Response to the Report by Ambassador Ralf Breth, Head of Mission, OSCE Mission to Skopje

As delivered by Chargé d’Affaires Gary Robbins
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
November 1, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The United States welcomes Ambassador Breth to the Permanent Council, and we thank him for his comprehensive report.  The United States strongly supports the OSCE Mission to Skopje, and we believe it continues to play a critical role in supporting Macedonia in its development.

We note the significant progress made by the people of Macedonia since the Ohrid Framework Agreement was signed in 2001, particularly in light of the effects of recent global economic challenges on the economy of Macedonia.  As we all know, such challenges often exacerbate existing tensions, and indeed we have seen the persistence of inter-ethnic tensions within Macedonia.  Such an environment underscores the importance of the monitoring role that the Mission plays, including through the operations of its office in Tetovo.

The promotion of effective rule of law can help to alleviate such tensions, as it promotes a fair and transparent system and begins to build trust within the communities of Macedonia.  The Mission’s work in this area has been vital, and we encourage a continuation of that focus even as the Mission undergoes an important internal reorganization.  The current budgetary environment requires the OSCE mission in Skopje to concentrate on value-added high-impact activities in close coordination with other members of the international community.

Notwithstanding the challenges that remain for Macedonia, we are pleased to see progress in several key areas.  The Mission’s work on the development of community policing has been excellent, and we welcome the news that the final handover process for this important effort has begun.  We also note the significant progress made on the decriminalization of defamation, as had been recommended by the Representative on Freedom of the Media.  We look forward to a further strengthening of journalistic standards and practices as the media expands its role in the promotion of good governance and rule of law.

We understand the Mission has been undergoing an internal restructuring to streamline operations and to strengthen the focus on key areas.  We encourage broad consultation with the Mission’s staff and stakeholders as you implement this reorganization to ensure that the new structure is addressing the needs of all concerned.

We encourage government officials, leaders and political parties of Macedonia to do their utmost to promote a tolerant and cooperative environment that will enable Macedonia to realize its potential.  Once again we thank you for this comprehensive and valuable report, and we look forward to our continued cooperation.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.