I'm delighted to be here at this, the second CBSS Ministerial that the U.S. has attended as an official observer.
U.S. participation here, like our participation in the Barents Council Ministerial in March, is a reflection of the importance and high priority we give to this region.
CBSS -- like the Barents Council, the Arctic Council, and the Nordic Council of Ministers -- is a key mechanism for achieving our mutual goal of building a network not just to improve the trade patterns that Swedish State Secretary Soeder talked about, but a network that helps secure stability, prosperity, and security for everyone.
This cooperation is all the more important as the CBSS is taking on increasing operational responsibilities -- witness the important decisions being made at this Ministerial to incorporate under the CBSS umbrella the regional cooperative mechanisms that have developed in the past several years and some additional mechanisms suggested here today.
For the U.S., working as closely as possible with the CBSS is a crucial part of implementing our Northern Europe Initiative.
We see possibilities for U.S.-CBSS cooperation in four areas, which I'd like to touch on in right now:
In the field of education, we strongly support the EuroFaculty project. I'm happy to announce that we will provide $50,000 for two Fulbright professors to teach at the Tartu EuroFaculty campus during the spring of next year, and we are committed to funding one or two additional Fulbright professors for the EuroFaculty during the following academic year.
In the law enforcement area, U.S. authorities have been cooperating now for some time with the Baltic Sea Task Force on Organized Crime. We hope we can strengthen this cooperation and make it even more effective, perhaps by participating more actively in the Task Force's planning and operational activities. My sense is that we have something to contribute to crime-fighting efforts in the region.
We have had several references here today to the increasing threat that infectious diseases, particularly AIDS and tuberculosis, pose to this region. We are very interested in working on this problem together with the new Task Force on Infectious Diseases created by Baltic leaders last April. Here I want to highlight the regional HIV/AIDS strategy launched in May by several CBSS member states, the U.S., and key international agencies. This strategy supplies the framework for concrete treatment, prevention, and education programs in the region and could provide the basis for the Task Force's work on HIV/AIDS. I'm pleased to inform you that the U.S. intends to commit $400,000 to support implementation of this strategy.
There were several references today, including from my British colleague here, to the scourge of trafficking in persons. We want to work in particular with our Norwegian friends as well other CBSS member states to develop an OSCE-wide initiative against trafficking in persons. This is a problem that affects this region as well as others, and the CBSS provides a possible forum for a regional effort, coinciding with OSCE efforts, to combat trafficking.
Allow me to raise one other issue, following up on a point made by our chairman at the beginning and referred to several times by my colleagues around the table -- the negotiations for the MNEPR agreement -- the Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Program for Russia. We are committed to working with many of the governments represented at this table to address the problem of nuclear waste management in Russia. Like many of you, the U.S. has provided significant funds and considerable technical assistance in this area. The agreement is intended to provide a legal framework for this assistance, including critical legal protections for donors. We have had a chance recently to conduct a detailed review of a paper provided by the Russian Government on the legal issues still outstanding in the MNEPR negotiations; unfortunately, we do not believe that our common concerns have been addressed.
After extensive consultations with our partners, the U.S. believes it will be forced to suspend its participation in the 80-tonne cask project this summer if we can't reach agreement in the MNEPR negotiations. We hope that the obstacles to this agreement can be overcome rapidly, so that agreement can be reached in the very near future, which would allow all of our programs to continue. That is our hope; we very much want to work toward that goal.
Over the years, the CBSS played a key role in ensuring that Northern Europe took a path away from competition and confrontation and toward integration and cooperation. The U.S. looks forward to working with everyone here today to help build on this accomplishment. We particularly look forward to working with the German Chairmanship in the coming year.
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