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Montenegrin Forensic Centre Ballistic Laboratory receives international accreditation

OSCE - Mon, 02/05/2024 - 12:20
562365 Marina Živaljević

With the support of the OSCE Mission to Montenegro, the Ballistic Laboratory of the Forensic Centre has been officially accredited in line with international standards – ISO 17025, enhancing the credibility and reliability of forensic analysis.

The Forensic Centre is dedicated to achieving the highest professional standards in its work, with international accreditation of its chemical laboratoryies for drug testing, the DNA laboratory, fingerprint and gunshot residues (GSR) laboratories, and now for ballistics.

Supporting regional co-operation and exchange of experience and good practices, the Mission engaged ballistic experts from the Forensic Centre of North Macedonia to support Montenegrin counterparts in the accreditation process.

Upon receiving this official accreditation, Dr. Sandra Kovačević, Head of the Forensic Centre, stated that it provides police and the law enforcement agencies with tools needed to more effectively address security challenges.  “The support of the OSCE Mission has not only improved our capabilities, but has also contributed to the broader goal of enhancing regional security through more effective forensic practices,” said Dr. Kovačević.

Dominique Waag, Head of OSCE Mission, congratulated the Head of the Forensic Centre, Dr. Sandra Kovačević, for this important achievement and underscored the Mission’s partnership with the Centre, which has been forged over the years, and said she is keenly aware of the pivotal role that Forensic Centre plays in ensuring the proper gathering and analysis of evidence for effective law enforcement and the fair adjudication of cases in courts as he final instance. “The meticulous work carried out by the Forensic Centre significantly contributes to the strength and integrity of the criminal justice system. Properly handled and scientifically validated evidence not only enhances the credibility of investigations but also upholds the principles of justice and the rule of law,” said Ambassador Waag.

The OSCE has supported the Forensic Centre since its inception in 2008, both in terms of providing equipment and professional training and mentoring to its scientists, including the accreditation processes. In 2024, the Mission will help the Forensic Centre to fill a gap in its experts by training a new ballistics examiner in the newly certified ballistics laboratory, and in order to acquire knowledge of best practice.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Chair-in-Office Minister Ian Borg completes visit to Ukraine, reaffirms OSCE’s steadfast support as country faces dire effects of Russia’s war

OSCE - Sat, 02/03/2024 - 10:23

KYIV, 3 February 2024 - The OSCE Chair-in-Office, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade of Malta Ian Borg, completed his visit to Ukraine.

In Kyiv, the Chair-in-Office Minister Borg met with the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba.

“My first visit as Chair-in-Office reinforces our unequivocal and unwavering commitment to support Ukraine and to keep Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine at the top of the OSCE agenda. Every death is a tragedy and too many lives have been lost in this senseless war,” Borg said.

Throughout the Chairpersonship, Malta will continue to place strong emphasis on the urgent need to bring this war to an end, while at the same time find practical solutions to assist Ukraine and its people. The Chair-in-Office reiterated that the Organization remains engaged and committed to support the government, civil society and people of Ukraine, including through the OSCE’s extra-budgetary Support Programme for Ukraine (SPU), as the magnitude of the destruction caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine continues to worsen.

“The OSCE will continue to support Ukraine in addressing multiple and unprecedented challenges the country is facing due to the ongoing war against it. The OSCE has tools such as the Moscow Mechanism to establish facts on the violation of the OSCE’s core principles and can contribute to the accountability of the perpetrators. I am convinced that our Organization has a pivotal role to play in Ukraine. We commend the important work of the Support Programme for Ukraine’s team and pledge our support for even more engagement,” Minister Borg said.

During his visit, Chair-in-Office Borg was accompanied by the Special Representative of the CiO – Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine, Ambassador Marcel Peško. Minister Borg also met SPU staff to express his appreciation for the dedication and hard work each of them brings to the Organization.

“One issue that weighs heavily on our collective conscience is the unjust and illegal detention of the three staff members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. Our thoughts are with them and their families during this challenging time. We are concerned about their health and safety and join the Secretary General in her call on Russia for their immediate release,” Minister Borg stressed. 

Chair-in-Office Minister Borg underscored the need to continue demonstrating unity as an organization to advocate for their immediate release while standing in absolute solidarity with them and their families.

Above all, Minister Borg emphasised that the OSCE must remain anchored in the principles and commitments to which all the participating States agreed to, with a view to restoring peace and security in our region.

The OSCE’s extrabudgetary (ExB) Support Programme for Ukraine (SPU) was launched on 1 November 2022 in order to address the immediate challenges to civilians posed by the war against Ukraine and to support the long-term democratic and social resilience of the country’s institutions and civil society.

The Programme comprises projects that build on the OSCE’s prior work with its long-standing partners and covers a wide range of areas, such as humanitarian demining, addressing chemical threats, monitoring of environmental damage from the war and supporting the reform efforts of the Ukrainian government.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Media Freedom Representative and OSCE Head of Mission to Serbia dismayed by acquittals in Ćuruvija murder case

OSCE - Fri, 02/02/2024 - 19:59

VIENNA/BELGRADE, 2 February 2024 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Teresa Ribeiro, and the Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, Jan Braathu, expressed their dismay over today’s verdict of the Belgrade Appellate Court. In this verdict, all defendants were acquitted, leaving the 1999 murder of Serbian journalist Slavko Ćuruvija unresolved. This latest verdict significantly deviates from the two previous first-instance court decisions, which had resulted in extensive prison sentences for the defendants.

“The fact that this case still remains unresolved, almost 25 years after this courageous journalist was murdered, is very disturbing,” stated Ribeiro. “Impunity for this heinous crime is not only extremely painful for Ćuruvija’s family and colleagues, but also deeply disappointing for the whole of Serbian society. The true test of a rule-of-law based society is how it delivers justice, especially to those who put themselves at risk to uphold the values of a free press.”

Today’s announcement of the verdict comes after years of intensive work by the Government of Serbia-appointed Commission for the Investigation of Unresolved Murders of Journalists, established in 2013, and of the Prosecutor's Office, to finally bring a resolution to this crime in the pursuit of justice.

“Impunity for crimes against journalists in any society undermines the safety of journalists and media freedom. It also creates a negative public perception of the delivery of justice and due process. The Mission has always been steadfast in working with all our partners – Government authorities, the Permanent Working Group on Safety of Journalists, law enforcement, media and journalist associations, civil society, and academia – on upholding OSCE commitments and implementing the Government of Serbia’s Media Strategy 2020-2025 and legislation in line with international standards that would improve the safety of journalists and media freedom in Serbia,” added Braathu.

Ribeiro and Braathu recalled the commitment undertaken by all 57 OSCE participating States, including Serbia, in the 2018 OSCE Milan Ministerial Council Decision on the Safety of Journalists, to “take effective measures to end impunity for crimes committed against journalists”.  Today's verdict raises serious rule of law questions, leaving the country without accountability and justice for the murder of journalist Slavko Ćuruvija.

Categories: Central Europe

Strengthening Independent Journalism in North Macedonia

OSCE - Fri, 02/02/2024 - 18:17
562290 Annie Engstroem

Together with the Association of Journalists (AJM) and our other partners, the OSCE Mission to Skopje remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting high-quality journalism. This includes a focus on strengthening independent reporting, advancing investigative journalism, and promoting a diverse media environment in North Macedonia.

Our continuous partnership with AJM features the annual summer camp designed for young journalists, with a primary emphasis on enhancing investigative journalism skills and fostering proficiency in both digital and physical self-protection. The activity has evolved into a valuable platform for the professional development of emerging journalists and serves as a hub for editorial networking.

The Mission is committed to expanding the reach and impact of our joint efforts, fostering increased cooperation among journalists within the country and the wider region. Building on past achievements, intensified collaborations aim to inform and empower young journalists through regional events and training programs.

Underlining the critical need to support education and encouragement in this area, discussions are underway for the establishment of an Academy for young journalists. The goal is to enhance reporting skills, foster high-quality journalism, and create a robust network that facilitates knowledge exchange and professional growth. Ultimately, the aim is to better equip the next generation of journalists with the tools needed to navigate the evolving media landscape and contribute to an informed and independent press.

In our discussions on future initiatives, emphasis was also given to AJM's proposal for a fund supporting media pluralism. The establishment of this fund seeks to ensure equal access to resources for all media and journalists, contributing to a more balanced and diverse media landscape in the country.

Ensuring journalistic independence and prioritizing public interest in the media space remains a key focus of the Mission. Collaborating with AJM, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and other partners, the Mission consistently works on the protection of journalists, placing special emphasis on the safety of female journalists.

In March, the Mission will support trainings for the youth wings of political parties, also focusing on monitoring and combating hate speech against journalists. This initiative aims to raise awareness of the detrimental effects of such speech, particularly in the context of political activities and electoral campaigns this year.

Categories: Central Europe

Albanian civil society, local and national government representatives exchange best practices in raising awareness on firearms during OSCE Presence-organized visit to Croatia

OSCE - Fri, 02/02/2024 - 16:50

Ten representatives from civil society organizations, Local Safety Councils, Ministry of Interior and Albanian State Police were on a visit to Zagreb, Croatia, on 30 and 31 January 2024, to exchange best practices and strategies when designing and implementing local and national awareness raising initiatives on firearms. The visit was organized by the OSCE Presence as part of its project “Assisting the national authorities of the of the Republic of Albania to decrease the risk of weapon proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons (SALW)”, funded by the European Union, Germany and France.

The Albanian delegation had the opportunity to learn from Croatia’s extensive experience and sustainable strategies on raising awareness on the risks and misuse of firearms. They met with representatives of the Croatian General Police Directorate, Centre for Forensic Examinations, Informative Centre for Prevention, and Velika Gorica Police Station. They also visited the Red Cross Zagreb and its centre for volunteers and youth, where they were introduced to various youth-focused awareness raising and prevention initiatives on the risks of firearms.

“The exchange visit was a useful experience for us to see how awareness raising campaigns on the firearms are implemented in the context of Croatia. After this visit, in co-operation with the OSCE Presence’s project, we will develop a plan for the implementation of outreach activities in our communities,” said Ervin Muço, General Director of Elbasan Municipality’s Protection and Social Inclusion Directorate.

The recently developed Awareness Raising and Communication Strategy on the Misuse of Small Arms and Light Weapons highlighted that the Local Safety Councils and civil society organizations are well-implanted partners, especially among hard-to-reach target groups. The selected Local Safety Councils and civil society organizations that were part of the visit to Croatia have played an important role in the conceptualisation process of the strategy. They have also expressed their willingness to co-operate with the Ministry of Interior and the Albanian State Police on local and national awareness-raising outreach activities in Albania to be implemented as part of OSCE’s SALW project.

“This is assessed to be an exceptional platform to bring together representatives of Local Safety Councils, civil society, Interior Ministry and State Police when implementing such activities. We believe that this is a first milestone in strengthening co-operation amongst these important stakeholders in the process of enhancing the government awareness raising efforts in the benefit of Albanian citizens”, said Xhenis Ballço, the project’s national officer at the OSCE Presence in Albania.

The organization of the visit was supported by the General Police Directorate of Croatia’s Interior Ministry and the Red Cross in Zagreb.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities launches call for nominations for 2024 Max van der Stoel Award

OSCE - Fri, 02/02/2024 - 15:45

THE HAGUE, 2 February 2024 – OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Kairat Abdrakhmanov today launched a call for nominations for the 2024 Max van der Stoel Award. The award of 50,000 euros recognizes extraordinary and outstanding achievements in improving the position of national minorities in the OSCE participating States. The deadline for nominations is 31 March 2024.

Eligible candidates include international organizations, non-governmental organizations, research institutes, government bodies or individuals with a record of excellence in the field of improving the position and rights of national minorities in the OSCE area.

OSCE field operations and institutions, and delegations of the OSCE participating States may nominate candidates directly. Anyone else can propose an eligible candidate by contacting an OSCE institution, including the office of the HCNM, their local OSCE field operation or their delegation to the OSCE who will then decide whether to nominate the proposed candidate.

“I encourage everyone to propose suitable candidates by contacting my office, or an OSCE field operation or delegation,” said High Commissioner Abdrakhmanov. “OSCE entities can formally nominate candidates and I invite them to consider the proposals they receive and to submit their chosen candidates to my office by the 31 March deadline. I also urge them to proactively engage with civil society and encourage proposals for eligible candidates.”

OSCE field operations, institutions and delegations should send their nominations directly to the office of the High Commissioner on National Minorities via email (, through the online form ( or by mail/diplomatic post to:

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities
Max van der Stoel Award
Prinsessegracht 22
2514 AP The Hague
The Netherlands

After receiving all nominations, a special jury composed of distinguished experts of international repute and chaired by the High Commissioner will choose the winner. The award will be presented to the winner at a ceremony in The Hague in the autumn of 2024.

Established in 2001 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the award honours Max van der Stoel, a prominent Dutch statesperson who was the first OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, and aims to draw attention to issues related to national minorities.

More information about the award is available in this factsheet.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE PCUz continues supporting the “Open Data Challenge” to find digital solutions for economic development and good governance in Uzbekistan

OSCE - Thu, 02/01/2024 - 10:44

From 26 to 28 January, IT enthusiasts gathered at the New Uzbekistan University in Tashkent for the sixth edition of the “Open Data Challenge” hackathon.

This annual competition was organized by the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan (PCUz) together with IT-Park Uzbekistan and the IT company Virtual Group. State partners were the Statistics Agency and the Anti-Corruption Agency of Uzbekistan.

More than 200 young people gathered in teams and competed to develop technological solutions based on the data opened by public authorities. The hackathon covered four categories: government, social, business, and anti-corruption.

Each sector had three winning teams that crafted innovative solutions. These included an IT solution offering a sign language assistant for individuals with hearing and speech impairments, an AI-based operator tailored for the business sector, the integration of blockchain in government agencies to enhance cost transparency, and an approach aimed at identifying the causes of traffic jams.

This popular event offers a unique opportunity to further demonstrate the practical relevance and applicability of open data. At the same time youth is engaged in proposing solutions to current challenges.

Open data plays an important role in the monitoring and evaluation of state bodies’ activities. In addition to strengthen public control and its anti-corruption component, the publication of data has direct economic impact and a hugely untapped social potential.

Through the development of new services and products that offer responses to known problems or gaps, new jobs are created, and the IT community is strengthened.

Taking into account the multifaceted aspect of data, the development of an open data ecosystem in Uzbekistan is an integral part of the PCUz’ activities to promote economic development, as well as good governance.

Categories: Central Europe

Organized crime and the role of women in criminal networks in focus at OSCE lecture

OSCE - Wed, 01/31/2024 - 14:24
562212 Understanding the Role of Women in Organized Crime

From 29 to 31 January 2024, 25 graduate students from Central Asia, Afghanistan and Mongolia participated in a training programme dedicated to organized crime and the often-overlooked role of women in criminal networks. This event was held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan by the OSCE Academy in Bishkek and OSCE Transnational Threats Department.

The participants identified and discussed key security challenges concerning organized crime across the region. The interactive discussions led to the development of concrete policy recommendations and ideas on how to effectively combat and prevent organized crime in the long term, notably the involvement of women in criminal networks across the Central Asian region and beyond.

“Organized crime poses a multifaceted security threat across Central Asia and beyond. It is imperative for students to understand its profound impact on security, economic development, environment and human rights,” said Indira Satarkulova, OSCE Academy Acting Director. “This interactive lecture not only taught students comprehensive methods to combat and prevent organized crime, but also placed special emphasis on preventing the recruitment of women and girls into criminal networks.”

Students used case studies with specific examples of organized crime and its emerging trends and challenges across the Central Asian region in light of the developments in Afghanistan. It further showcased effective methods to combat and prevent organized crime, including asset recovery, social re-use of confiscated assets and youth crime prevention from across the OSCE area.

During the course of the programme, students also discussed the main findings of the new OSCE study titled "Understanding the role of women in organized crime", assessing the recruitment, roles and reasons behind women's involvement in criminal networks in Central Asia and learning from international good practices on gender-sensitive organized crime prevention.

The event gathered 25 graduate students from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, enrolled in the OSCE Academy Masters Programmes in Human Rights and Sustainability, Economic Governance and Development and Politics and Security.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Presence organizes study visit to Slovakia for Albanian environment and law enforcement officials

OSCE - Wed, 01/31/2024 - 13:56

Environment and law enforcement officials from Albania conducted a study visit to Slovakia focused on environmental inspection and investigation of environmental crimes, on 30 and 31 January 2024. The OSCE Presence in Albania organized the visit as part of its efforts to increase national capacities to address environmental governance and security challenges.

During the meetings with Slovak counterparts, the 11-member delegation learned about the domestic and international standards on environmental enforcement and investigation of environmental crime in Slovakia. They also benefitted from the experience and practices of the Slovak Environmental Crime Unit, its police structure of 200 environmental crime police officers and their interinstitutional co-ordination. The delegation was received by officials of the Slovak Police Department for Detection of Hazardous Substances and Environmental Crime, Prosecution Office, Ministry of Environment, Customs Authorities, State Inspectorate and the Ministry of Agriculture of Slovakia.

“Environmental crime legislation approximation is at an advanced stage in Albania. However, its implementation needs a co-ordinated strategic approach among various institutions, as well as capacity and expertise building for officials, and increase of public awareness”, Arta Dollani, Director of National Environmental Agency of Albania, said.

The study visit was part of the OSCE Presence’s project “To enhance environmental governance and security in Albania”, funded by Italy, France and Norway. Last year, the Presence developed and delivered a new curriculum on environmental legislation for the School of Magistrates, and supported a Training Needs Assessment for all institutions dealing with environmental enforcement.

Categories: Central Europe

Russian Federation flouts international commitments once again with decision not to invite OSCE observers to presidential election

OSCE - Mon, 01/29/2024 - 15:47

WARSAW/COPENHAGEN, 29 January 2024 – The decision of the Russian Federation not to invite OSCE observers to the upcoming presidential election is deeply regrettable, leaders of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) said today.

“We are greatly disappointed at the decision not to invite the OSCE to observe the Russian presidential election,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “This runs contrary to the OSCE commitments made by the Russian Federation, and at the same time will deny the country’s voters and institutions an impartial and independent assessment of the election."

All OSCE states have recognized the importance for our societies of holding democratic elections. ODIHR is respected worldwide for its credible and reliable assessment of elections across the region, using a comprehensive and uniform methodology. This most recent decision reflects a clear lack of will to cooperate with OSCE international observers, despite the commitments made by all OSCE countries to do so. It also adds to the growing concerns surrounding the shrinking democratic space and erosion of fundamental rights in the Russian Federation. Any system defining itself as democratic welcomes international scrutiny and encourages transparency.

“We regret that conditions have deteriorated so much in the Russian Federation that we cannot deploy observers for the presidential election in March,” said OSCE PA President Pia Kauma. “The very first election observation mission organized by the OSCE PA was to Russia in 1993, and since then we have observed ten national elections in the country. It is very unfortunate that democratic backsliding has reached such a critical point that we cannot be on the ground to observe this year, but we will of course continue to follow the situation closely.”

ODIHR engaged in consultations with the Russian Federation as early as September 2023 to agree on the dates for the deployment of a pre-election needs assessment mission, an initial and crucial step in determining whether to deploy an election observation and in what format. Following the 2021 parliamentary elections, when no OSCE observers were deployed following major limitations imposed by the Russian Federation authorities, the presidential vote on 17 March 2024 will be the second time in a row that the OSCE is unable to observe elections in the country.

All OSCE participating States have committed to inviting observers from other OSCE participating States and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to observe, as well as following up swiftly on ODIHR’s election assessment and recommendations. Parliamentary observers from the OSCE PA put their political expertise and personal experience in electoral processes at the disposal of the OSCE through election observation work conducted across the OSCE region.

While ODIHR will not be able to observe the forthcoming presidential election, the Office continues to monitor the unfolding events in the Russian Federation across all the areas covered by its mandate.

Categories: Central Europe

Holocaust Remembrance Day is a time to learn from the past and work together towards a more peaceful future, OSCE says

OSCE - Sat, 01/27/2024 - 09:12

VALLETTA/WARSAW/WASHINGTON, 27 January 2024 – On today’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the OSCE honours the victims of Nazi persecution, reflecting on the painful lessons from one of the darkest chapters of human history and seeking to learn from them, both for the present and future.  The immense suffering and anguish endured by six million Jews, as well as millions of other innocent people, cannot be overstated or much worse forgotten.

“On Holocaust Remembrance Day, we honour the resilience of those who survived the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust and remember those who perished, with the unwavering pledge to ensure that such atrocities are never repeated,” said OSCE Chair-in-Office, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade of Malta Ian Borg. “As we strive to learn from the past, let us forge a path towards a world where tolerance triumphs over hatred, and where these lessons guide us in building a future marked by compassion, unity, and the shared pursuit of peace.

As we pay tribute to the victims and survivors, we also recognize the ongoing need to stand against hatred, discrimination, and acts that threaten the principles of humanity. Across the OSCE region, we continue to witness instances of violence, ranging from online and offline anti-Semitic hate speech, through damage to property and threats, that test our commitment to these principles. This adds to other major challenges, with social media algorithms playing a key role in amplifying malicious content, including posts containing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, as well as content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.

The recent attacks by Hamas in Israel on October 7th and human suffering in the ensuing violent conflict in the Middle East serve as a stark reminder that the echoes of history's atrocities remain with us. Chair-in-Office Borg added that “as we continue to bear witness to conflicts that inflict immeasurable suffering on countless innocent lives, the pervasive threat of discrimination and intolerance persist, casting shadows of insecurity across our world. It is against this backdrop that we are reminded of the profound importance of never allowing the tragic lessons of the Holocaust to fade from our collective memory.”

The Holocaust is a historical truth, and it is our duty to honour the memory of those who perished by educating future generations about the consequences of hatred, discrimination, and prejudice.

Also for this reason, ODIHR joined other international organizations including the United Nations and the European Commission in #ProtectTheFacts, a global awareness-raising campaign created by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance that focuses on countering Holocaust distortion.

“Anti-Semitism is an age-old and insidious prejudice that has no justification and no place in our societies,” said Matteo Mecacci, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). “Young people’s awareness of the Holocaust is declining, while their exposure to Holocaust denial and distortion online continues to grow. With ever fewer survivors left to provide eye-witness accounts, our societies must all work harder to ensure the memory of this terrible tragedy remains alive.”

Especially on this day, we commit ourselves to promoting tolerance, empathy, and understanding, fostering a world where diversity is celebrated, and the inherent dignity of every individual is recognized and respected. Governments have a particular responsibility for combating intolerance and preventing anti-Semitism while ensuring the safety of all citizens.

“This day of remembrance is not only about looking back but also a warning to be alert to present dangers,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism. “In recent months we have witnessed the most lethal attack on Jews since the Holocaust and an explosion of antisemitic incidents around the world. There is still much for us to do to combat this age-old hatred.” 

Today ODIHR publishes the eighth edition of Holocaust Memorial Days: An overview of remembrance and education in the OSCE region. With this regular overview of the commemoration and study of the Holocaust and the genocide of Roma and Sinti, ODIHR seeks to encourage governments to further develop their activities to combating anti-Semitism, discrimination, and all forms of hatred.

All OSCE countries have unequivocally condemned intolerance and anti-Semitism. This year also marks the twentieth anniversary of the Berlin Declaration, when OSCE states acknowledged that anti-Semitism has assumed new forms and poses a threat to security and stability across the region, and pledged to develop targeted and practical measures to combat the phenomenon. Through its hate crime database, ODIHR collects data on anti-Semitism and other crimes of bias that are published each year on a dedicated website.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE launches co-operation on enhancement of Kazakhstan’s legislation and capacities on asset recovery

OSCE - Fri, 01/26/2024 - 14:25
562028 For Media inquires

On 26 January 2024, the Deputy Head of the OSCE Programme Office in Astana, Mr. Yuri Fenopetov, met with the Chairman of the Asset Recovery Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office, Mr. Nurdaulet Suindikov, to discuss collaborative efforts in combatting illicit financial activities in Kazakhstan. The Asset Recovery Committee (the Committee) is the authorized body for asset recovery that have been illegally removed from the country. The Committee is also responsible for international co-operation in criminal, administrative, and civil law and carries out asset recovery activities on behalf of and in the interests of the State by evaluating and analyzing information on origin of assets.

During the meeting, the Chairman briefed the representatives of the OSCE Programme Office in Astana on the mandate of the recently-established Committee, and legislation developed related to asset recovery in Kazakhstan. Both sides underscored the commitment to address current and future challenges in asset recovery that resonate not only at the national level but also within the broader global framework. The OSCE Programme Office in Astana expressed its readiness to support and organize various initiatives aimed at facilitating the recovery of unlawfully obtained and removed assets, based on priorities of the host country. A key point of agreement was the intention to work together on improvement of the national legislation on asset recovery through expert support, and to enhance the capacities of the Committee’s staff on various topics, including through practical training activities, demonstrating a pro-active approach to tackling the evolving challenges posed by transnational financial crimes.

The co-operation between the OSCE Programme Office in Astana and the Asset Recovery Committee represents a significant advancement in the joint efforts to combat financial offenses. It is noteworthy that the return of illegally withdrawn assets falls within the scope of Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT), which serves as one of the key priorities of the OSCE Programme Office in Astana. By fostering international collaboration and equipping relevant authorities with enhanced capabilities, the partnership aims to contribute to the fight against illicit financial activities on the regional level and the recovery of unlawfully acquired assets.

Categories: Central Europe

Lost in the smog

OSCE - Fri, 01/26/2024 - 13:00
Lost in the Smog Željka Šulc

Op-Ed by Ambassador Brian Aggeler, Head of the OSCE Mission to BiH

Lost in the smog

“If I ever leave Bosnia and Herzegovina, it will be because of the air pollution. I, as an individual, may not be in a position to do much about all the other negative issues such as corruption or the lack of rule of law (or I may not be aware of the fact that those are “killing us softly”) but I can feel and see how smog kills us…or actually I see nothing these days,” said Maja, inhabitant of Sarajevo, to me at the OSCE regional kick-off meeting on “Climate change and security in South Eastern Europe: Tackling challenges at the interface of air pollution and health”.

Maja, we fully share your concerns and support your intention to secure a healthy life for you and your family. However, it's crucial to emphasize, as you're well aware, that the impact of air pollution on your well-being is sadly connected to corruption and the absence of a robust rule of law. This forms a vicious and destructive cycle that demands substantial and committed efforts from all of us to break.

World Health Organization data shows BiH to have the fifth-highest mortality rate from air pollution in the world (Ambient air pollution attributable death rate (per 100 000 population, age-standardized) ( whilst The World Bank estimates that PM 2.5 air pollution causes 3,300 premature deaths in BiH every year and the loss of over 8% of GDP.

It's hard to envision a more explicit manifestation of the repercussions of corruption, negligence, and the absence of effective rule-of-law mechanisms than what unfolds when you gaze outside your window on winter days in BiH. The impact is direct and universal – no one is unaffected, and it is literally killing thousands of people.

Decades of negligence, corruption, turning a blind eye and ongoing irresponsibility, combined with a lack of public awareness and increasing suppression of civic activism, are now resulting in thousands of premature deaths and countless illnesses every year in BiH, with the city of Sarajevo being one of the worst affected urban areas. 

Corruption led us to weak enforcement of environmental regulations where regulatory authorities fail to monitor and penalize industries that violate emission standards, allowing them to continue polluting without consequences. The issuance of permits without proper scrutiny has allowed businesses and individuals to operate, build and pollute without adhering to environmental standards. And the lack of rule of law, resulting in a weak judicial system. leads to a lack of accountability, which further encourages unlawful practices that contribute to this horrible air pollution.

When decision-making processes related to environmental policies are not transparent, it becomes challenging for the public to hold authorities accountable for their actions or inaction in addressing air pollution.

Access to information, public participation in environmental decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters are the three pillars of the Aarhus Convention, an international agreement to which BiH is a party. You have the right to know all the facts, you have the right to demand all the relevant information, you have the right to participate in all decision-making processes that affect your environment and health - this is all provided to you by this Convention.

Aarhus Centres, currently operating in 14 countries throughout the OSCE area, including in BiH, are there to serve as a bridge between public authorities, civil society, business and the public. And they are also investing great efforts to try to address the growing problem of air pollution in the country.

In South Eastern Europe, and in BiH especially, reliable research and data on the impacts of climate change and air pollution on public health remains lacking and so do local policies to tackle the issue.

That’s why Aarhus Centre Zenica, hosted by the Eko Forum NGO, is pioneering scientific research into the health effects of industrial air pollution, one of the main exposure sources in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The research looks into air pollution caused by coking (a part of the steel-making process) and uses genetics and DNA analysis to examine the impacts of such pollution on the health of local residents and will result in a first-of-its-kind study in BiH, which will inform future mitigation efforts and public health interventions.

I am sure that everyone has heard the alarming statistics many times before, and we all tend to pass them by not worrying too much. But they are alarming. And they require urgent action by everyone.

And yes, it is the decision-makers who are primarily responsible. But, let’s not just point fingers.  You have the right to know, to assess, to challenge, to influence – you have the power to hold them accountable. Every single action, project, permit, decision they made has an influence on your life, your health and well-being of your family.

It seems absurd that in the 21st century we are fighting for clean air, but unfortunately it is the reality we live in, not just people in BiH but the rest of the world as well. Some countries are dealing with this more effectively while others still struggle to address this issue adequately. What I see as one of the main factors that divides them is the strength of people. Awareness and the strength of people. Awareness that begins very early, when you, as power holders, demand programmes that suit you and your community, when you go out to vote, and when you demand accountability from your elected officials.  I think their intention is not merely to cast a vote in the hope of choosing competent, honest, and accountable politicians; rather, they actively contribute to shaping individuals with such qualities.

Let’s not be lost in the smog. Change begins with every individual commitment. Speak up, demand change - each small action adds up to a monumental impact. The result will be visible from your window.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Mission to BiH Statement on the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day

OSCE - Fri, 01/26/2024 - 12:42
International Holocaust Remembrance Day Željka Šulc

SARAJEVO, 27 January 2024 - On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina pauses to reflect on the millions of people who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. The unimaginable suffering of Jews, Slavs, Roma and Sinti, individuals with disabilities, sexual and religious minorities, and many others during one of the darkest chapters in human history serves as a stark but necessary reminder that we must prevent the recurrence of such inhumanity.

Unfortunately, as evidenced in Bosnia and Herzegovina and around the world, we have failed to learn these lessons. Whilst the unspeakable brutality of the Holocaust provided the vocabulary through which we now attempt to understand the crime of genocide, we still struggle to comprehend the true extent of such horrors. Denialism, the glorification of war criminals, and a disturbing rise in hate incidents and speech, locally and globally, often undermine our calls for “never again” and for the unconditional recognition and respect for victims of such crimes.

The echoes of the Holocaust underscore our individual and collective responsibility to preserve and protect the human rights of all, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, race or religion. Through education, dialogue, and a steadfast commitment to justice and accountability, we can prevent the recurrence of history's gravest mistakes.

The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina reiterates its dedication to combatting all forms of discrimination and intolerance. As individuals, communities and governments, we must denounce hatred wherever and whenever it arises while acting jointly to promote empathy and respect. Together, we can move towards a future shaped by tolerance and dignity.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE concludes its second train-the-trainers course for Tajik Border Troops

OSCE - Fri, 01/26/2024 - 10:26
Munira Shoinbekova, OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe

On 15 December 2023, the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe completed its second train-the-trainers course for 19 staff officers of the Tajik Border Troops in Bokhtar, Khatlon Region. The course is a key activity of the Patrol Field Capacity Building of the Tajik Border Troops – Phase II (PFCB2) project which will run through 2023 and 2024. 

The three-week course was taught by two contracted international instructors with expertise in adult learning and curriculum development – one with an academic background in theories and practice of adult learning and another with a background in planning and conducting military collective training and field exercises. The course participants were Tajik Border Troops officers who are currently serving as trainers/instructors within their institutional training structure and those officers who have expressed an interest in becoming trainers/instructors. The course was developed to increase the internal training capacity of the Tajik Border Troops, instructing them on topics that included: training needs identification, adult learning theories, teaching methodologies, developing lesson plans and presentation materials, and evaluating learning. The course also covered planning and conducting field training and collective unit training for border security forces. To demonstrate their skills as trainers, each student developed and delivered training to other students on a topic of their choice.

Kelsey Harris-Smith, representing the Head of Mission Office, and the PFCB2 Project Manager, Jon Casey, delivered closing remarks at the graduation, emphasizing the importance of the course participants’ newly developed skills in helping to further professionalize the Tajik Border Troops. These new skills will help make the organization more adaptive to the dynamic border security challenges that Tajikistan faces, particularly along the Tajik-Afghan border. Following completion of the course, the students will return to their units within the Tajik Border Troops with an increased capacity to identify training needs, develop and conduct their training, and assess the learning of training participants.  

The event is conducted in the framework of the OSCE’s project “Patrol Field Capacity Building of the Tajik Border Troops through Promotion of Regional Co-operation”, financed by France and implemented by the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe. The course is part of the Office’s multi-year efforts to support Tajikistan’s border security response capabilities.    

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Field Operations continue discussions on regional co-operation on climate change and security

OSCE - Thu, 01/25/2024 - 16:47

To increase awareness and discuss regional co-operation on climate change and security, the OSCE gathered more than 40 representatives from its field operations to meet in Istanbul for a workshop on 13 and 14 December 2023. Emphasizing that the effects of climate change can exacerbate economic challenges and environmental degradation, which may negatively affect prosperity, stability and security in the OSCE area, the OSCE provides a platform for political dialogue on a wide range of issues associated with climate related security risks. These conversations form the basis for the implementation of activities on the ground.

“Climate change poses immense challenges to societies, economies and the environment, which is evidenced by a wide range of interconnected climate risks in the OSCE area,” said Ellen Baltzar Mossop, Climate Adviser at the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA). “This workshop is the second of its kind where we gather practitioners from OSCE field operations to contribute to building a shared understanding of climate-related security risks in the OSCE area and to foster collaboration among participants on this topic.”

Organized by OCEEA in co-operation with the Berlin-based think tank adelphi, the workshop was a follow-up to the Training on Climate Change and Security for OSCE Field Operations and Other OSCE Executive Structures that took place in Istanbul in November 2022. Both events built on the 2021 OSCE Ministerial Council Decision on climate change, which tasks the relevant OSCE executive structures and the OSCE field operations with supporting OSCE participating States in implementing its provisions.

“The workshop demonstrated the important role that the OSCE, through its regional presence and field operations, can play in promoting regional co-operation and joint activities to address the multiple risks and challenges posed by climate change,” emphasized Lukas Rüttinger, Senior Advisor at adelphi.

The event also reflected the Secretary General’s Conclusions from the OSCE High-Level Conference on Climate Change, which highlighted the importance of raising awareness around climate considerations and mainstreaming them throughout the work of the OSCE.

“This workshop was a great opportunity for us to learn from each other’s experience working in climate and security hotspots across the OSCE region, and to reflect on how the organization’s joint activities are facilitating co-operation within and among different regions. Our work in the Shar/Šara Mountains and Korab Massif area is a good example of this,” said Kristina Jovanova, National Programme Officer at the OSCE Mission to Skopje.

“The impact of climate change and its security implications are already evident in Central Asia, and especially in the region’s high mountain areas,” said Dmitry Prudtskikh, Regional Development Officer at the OSCE Programme Office in Bishkek. “The workshop was a useful opportunity for us practitioners to gain insights on how to efficiently design and deliver climate and security programming, with a focus on inclusive and participatory approaches. It also allowed us to brainstorm future joint activities to co-operatively address climate-related security risks.”

The Practitioners Workshop: Building Capacities and Fostering Collaboration among OSCE Field Operations was organized within the framework of the OSCE extra-budgetary project, Strengthening Responses to Security Risks from Climate Change in South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia  which is implemented in partnership with adelphi and funded by Andorra, Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

Categories: Central Europe

Malta begins its OSCE Chairpersonship with a vision for strengthening resilience and enhancing security

OSCE - Thu, 01/25/2024 - 10:43

VIENNA, 25 January 2024 – The OSCE Chair-in-Office, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade of Malta Ian Borg, presented the country’s vision for its 2024 Chairpersonship at the inaugural session of the OSCE Permanent Council today.

“The trust bestowed upon us by all participating States during these challenging times is a responsibility we embrace with profound commitment, humility, and pride - fully mindful of the critical juncture at which we assume this role,” said Chair-in-Office Borg.

Under the motto ‘Strengthening Resilience, Enhancing Security’, Chair-in-Office Borg emphasized Malta's overarching commitment to upholding the principles and commitments outlined in the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris, stressing that these are not optional but shared obligations agreed upon by all the participating States of the OSCE.

The first priority outlined by the Maltese Chairpersonship is its unequivocal commitment to addressing Russia's illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. Chair-in-Office Borg condemned the intensified attacks witnessed earlier in the month and in recent days, and underlined that the protection of all civilians must be of paramount importance. He called for Russia's immediate withdrawal from the entire territory of Ukraine. He called on participating States to do everything possible to break the chain of violence, anguish, and suffering, not only in this war but in conflicts around the world.

“I join the Secretary General in her call for the release of the three illegally detained staff members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission” emphasised Minister Borg.

“The OSCE has a pivotal role to play in Ukraine. We commend the important work of the Support Programme for Ukraine and pledge our support for even more engagement,” added Minister Borg as he announced his plans to visit Kyiv to reiterate the steadfast support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Chair-in-Office Borg outlined Malta’s commitment to facilitating dialogue towards finding durable and sustainable political solutions to other conflicts across the OSCE region, particularly in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. The Chair-in-Office also pledged support for the OSCE’s field operations in Eastern Europe, South Eastern Europe, and Central Asia, by sustaining their engagement with host authorities in line with OSCE principles and commitments and supporting their work in the field to strengthen national capacities and capabilities

Safeguarding the OSCE's functionality and finding solutions for its leadership is another key priority. “We count on the collaboration of all participating States to demonstrate the necessary political will to give this Organization the foundations it needs for a secure and resilient future,” said Chair-in-Office Borg.

The Chair-in-Office emphasized Malta's readiness to serve as a bridge between Skopje and Helsinki, reinforcing the pillars of the Organization and upholding its principles and commitments. Minister Borg called on all participating States to demonstrate the necessary political will to reach a consensus on a Unified Budget and ensuring predictable leadership beyond 4 September 2024.

Malta's Chairpersonship aims to build on North Macedonia's success in keeping the over one billion people in the OSCE region at the centre of this Organization’s initiatives. Malta's goal is to adopt an inclusive approach by mainstreaming gender and increasing the meaningful engagement of youth in discussions.

Chair-in-Office Borg underlined that Malta’s “parallel Chairpersonship of the OSCE and elected membership of the UN Security Council provides a unique opportunity to identify constructive synergies between these multilateral institutions dedicated to promoting peace and security.”  

Against this backdrop, Malta aims to focus on the Women, Peace, and Security agenda and to renew the OSCE's initiatives against cyber threats, transnational challenges and ensuring compliance with arms control commitments.

Recognizing the interconnectedness of security, economic prosperity, and the environment, Malta will emphasize bridging digital divides, promoting access to digital technologies, and co-operating on climate resilience, combatting corruption and food security.

The Chair-in-Office called on participating States to uphold human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy, and the rule of law, especially in the important election year ahead. The Chair-in-Office added that “at a time when media freedom is more under threat than ever before, Malta’s Chairpersonship will push forward initiatives on media literacy and the safety of journalists, particularly female journalists, both online and offline”. Furthermore, Malta will actively engage in combating violence against women and trafficking in human beings.

In his concluding remarks, Chair-in-Office Borg affirmed that Malta “will leave no stone unturned in strengthening the resilience of this Organization and our people, in pursuit of a secure and peaceful future.”

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE commends adoption of the Law on Peaceful Assembly in Una-Sana Canton

OSCE - Wed, 01/24/2024 - 14:33
561556 Željka Šulc

SARAJEVO, 24 January 2024 - The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (Mission) commends the Una-Sana Cantonal (USC) Assembly for yesterday’s adoption of the Law on Peaceful Assembly. Following a legislative process initiated in 2022, this represents an important step forward in aligning USC freedom of assembly laws with international human rights standards.

The Mission is committed to assisting all authorities across BiH in improving their legislative protections of fundamental rights, including freedom of assembly. The Mission further recognizes the dedicated efforts and collaboration of the USC Ministry of Interior in the development and adoption of this law and remains available to support all relevant authorities in the proper implementation of this legislation.

Categories: Central Europe

Advancing youth crime prevention: OSCE organizes study visit to Germany for law enforcement representatives from Albania and Tajikistan

OSCE - Wed, 01/24/2024 - 10:16

Children and youth are particularly vulnerable to getting drawn into criminal and corrupt activities. Practitioners and institutions can play a crucial role in the early identification and prevention of delinquent behavior among young people. To foster their knowledge and expertise on this topic, the OSCE, in co-operation with youth crime prevention initiative Kurve Kriegen under the Ministry of Interior of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, gathered law enforcement representatives from Albania and Tajikistan for a joint study visit to Düsseldorf to exchange best practices.

The study visit enabled practitioners to learn how to leverage collaboration between government agencies, schools and social services to prevent at-risk youth from becoming involved in criminal and corrupt activities. Participants also strengthened their knowledge of effective approaches to promoting a culture of lawfulness and integrity among young people from an early age.

"Kurve Kriegen's experience once again showed us that crime prevention among youth people is most effective when addressed at an early age through multi-stakeholder engagement” said Klaudia Hasanllari, Director of the National Youth Crime Prevention Center in Albania. “Integrating the methods learned through this study visit into the youth crime prevention work in Albania is an ambitious plan we aim to implement," she said.

Dilshod Barotiyon, a representative of the Drug Control Agency under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, said: “Through this study visit we learned that fostering a culture of lawfulness among youth requires the adoption of a co-ordinated set of measures and actions by multiple government bodies, social workers and educational institutions”.

“According to our research, one multiple offender causes up to 1.7 million euro in social follow-up costs by the age of 25, which makes the issue of preventing youth engagement in crime from an early age extremely important and relevant” said Christopher Ursuleack, Criminologist at the Kurve Kriegen initiative. “We are thus honored to be able to share our best practices on juvenile delinquency prevention with our colleagues from Albania and Tajikistan to address this issue.”

As a follow-up to the study visit, the representatives will discuss the possibility of a partial replication of the Kurve Kriegen model in Albania and Tajikistan to strengthen early identification and prevent at-risk youth from becoming involved in illicit activities.

The study visit was held in the framework of the OSCE-wide multi-year project “Enhancing youth crime and drug use prevention through education on legality and awareness campaigns addressing threats of organized crime and corruption”, implemented by the OSCE’s Transnational Threats Department and the OSCE Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities. The project is funded by Germany and Italy, with additional support from Andorra, Finland and Poland.

Categories: Central Europe

ODIHR commends renewed commitment to electoral reform in Albania

OSCE - Tue, 01/23/2024 - 16:34

WARSAW, 23 January 2024 – The initiative of the Albanian authorities to resume the country’s electoral reform ahead of the 2025 parliamentary elections is an important and positive development in a process that has already served as an example of good practice for the region and beyond, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said today.

“We welcome the decision of the Albanian authorities to renew their commitment to these vital reforms so far ahead of the elections,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “We urge all parties to commit to open and inclusive consultations in the months ahead, ensuring that the resulting reforms improve the election process for the benefit of all Albanians."

It is of crucial importance to set practical and realistically achievable goals that focus on implementing ODIHR’s previous recommendations and addressing the shortcomings noted during past elections, in line with international standards.  Major priorities include preventing the misuse of public resources and vote-buying, ensuring the secrecy of the vote, safeguarding media freedom, and increasing the effectiveness of the election administration.

Following recent discussions on the topic, ODIHR has received an invitation from the Albanian parliament to support the national authorities, and has offered to provide support and technical expertise to drive the reform process forward.

ODIHR’s longstanding election observation methodology includes an assessment of implementation of previous recommendations. ODIHR’s most recent observation mission to Albania in 2023 evaluated the follow-up to the Office’s recommendations following the 2019 local elections and the 2021 parliamentary elections. The reports concluded that three recommendations had been fully implemented, another seven mostly, and 16 partially implemented, while others still remain to be addressed.

Categories: Central Europe


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