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.
Also addressing the opening joint session was OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, who described the Ukraine crisis as a "very difficult moment for the security of the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian regions." The crisis was the focus of several discussions and keynote presentations throughout the Winter Meeting, including the Special Debate held on 20 February. The 2015 Winter Meeting also included the Assembly's Mediterranean Forum, held on 18 February.
Meetings of the PA's three general committees – Political Affairs and Security; Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment; and Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions – featured presentations by committee rapporteurs and keynote addresses by OSCE officials and others.
OSCE representatives who addressed the PA's committees included Ambassador Cristian Istrate, Chairperson of the Security Committee of the OSCE Permanent Council; Astrid Thors, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities; Ambassador Tomislav Leko, Chair of the OSCE Economic and Environmental Committee; Halil Yurdakul Yigitguden, Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities; Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media; Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights; and Ambassador Robert Kvile, Chairperson of the Human Dimension Committee of the OSCE Permanent Council.
Ambassadors Heidi Tagliavini, Ertugrul Apakan and Adam Kobieracki, all top OSCE officials working on the Ukraine crisis, offered remarks ahead of the Special Debate on 20 February. Amb. Tagliavini, the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group, told parliamentarians that there is a fear "that the situation in eastern Ukraine may completely get out of hand."
Amb. Apakan, Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), urged all parties to the conflict to recognize that commitments to peace agreed in Minsk are not open to interpretation. Amb. Kobieracki, Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre, acknowledged that while the OSCE will continue its determined efforts to support a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, there remains "the absence of an essential catalyst – political will."
In his opening remarks, President Kanerva, who met ahead of the debate with representatives of the Ukrainian and Russian Delegations to the OSCE PA, said, "As lawmakers from the OSCE's 57 states we must be vocal and unequivocal in furthering the goal of peace in and around Ukraine. With every rocket launched, hope for a diplomatic solution grows dimmer."
Dozens of parliamentarians from countries ranging from Denmark to Georgia to Serbia participated in the debate, including several members of both the Ukrainian and Russian Delegations to the OSCE PA.
The Mediterranean Forum on 18 February was chaired by Vice-President Isabel Pozuelo (MP, Spain), and was addressed by Ambassador Rudiger Ludeking, Chairman of the OSCE Contact Group with the Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation and Permanent Representative of Germany to the OSCE, and by Heads of the Parliamentary Delegations from OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation countries Algeria, Israel, Morocco and Tunisia. Topics discussed included migration, threats posed by violent extremism, enduring challenges of the Arab Spring and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The OSCE PA has held an annual Winter Meeting at the OSCE headquarters in Vienna since 2002. The Meeting provides an opportunity for OSCE parliamentarians to engage in dialogue with high-level OSCE officials on latest developments in the OSCE area, to debate and consider a range of topics and to reinforce interparliamentary contacts. The meeting also serves as an opportunity for members to discuss draft reports for the upcoming Annual Session.