COPENHAGEN, 12 February 2016 – OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Ilkka Kanerva (MP, Finland) has appointed Bulgarian parliamentarian Kristian Vigenin to serve as the Assembly’s Special Representative on the South Caucasus.
The position will focus the Assembly’s efforts to promote reconciliation and the implementation of OSCE commitments in the region, support confidence-building measures, and create a focal point for contact between the PA and OSCE executive structures within or at work on the region.
“I am pleased that my colleague, Mr. Vigenin, will lead the OSCE PA's efforts on contributing to reconciliation in the region and to addressing challenges, as well as opportunities, in the political, economic and human rights fields. The OSCE has many tools at its disposal to improve the lives of the region's people and I am confident that the PA can now play a larger role in promoting them,” President Kanerva said.
In accepting the appointment, Vigenin said:
“Whether we are talking about protracted conflicts, addressing corruption or democratization, more political will is needed to make progress on the many challenges facing the South Caucasus region. It is my hope that dialogue within the Parliamentary Assembly can contribute to building positive momentum. I also look forward to working closely with the people, parliaments and governments of the region to promote more active engagement and co-operation within the OSCE."
COPENHAGEN, 11 February 2016 – OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Treasurer Doris Barnett (MP, Germany) visited the International Secretariat Wednesday and met with Secretary General Roberto Montella, Deputy Secretaries General Gustavo Pallares and Semyon Dzakhaev, and Administrative Director Kurt Lerras for talks on budgetary matters. The OSCE PA’s external auditor informed Barnett and Montella of the most recent financial assessment requested by the Secretary General.
Barnett discussed with Montella and PA staff various ideas for increasing the Assembly’s efficiency to help ensure that parliamentarians can maintain and expand on their high level of activities in the most cost-effective manner. Particular attention was placed on how to best utilize the work of the OSCE PA’s Special Representatives.
Other topics of discussion included the efforts of the new OSCE PA Secretary General to introduce internal reforms in the Secretariat and streamline the responsibilities of PA staff. Montella also outlined his external priorities, which include continuing to improve working relationships with the OSCE’s governmental side, as well as continuing the very close co-operation that has been developed with other parliamentary assemblies.
BELGRADE, 5 February 2016 – The leadership of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions traveled to southern Serbia on 4 February, meeting with refugees, aid workers and officials at reception facilities near the border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
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The delegation, led by Committee Chairperson Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal), visited the reception facilities at Miratovac and the registration center at Presevo, which serve thousands of transiting people daily.
Members heard the personal stories of Syrian refugees and discussed procedures and trends related to the crisis with workers from a range of international organizations and aid groups, including the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration and the Red Cross.
“There is sadness and there is hope in the air and on the faces here, and indeed, the crisis of migrants and refugees is about both. Serbian citizens and authorities have done admirable work in many respects, including in their humanitarian approach, the implementation of biometric registration and better equipped facilities. The country must continue on this positive path and ensure that good practices on paper are fully translated into reality,” Chairperson Santos said.
PRAGUE, 3 February 2016 – The leadership of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions visited the Czech Republic on 1 and 2 February to consider the country’s role in responding to the crisis of migrants and refugees currently affecting the OSCE area.
The delegation, led by Committee Chairperson Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal), visited a residential center for asylum-seekers in Kostelec nad Orlici, some 150 kilometers east of Prague. The delegation met with officials from the Interior Ministry’s Department of Asylum and Migration Policy; parliamentarians from the Committee on European Affairs and the Sub-Committee on Migration and Asylum Policy; representatives of the Prague 13 municipal district; the leadership of the Prague Integration Center; and representatives of several NGOs.
“I welcome the opportunity to learn about how Czech officials and civil society view the crisis of migrants and refugees and how they approach it in practical terms. I take note of improvements the Czech Republic is pursuing in domestic policy and funding. The stated commitment to EU resettlement policy and UN relocation initiatives that we heard in our meetings is an important signal,” Santos said.
“However, I appeal to Czech politicians to pursue a public discourse that is less driven by fear of ‘the other.’ This type of rhetoric has dangerous effects on all societies and is an approach that too many leaders across Europe are using today to avoid addressing the real problem. Leaders must always remind themselves, and help the public understand, who refugees really are – acutely desperate people who are fleeing war zones in search of basic human dignity,” the Chairperson said.