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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 > December

U.S. Statement to Committee of Senior Officials

Robert Hilton, Nordic Baltic Regional Coordinator, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Council of Baltic Sea States
Stockholm, Sweden
December 12, 2003

I want to begin by thanking the CSO [Committee of Senior Officials] for arranging this meeting. The United States very much welcomes your decision to make this session with the Observer States an annual event. It is an opportunity for us to share our views with you and to hear from the other observers about their activities.

The most significant recent development in U.S. policy in the Baltic Sea region is the launch of the Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe, or e-PINE, in September and October of this year. E-PINE is the logical continuation of our involvement in the region over the past 15 years. It reflects our belief that we share with the Baltic Sea countries a set of basic values and objectives that we can advance in a cooperative fashion. We believe the issues we face can be broken down into three broad areas: political security; healthy societies; and vibrant economies. The U.S. is ready to address these areas within the region and with neighboring states that have not yet achieved economic and political stability and success. To facilitate this cooperation we have created a consultative mechanism that we view as a complement to our commitment to the CBSS [Council of Baltic Sea States], other regional groups, and our excellent bilateral relations with the countries of northern Europe.

We have in the past observed that our most fruitful cooperation with the CBSS has taken place within the various subgroupings. That has continued to be the case over the past year.

In February, members of the Task Force on Communicable Disease Control’s public health education working group visited the U.S. on a program partially funded by the Department of State. They studied U.S. methods of public health instruction. We welcomed a representative of the Working Group to Washington again this fall for discussion of how, concretely, we may be able to assist in the effort to establish a Baltic Sea Regional School of Public Health. The U.S. National Institutes of Health is leading this effort from our side. We look forward to continuing this cooperation as control of the public health education project passes to the new secretariat hosted by the Government of Estonia.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security representative at the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen continues to participate in meetings of the CBSS Task Force on Organized Crime Expert Groups on Illegal Migration and Trafficking in Women and Children. While our work with these expert groups is very productive, a procedural issue also limits it. Our officials are able to fully participate in meetings. However, they are excluded from field visits, including visits to airports or land borders. This restriction is unnecessary and limits the degree to which we can work together to address these problems.

Trafficking in persons continues to be a concern for all of us. In his speech to the UN General Assembly in September, President Bush said "Nearly two centuries after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, and more than a century after slavery was officially ended in its last strongholds, the trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time." We believe that this international problem requires international solutions and are committed to working with states of the region, through e-PINE and in other ways, to solve it.

We have long supported the Eurofaculty concept by using the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Government's premier educational exchange activity, to recruit and place American academics at participating universities. We have contributed to the development of a new discipline, conflict resolution and peace/conflict studies, at Tartu University. U.S. faculty members have also helped Tartu University develop its EuroCollege program. At the University of Latvia, American scholars have both taught courses and assisted in curriculum development in the Mathematical Economics Master's Degree program. This spring we will place an expert in the field of public administration at the University of Latvia. At both of these institutions we have developed long-term connections that will be useful after the EuroFaculty program ends in 2005.

Of course, these are only a few of the many bodies that make up the CBSS. We hope to be able to expand the range of our relationship. We recently established communication between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Working Group on Nuclear and Radiation Safety. Some of our anti-trafficking initiatives support the objectives of the Working Group for Cooperation on Children at Risk. We enjoyed a visit with Commissioner Helle Degn in Washington in November and want to learn more about the Working Group on Democratic Institutions. All these offer new opportunities for us to work together with the CBSS states.

The Pori Communiqué following the 2003 Ministerial Summit addressed an issue that is of great importance to the U.S. The Council stressed the need for continued vigilance to prevent new divisions and promote cohesion in the Baltic Sea Region by intensified regional and cross-border cooperation.  We believe that the expansion of NATO and the EU must not create new dividing lines in Europe. We want to work with the CBSS and the individual states to ensure that the stability, democracy and prosperity that characterize this region spread to other states.

Thank you.

Released on December 16, 2003

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