh government has for years told its people that holding the OSCE chairmanship would
show that the international community was taking notice of Kazakhstan's growing importance in the world community.
Critics pointed to the contradiction between Kazakhstan's weak human-rights record and the OSCE's stated goals to
promote democracy and human rights.
The OSCE's election-monitoring arm, the Organization for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), monitored
Kazakhstan's parliamentary elections in August and acknowledged that the country had made progress, but said a number of
international standards went unmet.
Russia, meanwhile, solidly backed Kazakhstan's bid for the OSCE chairmanship.
Speaking in Madrid on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov chided detractors.
"Unfortunately, during the several years that have preceded today's meeting, there were absolutely unacceptable and
unseemly maneuvers concerning this bid aimed at creating conditions on the right of a specific country -- an equal
member of the OSCE -- to chair this organization by making demands on its internal and external policies," Lavrov said.
Russia and the United States came into the summit with sharply different views on a number of issues, most pertaining to
Moscow's efforts to reorient the OSCE and its agencies toward security issues and away from the democracy agenda.
In Madrid, their differences were on display in the cool response Washington gave to Moscow's proposal -- backed by
Kazakhstan and five other CIS countries -- to limit to 50 the number of ODIHR monitors sent to cover any future election
and to put monitoring teams under the control of participating states.
"The United States will protect ODIHR," U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said Friday.
"We will oppose the Russian proposal, which would weaken and perhaps even cripple ODIHR. We will not support any
compromise proposal that would be negative or problematic or damaging to ODIHR."
The issue was clearly in the spotlight after the OSCE earlier this cancelled its mission to observe Russia's December 2
election because Moscow had repeatedly denied visa requests to ODIHR observers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin subsequently accused the United States of being behind the OSCE's decision to pull out
-- an allegation strongly denied by U.S. officials.
Russian officials, meanwhile, denied that they were attempting to undermine ODIHR.
"I think that no one in the OSCE, including the Russian Federation, intends to weaken the mandate of ODIHR," Lavrov said
Friday. "This mandate, anyway, is weak -- totally vague -- and we want to strengthen it, and we are going to work on
ODIHR head Christian Strohal countered that opinion during an interview with RFE/RL on the sidelines of the summit.
"We have a mandate for a long-term observation, and we try to fulfill this mandate as professionally and as effectively
as we can," Strohal said. "We also appreciate the fact that we are joined in many elections which we observe by the
parliamentarians from the Parliamentary Assembly [of the OSCE], who bring the particular expertise of politicians,
parliamentarians who bring the particular expertise of politicians, parliamentarians.""
In the end, compromise reportedly led to Kazakhstan being chosen to head the OSCE in 2010 and agreement on who would
lead the organization through 2011.
Greece was chosen as chairman in 2009, and Lithuania in 2011. Finland had already been set take over the chairmanship
from Spain in 2008.
In closing out the summit, OSCE Chairman in Office Miguel Angel Moratinos said the developments were a sign of the
stability of the organization.
But the jawboning that dominated much of the Madrid meeting could bolster perceptions that the most influential of the
organization's participating states are moving along sharply different trajectories.