In years past, a dozen or so lawmakers would attend. But that’s dropped off. This year, no senators and no more than two House members are going — the attendees are Rep.
Christopher H. Smith
(R-N.J.), who chairs the House commission that coordinates OSCE matters, and perhaps commission member
Robert B. Aderholt
(R-Ala.), along with up to four aides.
So why aren’t more U.S. lawmakers going?
“The Americans are not coming,” OSCE Secretary General
R. Spencer Oliver
said when we returned his call from his office in Copenhagen, “because they are afraid of you.”
Moi? That’s ridiculous.
But Oliver — yes,
bugged his Watergate office phone 40 years ago when he was chairman of the Association of Democratic State Chairmen — called us to insist it was so.
Word got out a couple of weeks ago that we were looking into the trip, he said, and “people who were saying they might be coming all dropped out. . . . They are not coming because of you.”
Sparse turnout presents a grave problem: Only one or two members means no military jet. No miljet means spouses won’t go. (They can tag along at no charge as long as it’s “no expense to the government.”)
By way of background, the 55-nation OSCE is not nearly as well known or as important to U.S. policy as, say, NATO or the European Union. Some dismiss it as just another Euro-gabfest.
But it is nonetheless a real player in promoting democratic reforms and human rights, overseeing elections, and other matters, especially in Eastern Europe and most especially in the 11 new democracies (and not-quite-democracies) that were once part of the Soviet Union. (The OSCE began during the Bush I era as a way to deal with the implications of the Soviet breakup.)
“This is not a boondoggle,” Oliver said. “These guys come and work.”
In which case, no need to worry about voter anger at going in these tight budget times to a meeting on the French Riviera.
Why spectacular gambling mecca Monaco, at three-quarters of a square mile the second-smallest country in the world (the smallest is the Vatican), population 36,000?
Because the venue rotates among the members and “it was Monaco’s turn,” Oliver explained.
Of course, some voters might be put off by the accommodations that we hear are being arranged at the spectacular Fairmont Monte Carlo.
The cheapest rooms run around $600 a night, but we hear the resort is offering a special rate of around $400 or even less. Still, that’s nearly $100 more than the State Department’s total per diem rate for Monaco.
Oh, wait! Looks as though the State Department just the other day bumped the rate to $634 a day — higher than Tokyo, London, Rome or Paris. So you’re all set.
Then there’s the usual government “control room” and a “control officer” to properly schedule your stay and a cashier to take care of any monetary concerns.