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.
"Whether we are debating changes to our security forces or the new technology affecting media freedom, the plight of refugees or the protection of borders, solutions for the future can be found in the road map signed in our past, the Helsinki Final Act that binds us all together here," said President Riccardo Migliori in his opening remarks.
More than 200 parliamentarians gathered in Vienna for the Winter Meeting, which featured a special debate on the situation in Syria, the Sahel, and North Africa. Opening this debate, Special Representative Hastings appealed to the parliamentarians to examine their consciences when dealing with the crisis in Syria.
"I ask each of you as a father and as a mother," he said, referring to children being killed in Syria, "how would you feel if the world stood by and did very little" in response to such a tragedy in their own countries.
Inside the OSCE PA, Hastings lamented that he has seen confusion as to how to respond to the crisis. He urged members of the PA to look for the common good and set aside national rivalries in coming to a consensus on an international response. Specifically, he called for arms transfers to Syria to be halted and for Bashar al-Assad to be transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to stand trial for war crimes.
Following Hastings' address, the Marcela Villarreal, from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), presented the work of her organization in relation to the Syrian humanitarian crisis. She called on the parliamentarians to show more political will in responding to the situation.
"In Syria, the situation is nothing less than dramatic and very quickly deteriorating," she said, noting that out of a total population of 22 million, three million are reported as food insecure. She explained the impact of conflict situations with long lasting effects and the trends with people migrating from rural areas, noting that the repercussions for children could last several generations. She urged members of parliament to ensure that the issue of hunger and food security remains high on the agenda.
During the debate, more than 20 parliamentarians took the floor. The efforts of Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon to tackle the Syrian refugee crisis were particularly praised. The crises in the Sahel and in North Africa were also touched on by several delegations, focusing in particular on issues of humanitarian aid, terrorism, migration policies, military intervention, protecting women and children, economic co-operation and trafficking in arms, drugs and human beings.
Some speakers reiterated their support for the UN-League of Arab State Envoy and called for a peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict through dialogue.
Another event on 22 February featured Andrei Sannikov, former opposition presidential candidate in Belarus, who urged the PA to impose more stringent sanctions against Belarus.
A meeting of the Standing Committee in the morning of 22 February focused primarily on OSCE election observation activities. Following a lively debate, the meeting closed with President Migliori announcing a committee of parliamentarians headed by Francois-Xavier de Donnea (MP, Belgium) will have the mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Assembly with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights regarding improved co-operation in future election observation missions.
The OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Transparency and Reform will meet in April in Copenhagen to discuss the issue. Deputy Secretary General Tina Schoen will organize the work of the committee.
The Winter Meeting also included meetings of the Assembly's three general committees. The full programme of the meetings is available to the right.
Established by a decision of the Standing Committee in 2001, the Winter Meeting is the primary venue for the Assembly's Members and three general committees to receive high-level briefings from OSCE officials and discuss draft reports for the upcoming Annual Session. It also typically includes a special debate on a timely topical issue.
Parliamentary interest in the event has steadily increased since it was first held in 2002, making the Winter Meeting the second largest event on the OSCE PA calendar.
Thursday, 21 February 2013
09.00 – 11.45 General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions (Neuer Saal, 2nd floor)
12.00 – 13.15 Joint Session of the three General Committees: (Neuer Saal, 2nd floor)
15.15 – 18.00 General Committee on Political Affairs and Security (Neuer Saal, 2nd floor)
15.15 – 18.00 General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment (Ratsaal, 5th floor)
Friday, 22 February 2013
13.30 – 16.30 Joint Session of the three General Committees:(Neuer Saal, 2nd floor)