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CoE and OSCE plan joint action on Chechnya and trafficking in human beings

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Strasbourg, 06.02.2003 - The Council of Europe and the OSCE are to send a joint needs assessment mission to Chechnya, before the constitutional referendum takes place on 23 March. The decision was taken at a meeting in The Hague, when the two organisations agreed that close consultation was needed on the Chechnya issue, and regretted that there had been no agreement with the Russian authorities on the extension of the mandate of the OSCE Assistance Group.
Both organisations also stressed their joint commitment to combating trafficking in human beings and welcomed progress on an OSCE action plan and preparations for a Council of Europe convention on the issue.

The meeting was attended by Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (OSCE Chairman-in-Office), Maltese Foreign Minister Joseph Borg (Chairman-in-Office of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers), Jan Kubis, Secretary General of the OSCE, Walter Schwimmer, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the President of the Council's Parliamentary Assembly Peter Schieder and the Vice-President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Gert Weisskirchen.

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12th High-level "3+3" OSCE - Council of Europe Meeting

Joint Declaration

The Hague, 5 February 2003. The OSCE Chairman-in-Office (CiO), Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, and the Chair of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, the Foreign Minister of Malta, Joseph Borg, the Secretaries General of both Organisations, Jan Kubis and Walter Schwimmer, as well as the President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Peter Schieder and the Vice-President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Gert Weisskirchen, met on 5 February in The Hague for the 12th High-level "3+3" Meeting.

The partner organisations stressed their joint commitment to combating the trafficking in human beings. They welcomed both the progress reported by OSCE in the drafting of an action plan and the progress made by the Council of Europe to prepare a European Convention on trafficking in human beings. They agreed to make full use of the forthcoming Tripartite and Target-Oriented Meetings with the UN and of the OSCE annual Economic Forum, which will focus on the economic aspects and impact of trafficking in general as well as trafficking in human beings in the OSCE region. It was agreed to work jointly on this issue, with involvement of the Stability Pact. The valuable role of parliamentarians in awareness raising, both in countries of origin and destination, was underlined.

Participants expressed their regret that there had been no agreement with the Russian Federation on the prolongation of the mandate of the OSCE Assistance Group to Chechnya. In their view, the people of Chechnya and the federal Russian authorities would have benefited from further activities of the Group. The Council of Europe Secretary General reported on the activities of the experts providing advice to President Putin's special representative on human rights in Chechnya, in the framework of an enlarged mandate. The OSCE informed participants about the CiO's discussions in Moscow the previous day on the referendum and the OSCE engagement on the ground. Concerning the latter the need for close consultations between OSCE and the Council of Europe was stressed. The partner organisations agreed to send a joint needs assessment mission to Chechnya, with regard to the referendum scheduled for 23 March. Its findings could also provide input for political deliberations in both organisations.

Participants stressed that 2003 will be a crucial election year in the three Caucasian Republics. The elections in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia will be essential tests of pluralist democratic development in the region. Enhanced co-ordination between OSCE and Council of Europe is under way on subjects such as improvement of electoral systems and election observation. Joint efforts are being made to speed up legislative reforms and anti-trafficking measures, as well as to make the fight against corruption more efficient. Regarding the situation in the zone of the Georgian - Abkhaz conflict, OSCE is prepared to open an UN/OSCE Human Rights Office in the Gali region of Abkhazia, as recommended by the Joint Assessment Mission, which visited the region in November 2000. The Council of Europe offered support and co-operation.

With regard to Moldova participants took note of the continuation of direct negotiations on the political settlement of the Transnistrian conflict on the basis of the Mediators' Kiev document. They welcomed the progress reached on specific provisions in the latest round of talks and the resumption of bilateral talks between the two sides. They encouraged the three Mediators to continue their efforts in assisting the parties with a view to concluding a comprehensive settlement document. Participants underlined the importance of the forthcoming chairmanship of Moldova in the Council of Europe as a signal of the country's commitment to European integration. They supported the Council of Europe's Secretary General's initiative on the Moldovan Roundtable, promoting dialogue, compromise and mutual recognition in a developing pluralist democracy. The Council of Europe's Venice Commission could provide legal expertise with regard to Constitutional reform.

Participants welcomed the opening of the OSCE Office in Minsk on 1st January 2003 and the recent appointment of Ambassador Eberhard Heyken as Head of Office. They looked forward to the resumption of OSCE activities in Belarus on the basis of the new Office's mandate. The Council of Europe underlined the important role of the Office in promoting democratisation. The participants agreed to continue to co-ordinate closely their position vis-à-vis Belarus.

As regards general future co-operation, the Partner organisations agreed on the importance of developing joint strategic approaches on issues and regions of common interest, and on the very important role played by the respective Parliamentary Assemblies.