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Clinton tells Dublin meeting: 'I'm concerned for future of OSCE'

20 years after the Cold War, “the work of creating a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace remains unfinished.”

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore greets Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the RDS in Ballsbridge.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore greets Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the RDS in Ballsbridge.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

HILLARY CLINTON has issued a sharp warning to European and central Asian nations that some countries were backsliding on democratic values and human rights.

The US Secretary of State told an OSCE conference in Dublin that she haw “a growing concern for the future of this organisation and the values it has always championed.”

“More than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the work of creating a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace remains unfinished.”

Before addressing the OSCE ministerial meeting being held at the RDS in Ballsbridge, Clinton met with 11 civil society activists from seven countries to hear their concerns about repression in their nations.

“My country Turkmenistan is world famous for two things: one of the largest gas supplies and gross human rights violations,” said Andrey Aranbaev, an environmentalist and human rights defender, speaking through an interpreter.

“Almost all international actors are talking about Turkmenistan’s gas. But almost no one is talking about the gross human rights violations.”

Olga Zakharova, of Freedom Files, a Russian non-governmental rights organisation, said she has worked for 20 years as a journalist and has seen her country “go from bad to worse.”

“Even social media space is now shrinking,” she said, citing in particular new restrictive laws on the use of the Internet.

Political repression in Belarus was highlighted by Anna Gerasimova, who is the director of Belarusian Human Rights House (HRH) living in exile in Vilnius.

She highlighted the cases of 12 political prisoners in Belarus, including a former presidential candidate and a top human rights leader, serving over four years in prison.

“The repressions intensify,” she said. “The space for the civil society is getting narrower.”

Clinton told the activists she agreed “the space for civil society and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms is shrinking, and governments are becoming much more aggressive in trying to stifle dissent.”

She warned that many countries were trying to cut off US aid to rights groups, condemning Moscow’s decision earlier this year to kick out the main US assistance organisation, USAID.

“Everything we’ve done has been, in the eyes of the Russian government, considered inappropriate, even subversive,” Clinton said. “So we have to come up with new approaches.”

And just hours before bilateral talks with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, she slammed “a move to re-Sovietise the region”, referring to plans to set up a new trade union between Russia and some former Soviet nations.

“It’s going to be called customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that. But let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.”

She also referred to Ukraine, which next year takes over the chairmanship of the OSCE, as one of America’s “biggest disappointments.”

During her speech later to the OSCE, Clinton turned her fire in public on many of the former eastern European nations, including Russia and Belarus, as well as Ukraine.

“In Belarus, the government continues to systematically repress human rights, detain political prisoners, and intimidate journalists,” she said.

“In Ukraine, the elections in October were a step backwards for democracy,” she added.

Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan were also restricting freedom of expression online and off-line, she added.

Clinton also highlighted that even within the European Union and NATO there were “troubling developments,” referring to “democratic backsliding in Hungary and challenges to constitutional processes in Romania.”

Calling on the OSCE “to avoid institutional changes that would weaken this organisation,” Clinton also blasted “the ugly specter of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and discrimination against immigrants, Roma” and gays in parts of Europe.

Clinton visited Áras an Úachtaráin after the summit for a meeting with President Michael D Higgins, where the pair discussed shared interests of Ireland and the US.

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