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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Remarks > 2003 > June

Statement to the Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS) Ministerial Session

Joseph DeThomas, U.S. Ambassador to Estonia
Remarks at the 12th CBSS Ministerial Session
Pori, Finland
June 11, 2003

It is an honor to represent Secretary Powell and the United States at the 12th CBSS Ministerial Session. I want to express our thanks to Foreign Minister Tuomioja and Ambassador Pesola for organizing and hosting this meeting in such pleasant surroundings.

This is the fifth CBSS Ministerial meeting in which my government has participated. Great changes have taken place in this region and in the world since our first participation in a Ministerial in 1999. Then we were still struggling with how to bring peace and democracy to the Balkans. The full integration of the Baltic states into major European organizations was still under debate back then. The trauma that global terrorism would inflict on our civilization was not apparent.

Since then, the conflicts in the Balkans have ended, but new conflicts with global terrorism and the states that sponsor it have begun. We are winning the fight with the terrorists who caused such devastation on September 11, 2001, but they are still able to strike us and we cannot let down our guard. Questions about the place of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania within Europe were definitively answered in Prague and Copenhagen. They have been invited to return to the Europe from which they were forcibly separated for 50 years.

It is this last development that warrants the most discussion here. Many of you already know that the United States has been reviewing our policies in this region in light of the welcome and well-earned invitations to Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia to join Europe’s two premier organizations. Our principal  conclusion is that these developments are reason to deepen our involvement in the Baltic Sea region. I am here to assure you that we intend to remain engaged – on a regional as well as bilateral basis – with all our partners in Northern Europe. We initially sought observer status in the Council of Baltic Sea States because we believe that this is a valuable forum for encouraging and participating in regional cooperation. It still is.

We also recognize that there are still problems in this region, and the CBSS is an excellent way to address them in a cooperative fashion.

We have in the past worked together on HIV/AIDS projects, and will do so in the future. The U.S. urges all countries to do more to combat the HIV virus domestically and internationally. If we act now and we act decisively, we can prevent HIV/AIDS from becoming a regional scourge. Failure to do so will expose every country in the region to a major health risk. This is an area where increased international cooperation is needed. In Estonia, I have joined with other Ambassadors and the CBSS Task Force to coordinate our efforts and enhance cooperation with the many governmental and non-governmental organizations that are working on this issue. This is especially important in light of the Global Fund's award of $10 million to Estonia.

In the next year the U.S. Government is going to be continuing our work in the health field. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control will continue to implement programs to combat tuberculosis, including multiple drug resistant tuberculosis, and will be stepping up efforts to address issues of HIV/TB co-infection. Our specialists will share information on their efforts with the CBSS Public Task Force on Communicable Disease Control. In February of this year, the U.S. Government arranged for members of the Task Force’s Working Group on the Development of Public Health Education to visit U.S. institutions to see how we teach public health and how that is translated into practice. From that visit grew professional cooperation that will help in the establishment of a Baltic Sea Regional School of Public Health.

Like other CBSS members, the U.S. is increasingly concerned about trafficking in persons in the Baltic Sea region. Not only do we see this as a transnational organized crime – one that threatens the economic and democratic stability of societies around the globe – but one that also is destroying the lives of individuals, the most vulnerable of whom are children. Just last week, the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, together with the Swedish and Canadian Embassies in Helsinki and the Government of Finland, organized a major conference on combating sexual trafficking in minors. That event included participants from most of the countries represented here today, not simply to agree that we all condemn this horrible crime, but to talk about practical ways in which to combat it. The Senior Advisor to the CBSS Children’s Unit was a welcome participant in this event. U.S. Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky eloquently described the problem, outlined U.S. efforts, and called for strengthened regional and subregional cooperation on prevention, protection, and prosecution.

We applaud the efforts of governments in the region to halt this modern day slave trade, a trade that is interwoven in the fabric of organized crime and threatens healthy societies and individuals everywhere, including in my own country. We believe efforts to educate publics and governments have had success. The time has come for regional and global law enforcement efforts to stamp out this criminal trade once and for all. We want to do our part in this effort and will help others do their part.

The U.S. Government continues to support efforts to attack crime and corruption in the region. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security representative at our Embassy in Copenhagen is a member of the CBSS Task Force on Organized Crime Expert Groups on Illegal Migration and Trafficking in Women and Children. The U.S. Department of Justice is also an active participant in our efforts, conducting training programs for judges and prosecutors.

Last year, the declaration of the Ministerial meeting condemned the September 11 attacks in the United States and pledged cooperation against international terrorism. While we have not yet defeated this scourge, as President Bush has said, we are making good progress. We can not let up our pressure. The continued efforts of all CBSS members will help us finally defeat the terrorists who threaten us all.

We look forward to a new and even more hopeful era in the Baltic region. The U.S. remains committed to addressing issues of common concern through the many interlocking, multilateral networks in which we participate, including the CBSS. It has been five good years since we became a part of the CBSS, and we look forward to many more.

Thank you.

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