More than 250 parliamentarians from across the OSCE’s 57 participating States and Partners for Co-operation, including several speakers of parliament, participated in the Parliamentary Assembly's 15th Winter Meeting at the Hofburg Congress Centre in Vienna on 25-26 February 2016.
The refugee and migrant crisis in Europe and efforts to strengthen the collective response was the central theme of parliamentary debate and keynote presentations. The leadership of the Assembly’s Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions presented a special report on the topic. The meeting featured a special debate on this theme, including interventions by dozens of parliamentarians, as well as a keynote address by Christos Stylianides, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.
Nearly 250 parliamentarians from more than 50 OSCE participating States gathered on 18-20 February 2015 at the Hofburg Congress Centre in Vienna for the Assembly's 14th Winter Meeting. OSCE PA Vice-President Christine Muttonen (MP, Austria) opened the meeting with a welcome on behalf of the Austrian parliament to the Parliamentary Assembly.
In his opening remarks, Assembly President Ilkka Kanerva (MP, Finland) stressed that the internationally brokered plan to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine must not be derailed, noting that the escalation of violence preceding the agreement and the loss of civilian lives has been unacceptable.
Nearly 250 parliamentarians from 55 OSCE participating States and four Partner for Co-operation countries participated in the 2014 Winter Meeting, held at the Hofburg Congress Centre in Vienna on 13-14 February 2014. The two-day meeting concluded with a special debate on "The Current Situation in Ukraine," which featured the active participation of nearly 30 parliamentarians, including several Ukrainian Members of Parliament from the Communist Party, Batkivshchyna, Party of Regions and UDAR.
Parliamentarians spent much of the debate discussing the role that the international community, including the OSCE and its Parliamentary Assembly, should play in efforts to resolve the impasse in Ukraine. Delegations offered a variety of opinions, with some warning that outside interference threatens to undermine Ukraine's democratic structures and could serve to foment a "new Cold War" in the OSCE area.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's 12th Winter Meeting took place 21-22 February 2013 at the Hofburg Congress Centre in Vienna.
Opening with a call by PA President Riccardo Migliori for remembering the OSCE's roots in tackling the challenges of the present and future, the meeting also included addresses by the President of the Austrian Parliament, Barbara Prammer, OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier, the Special Envoy of the Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE, Viacheslav Yatsiuk, and OSCE PA Special Representative for Mediterranean Affairs Alcee Hastings.
In his opening address to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's 11th Winter Meeting on 23 February 2012, Assembly President Petros Efthymiou spoke of the need for governments to respect the rule of law, particularly in prison systems, and called for better protection of freedom online.
"We all have the responsibility in our home parliaments to advocate for laws that protect freedom of expression wherever that expression is taking place," he said. "To ensure citizens remain free from government pressure online requires us to take more difficult action."
President of the Austrian Parliament Barbara Prammer called on the parliamentarians to protect and strengthen OSCE commitments, especially in the human dimension. "It is especially vital now, after all initiatives in this area have failed to gain consensus at the OSCE Ministerial Council in Vilnius in December," she stressed.
The tenth Winter Meeting of the OSCE PA, held in Vienna on 24-25 February 2011, concluded with a special debate on the situation in the Mediterranean area. OSCE PA Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs Alcee Hastings (United States) opened the debate by calling on the OSCE to proactively reach out to help Mediterranean countries in transition to democracy, noting the courage of the people in the region.
"This debate is inspired by the courage and dignity of the people in Tunisia, Egypt, and throughout the Mediterranean region," Mr. Hastings said. "These are challenging and uncertain times but also hopeful in their opportunity."
OSCE PA President Petros Efthymiou issued a statement on behalf of the Assembly at the closing of the debate, noting that the OSCE PA "expresses its deepest concern for the conflicts and violence in the countries of North Africa and for the unacceptable repression carried out in Libya by Gaddafi's regime."