JBANC Meets with Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL)

on Eve of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Annual Session. Hastings is President of the OSCE PA.

JBANC PRESS RELEASE: For Immediate Release
July 1, 2005

Washington, DC (JBANC) --- Members of the Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) met on June 28th with Congressman Alcee L. Hastings to discuss the upcoming session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE PA). Hastings, a Florida Democrat, is the current President of the Assembly. The 14th Annual Session of the OSCE PA is being held in Washington DC on July 1-5.

At last year’s meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Assembly passed a resolution critical of the minority situation in Latvia and Estonia. JBANC sharply contested this assessment as unfair in singling out the two Baltic countries, not taking into account the efforts of those governments to improve the civil society climate, and not explaining the historical background.

JBANC presented Rep. Hastings with a briefing packet with current information about civil society in Latvia and Estonia. In addition, there was information about President Bush’s recent trip to Latvia; along with the recent resolutions in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the European Union, seeking Russia’s acknowledgement of Soviet crimes. There was also information about the plight of the Maris, a Finno-Ugric minority living in Russia, who have born the brunt of increasing human rights violations.

JBANC also appealed to Congressman Hastings to support H. Con. Res. 128, the House legislation introduced by Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL) supporting a Russian admission of the occupation of the Baltics. The Russian Federation continues to deny this fact; an ongoing effort to change the historical record. In a letter to Rep. Hastings, JBANC chair Lya Karm wrote that goodwill could instead “help Russia come to terms with its own past, which is critical for dealing with the future. This is vital not only for Russia’s neighbors, but for Russia’s own interests.”

Now with 27 co-sponsors, it is expected that H. Con. Res. 128 will be voted on in the coming weeks. If in mid-July, it would be timed with the traditional Captive Nations Week, and also the 65th anniversary on July 23rd of the foundation of the U.S. policy of non-recognition of the Soviet occupation and take over of the Baltic countries. The Senate has already passed their version of the legislation on May 19.

The OSCE PA is composed of parliamentarians of over 50 countries from Europe, along with the U.S. and Canada. This meeting will be the first such session ever held in the United States. The Assembly evolved from the first Helsinki Conference meeting in 1975, which now marks the 30th anniversary of that first extensive Cold-War era discussion on security, human rights, and other issues.

Alcee Hastings was first elected to the House in 1992, and has long served as a Commissioner of the CSCE (or Helsinki Commission), the U.S. government agency monitoring and encouraging compliance of the Helsinki Accords and other commitments to the OSCE. Commissioners serve from the Executive branch along with nine Senators and nine House Members. The current chairman in Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), with House co-chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ). The organizations continue to focus on human and religious rights issues, election monitoring, human trafficking, and promotion of democratic values in Belarus, Moldova, and elsewhere.

Meeting with Hastings and his Chief of Staff Fred Turner were Estonian American National Council President Mati Kõiva, American Latvian Association Vice President Dr. Juris Mezinskis, along with Dalia Grobovaite and Karl Altau of JBANC.

From left: Karl Altau (JBANC), Mati Kõiva (Estonian American National Council),
Dalia Grobovaite (Lithuanian American Council),
Congressman Hastings,
Juris Mezinskis (American Latvian Association).

Octobr 17, 2008 - President Bush Discusses the Visa Waiver Program
Office of the Press Secretary/ White House News

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.) Please be seated, thank you. Welcome to the White House. I'm pleased to stand with the representatives of seven countries -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and South Korea -- that have met the requirements to be admitted to the United States Visa Waiver Program. Soon the citizens of these nations will be able to travel to the United States for business or tourism without a visa. I congratulate these close friends and allies on this achievement, and I thank you for joining us here.

I also thank Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of the Homeland -- Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff for working hard to make sure this day has finally arrived. Appreciate other members of the administration here and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc.
400 Hurley Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850-3121
tel. 301-340-1954
fax: 301-309-1406