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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

OSCE Needs to Be More Transparent

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The Foreign Ministry is often portrayed in the foreign press as having attempted to block the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and its Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights from observing the presidential election. But in reality, it was ODIHR that twice rejected invitations from the Central Elections Commission to send observation missions to Russia. Thus we acted in full compliance with our OSCE commitments.

The OSCE does not even have a charter that would help us understand the rules that govern the way it operates. We are not going to submit to what amounts to nontransparent, arbitrary procedures or standards devised by bureaucrats behind closed doors.

We demand transparency and accountability from the OSCE, and this is possible only if it institutes fundamental reforms of its observation practices. Together with other like-minded OSCE members, we drafted concrete proposals for reforming the organization, including the drawing up and publishing of a charter, but little has been accomplished in this sphere. As it turns out, the very countries that cheerlead the democratic principles of ODIHR are the ones that block any progress on reform.

The OSCE's failure to send observers to Russia only underscores that deep reform of ODIHR is well overdue. If the OSCE continues in its institutional limbo, it will have no future. If the organization is comprised of member states on equal footing, it ought to be a rules-based organization. Otherwise, it will be open to manipulation by its more powerful members, and it will continue to avoid transparency and accountability by hiding behind the elusive principles of "flexibility" and "constructive ambiguity."

The democratic process can thrive only if the electorate has a basic ownership stake in its government. But this takes time and requires profound changes in society, including the emergence of a sizable middle class. The strengthening of civil society is an important objective of Russia's development strategy. But democracy and development are always homemade products; they cannot be imposed from outside under the rubric of any principle -- whether it is called "benign colonialism" or "cooperative imperialism." The European Union still has to prove that these principles will work in Kosovo.

The world has had enough "re-education" in the 20th century -- whether it was the West or the Soviet Union preaching its values. Now is the time for our country's development to resume its natural course, which was abruptly interrupted by World War I and the Soviet era.

Alexander Kramarenko is director for policy planning at the Foreign Ministry.