Clinton concerned over OSCE future


US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has expressed concerns about the future of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), saying member nations were blocking its work to protect human rights and press freedom.

The OSCE groups all European countries and former Soviet republics as well as the United States and Canada together.

Mrs Clinton said the body's principle of decision by consensus had meant it had been possible for some states to block progress on measures on media freedom, freedom of assembly and association, and military transparency.

"I see a growing concern for the future of this organisation and the values it has always championed," Mrs Clinton said in a speech at a meeting of the 57-member organisation in Dublin.

"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," she said.

The OSCE was founded in the 1970s as a forum for communication between eastern and western Europe. Its work includes monitoring elections and attempting to prevent conflicts.

OSCE observers have criticised elections in Russia, Ukraine and other ex-Soviet republics, and the organisation has expressed concerns about the treatment of government opponents in that region.

Moscow is pushing for reform of the body's election monitoring operations, which it says are biased, and has called on it to focus less attention on human rights.

Earlier, Mrs Clinton told an audience at Dublin City University that internet freedom was a key issue at the "frontline of human rights".

Mrs Clinton said one of the most important things she had learned in politics was to take criticism seriously but not personally. "Oftentimes your critic can turn out to be your best friend," she said.

Mrs Clinton said there were few things oppressive governments feared more than citizens banding together for a common purpose.

She said ensuring the human rights of women and girls were respected was the "unfinished business of the 21st century".

Mrs Clinton also held bilateral talks with Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore on several issues linking the countries, including the need for visas for young Irish emigrants travelling to the US.

Mrs Clinton held talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Government Buildings. Mr Kenny said the pair had discussed Ireland’s progress in its bailout programme, as well as the country’s upcoming presidency of the European Union.

Earlier, Ms Higgins met President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin. The Irish community in the US and the Northern Ireland peace process as a model of resolving conflicts were among the issues discussed.