The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's 16th Winter Meeting is taking place at the Hofburg Congress Centre in Vienna on 23-24 February 2017.
Opening the meeting, President of the National Council of Austria Doris Bures and OSCE PA President Christine Muttonen spoke about the work being conducted in Austria to advance OSCE commitments and values in addressing common challenges. In her remarks, Bures noted that “isolation and nationalism” are “not a path to a peaceful and secure future.”
“In the interests of our citizens, we must travel the more difficult but better road. Through dialogue and co-operation, we must seek solutions that embrace the ideals of our community: peace, security, prosperity and the guarantee of democratic values in the OSCE area on both sides of the Atlantic,” Bures said.
President Muttonen expressed concern that the OSCE area today is simultaneously impacted by multiple crises, noting in particular the deterioration of the security situation in eastern Ukraine as a growing concern, as well as recent escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the ongoing threat of terrorism affecting OSCE countries. Muttonen stressed the role of parliamentarians in enhancing the level of dialogue.
“Relationships need to be cultivated,” she said. “Aggressive rhetoric and nationalistic politics will only narrow the view and make more difficult necessary and global solutions. We should try to build bridges whenever possible and always seek to cultivate co-operation.”
Also addressing the opening session was OSCE PA Special Representative on Gender Issues Hedy Fry (MP, Canada) who focused on the gender aspects of the refugee and migrant crisis, and specifically integration into host communities. “If we want to build secure societies we need to be sure that newcomers are integrated and feel secure,” she said, emphasizing in particular language training and health care as priorities, as well as the special needs of women and children.
In the closing joint session on the afternoon of 24 February, parliamentarians will hear addresses by Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria Sebastian Kurz and OSCE Secretary General Amb. Lamberto Zannier, followed by a question and answer session.
The three general committees are meeting to hear from government representatives of OSCE participating States and debate issues related to political and security affairs, economics and the environment, and human rights and humanitarian questions. Each committee is also hearing presentations by committee rapporteurs regarding their ideas and intentions for the reports and draft resolutions to be prepared for the 26th Annual Session in Minsk in July.
Several bilateral discussions are taking place on the margins of the Winter Meeting, including a number of meetings between President Muttonen and heads of OSCE PA delegations. The President also participated in a side event organized by the Finnish delegation entitled “The Human Security Dimension in Peace Mediation.” Other side meetings taking place during the Winter Meeting include one on energy security, organized by Ukraine, and an event organized by the United Kingdom on the theme “Relevant, Responsive, Responsible Democracy.”
The PA’s Standing Committee of heads of national delegations met on 23 February to hear reports by President Muttonen, OSCE PA Treasurer Doris Barnett, Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on the Rules of Procedure Peter Bowness, and Secretary General Roberto Montella, as well as from OSCE PA Special Representatives, leaders of recent election observation missions and the chairs of ad hoc committees.
The Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Migration, Swiss parliamentarian Filippo Lombardi, reported on his committee’s recent activities, including a meeting held on 22 February in Vienna. The Ad Hoc Committee, he reported, is focused on preparing a report and recommendations to be presented at the OSCE PA’s 26th Annual Session this summer in Minsk, as well as a number of possible upcoming field visits.
The Winter Meeting will conclude with a special debate held in a joint session of the three committees on the afternoon of 24 February. The theme for the debate is “Protecting human rights in times of crisis,” with dozens of interventions expected to address the importance of upholding fundamental rights during periods of heightened security concerns.
More information about the Winter Meeting, including the full draft programme, is available to the right. The OSCE PA will be using the hashtag #OSCEPA during the meeting on social media.
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