2003-WM-DeHoopSchefferThe second annual Winter Meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly was held in Vienna on 20-21 February 2003. The Meeting was attended by some 250 parliamentarians as well as many OSCE diplomats and officials from around Europe, North America and Central Asia, and observers from North Africa and Asia.

The parliamentarians were addressed by the President of Austria, Dr. Thomas Klestil, as well as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap De Hoop Scheffer. Addressing the gathered parliamentarians, Minister Scheffer stressed that "Your wisdom and insight are needed on many levels. If there is nothing that can replace experience, there is certainly nothing that can replace parliamentary experience. In many OSCE regions a reinforcement of democratic structures and institutions is urgently needed. That is something that cannot be achieved through government alone. It requires parliamentary action as well."

Speaking specifically about the important role of parliamentarians of OSCE election observation the Minister stated that “there is no better way of staffing OSCE observation missions than by those who know the ropes, who have fought elections themselves. I am well aware that these missions are often time consuming, but I do not think the OSCE can do without you on these missions in the future."

One of the Winter Meeting's main highlights was a special debate on the Iraq crisis, which was placed on the Schedule by the Standing Committee on the proposal of OSCE PA President Bruce George only one day prior to the debate.

2003-WM-PolitkovskayaAnother key element was the presentation of the eighth OSCE Prize for Journalism and Democracy to Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Addressing the Assembly, Ms. Politkovskaya spoke about her personal experiences as a reporter in Chechnya, and drew attention to human rights abuses in the region. "I'm a journalist," she said, "I'm neither a politician nor a diplomat. And so I'm not polite - I say what I think. And what I think about is what I see with my own eyes. My job is simple: to look around and to write what I see."

The Winter Meeting was preceded by a meeting of the Standing Committee of Heads of Delegations. Committee work during the Winter Meeting also included discussion on the draft reports of the Rapporteurs of the three General Committees, in preparation for the Annual Session in July, as well as follow-up to previous Declarations adopted by the Assembly.