Representatives of the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) present this year’s Baltic Democracy Award during an April 15 meeting in Washington, D.C. From left to right, Karl Altau (managing director, JBANC), Markus Videnieks (JBANC Board of Directors), Congressman Christopher Smith, Peter Chereson (JBANC), Piret Laiverik (Central and East European Coalition) and Orest Deychakiwsky (Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe). (Photo courtesy of JBANC)
The Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) has presented its Baltic Democracy Award to the two leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which is also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission.
JBANC presented the award April 15 to Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) and Co-Chairman Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), according to a press release from the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying organization.
The CSCE was established in 1976 as an independent branch of U.S. government. It is charged with monitoring compliance with the 1975 Helsinki Accords on peace and security in Europe.
Smith was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980, and is a senior member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Smith is also one of the longest-serving members of the House Baltic Caucus. Smith has been instrumental in furthering the CSCE’s cause of promoting human rights and democracy, authorizing three of America’s most influential anti-human trafficking laws and serving on Congressional caucuses focusing on refugees, combating anti-Semitism, and human trafficking.
Smith also has experience in Central and Eastern European affairs, and was present in the Baltics with a U.S. Congressional delegation following the Soviet crackdown in early 1991. He recently introduced the Belarus Democracy and Human Rights Act of 2011, legislation that supports Belarus’ democratic opposition and calls for American sanctions against that country’s current authoritarian regime.
“Congressman Smith has been a tremendous ally to JBANC,” said Markus Videnieks, a member of JBANC’s board of directors. “He has demonstrated tireless support and wise leadership on issues that are critical to Estonian-, Latvian- and Lithuanian-Americans, and we are proud to be able to recognize him and Senator Cardin for their achievements.”
Cardin was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006. He serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, Judiciary Committee, Environment and Public Works Committee, Budget Committee and Small Business Committee. From 1987-2006, Cardin served in the House of Representatives, representing Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District.
Cardin has served on the CSCE since 1993 and currently is vice president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Previous JBANC Baltic Democracy Award honorees include Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) in 2007; Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), and Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-Neb.) in 2003; Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) in 2001; and Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) in 1999. Before 1999, the award was called the Baltic Freedom Award.
JBANC represents the American Latvian Association, Estonian American National Council and the Lithuanian American Council.
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