2011-CONFERENCE-ODIHR-Lithuanian-CiO-Matteo-MecacciMatteo Mecacci addressing an OSCE conference in Vienna entitled “Confronting Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims in Public Discourse.”VIENNA, 28 October 2011 – Today in Vienna Matteo Mecacci, Chair of the OSCE PA's General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, addressed the conference organized by the Lithuanian OSCE Chairmanship and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights "Confronting Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims in Public Discourse."

The high-level conference was attended by the representatives of the 56 governments of the OSCE as well as non-governmental organizations. The conference was opened by the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Evaldas Ignatavicius, OSCESecretary General Lamberto Zannier and ODIHR Director Janez Lenarcic.

Hon. Mecacci (MP, Italy) underlined that for decades much of Europe's leadership has considered Muslims and Arab societies unsuited for democracy. The successful elections held last weekend in Tunisia and the demise of many dictators as a result of the Arab Spring show that the "cultural relativism" developed by Western intellectuals and on which populism and extremism flourish, needs to be put aside and replaced with an institutional relationship with Muslim countries.

The challenge that the OSCE and Europe face in North Africa is how to establish a relationship with the new institutions based not only on economic and financial interests and the need to tackle the immigration issue but also and most importantly, to also engage the new authorities on the respect of the rule of law.