OSCE parliamentarians can build bridges and ensure implementation of commitments, say speakers at Winter Meeting opening

OSCE parliamentarians can build bridges and ensure implementation of commitments, say speakers at Winter Meeting opening
  • Clock-gray 01:39
  • calendar-gray 21 February 2020

 Opening the 19th Winter Meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Vienna today, keynote speakers underlined the importance of multilateral co-operation and inter-parliamentary dialogue in tackling common problems facing the region and ensuring that the promises made 30 years ago in founding the OSCE are upheld, APA reports quoting oscepa.org.

The OSCE has three pillars, noted President of the Austrian National Council Wolfgang Sobotka, one of which being the human dimension. Attacks on the rule of law and human rights are attacks on society itself, he said, stressing the role of parliamentarians in defending OSCE values.

“Parliamentary diplomacy is a growing trend in foreign policy,” Sobotka said. “The Winter Meeting of OSCE parliamentarians here in Vienna is a welcome opportunity to discuss current challenges and seek solutions. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly can act as a bridge-builder between the West and the East and in the Mediterranean region. We should make full use of the OSCE tools to help settle the conflict in eastern Ukraine.”

OSCE PA President George Tsereteli noted that with today’s technological and economic advancements and new levels of global connectivity there is much to be optimistic about, but there are also multiple crises, challenges, and demands for change. Protests and political instability have become hallmarks of this time, he observed.

“These are indications that difficulties linger on,” he said. “Whether the challenges are economic, environmental, political or security-related, we are called upon to meet the expectations of our citizens who demand more than just promises and campaign slogans. We must therefore live up to their expectations through concrete achievements, including a peaceful resolution of the OSCE area’s conflicts, and to normalize the lives of millions of affected people.”

He also highlighted the need to address issues such as corruption, migration, arms control, terrorism, intolerance, and climate change.

Addressing the opening session on behalf of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Deputy Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania Etjen Xhafaj noted that the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has a privileged role to play within the OSCE.

“We particularly value your support as parliamentarians, to implement our priorities, not only by building political support for the OSCE in your capitals, but also by advocating in attaining OSCE commitments by each participating State,” Xhafaj. “As elected officials you have not only a role but a responsibility for the implementation, or by helping us hold your government to account for the commitments undertaken.”

OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger praised meetings of the Parliamentary Assembly as venues for open and frank discussions, noting that the Assembly has a track record of highlighting emerging issues and introducing them to the OSCE agenda.

Emphasizing that “common security is under threat” in the OSCE region, Greminger elaborated four proposals for addressing these challenges: promoting co-operative approaches and restoring trust in effective multilateral institutions; expanding the space for dialogue; achieving a peaceful resolution to the crisis in and around Ukraine as well as intensifying efforts in all mediation formats; and intensifying our partnerships and opening up new avenues for co-operation.

Speakers at the opening session all expressed condolences and support to the people of Germany for the attack in the German town of Hanau on Wednesday night which reportedly left 11 people dead.

The 19th Winter Meeting is taking place 20-21 February at the Hofburg Congress Centre in Vienna. The three OSCE PA general committees are meeting over the next two days and will hear from relevant experts including United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet Jeria, Heads of OSCE institutions, and government representatives of OSCE countries. Members will discuss issues such as how to efficiently leverage the tools and mechanisms of the OSCE to resolve protracted conflicts; the security implications of climate change; and multilateral human rights co-operation.

The general committees will also hear presentations by the rapporteurs regarding their ideas and intentions for the reports and draft resolutions being prepared for the 2020 Annual Session in Vancouver.

The closing joint session of the three general committees will include a special debate on combatting anti-Semitism, discrimination and intolerance in the OSCE region. The session will also feature reports by Special Representative on Gender Issues Hedy Fry (Canada), leaders of recent election observation missions to Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, followed by discussions.

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