2009-WM-Groushko-Bujon-BarreThe Eighth Winter Meeting on 19-20 February 2009 concluded with a lively debate on European security architecture, involving prominent speakers from Russia and France and almost 50 of the 250 parliamentarians participating in the Vienna meeting.

The security debate took place as a follow-up on recent initiatives by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy for new European security arrangements.

"We need a fresh approach," stated Alexander Groushko, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, one of the two main speakers, while the other, Veronique Bujon-Barre, Deputy Director for Political and Security Affairs in the French Foreign Ministry, talked about a new "crisis of trust in Europe" after the war last year in Georgia and the "need to re-establish that lost trust."

During the opening session, OSCE PA President Joao Soares welcomed the 250 parliamentarians and underlined the importance of the OSCE being willing to engage and meet new challenges.

"The OSCE is an extraordinary organization and its greatest strength has been its flexibility, allowing it to adapt to new realities," Mr. Soares said. "However, I fear that this flexibility is being lost here in Vienna. We parliamentarians must do what we can to keep the OSCE an effective forum for dialogue."

He regretted the fact that the OSCE still lacks transparency. Its meetings should be open, he said, and the consensus rule should be adjusted.

"We still have a lot of work to do to open up our organization and I pledge here to continue my efforts to do that," he said.

President Soares also underlined that election observation will continue to be a centerpiece of the Assembly's activities. "As parliamentarians, we have experience and knowledge that bureaucrats simply cannot have, and we will continue our important work in this critical area, alone if necessary," he stated.

The two-day meeting -- the second largest event in the OSCE PA calendar after the Annual Session, which this year takes place in Vilnius, Lithuania from 29 June to 3 July -- was addressed by a number of top officials, including the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Greece’s Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis; the President of the Austrian Nationalrat, Barbara Prammer; the President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, U.S. Congressman, John Tanner; OSCE Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut and several heads of OSCE institutions.

During the closing session, the delegates heard from OSCE PA's Special Representative on Gender Issues, OSCE PA Vice-President Tone Tingsgaard, and Panos Kammenos, Greek Vice Minister of Mercantile Marine, Aegean & Island Policy, on "Piracy As a New Security Threat."

The Winter Meeting's agenda also included a special presentation on Kazakhstan’s preparations for its OSCE Chairmanship in 2010 by the Kazakh Delegation, led by its Head of Delegation and OSCE PA Vice-President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

In the presentation, "Path to Europe," Mr. Tokayev outlined in detail Kazakhstan's priorities for political and economic reforms. He stated that "our priorities are clear and irreversible."