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Balkenende opens OSCE summit in Maastricht

1 December 2003

AMSTERDAM — Demonstrators were on Monday gathering in Maastricht ahead of the opening by Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of the summit of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Balkenende is to address representatives from 55 countries during a reception at the local government building for Limburg Province, het Gouvernement, where the Maastricht Treaty for the EU was signed in 1992.

The meeting in the southern Dutch city will discuss a range of issues including the political crisis in Georgia, racism and discrimination, and the battle against human smuggling and the international drugs trade.

The delegates are also expected to discus the situation in Moldova, where 30,000 people took to the streets on Sunday 30 November to protest at what they say is Russian interference in the former Soviet Bloc region.

The Netherlands is being represented by outgoing Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer who is to set down this month to become Nato general secretary in January. He is being replaced as Dutch Foreign Minister by career diplomat Ben Bot.

Monday’s summit marks the end of Dutch chairmanship of the OSCE, the European organisation set up to coordinate security issues.

Nine hundred police officers have been assigned to guard the summit as several groups of demonstrators have descended on Maastricht to highlight a range of grievances.

On Sunday afternoon, 400 people gathered to protest peacefully at the US-led occupation of Iraq.

Later in the day about 50 anarchists rallied in front of the summit building to protest about the US-led ‘war on terror.’ The march from Koningsplein to De Griend passed off without incident, police said.

The anarchist group “Andersglobalisten’ — who are campaigning for “another form of globalisation” — have called another demonstration for Monday morning to coincide with the opening of the summit. This protest is expected to be much larger than the ones on Sunday. Several thousand people are expected to take part.

A further protest march is to take place on Tuesday, and while permission has not been sought for this or Monday’s action, the authorities have decided to tolerate them to avoid provoking trouble.

[© Novum Nieuws 2003]

Subject: Dutch news + OSCE summit