COPENHAGEN, 26 September 2014 – The first in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Helsinki +40 seminar series has concluded in Moscow, with participants assessing the present role of the OSCE, including how the Organization is addressing the crisis in Ukraine.
The use of the OSCE's various tools in response was seen as a sign of the Organization's continued relevance, while the crisis also points to the need for reform.
The OSCE PA's Helsinki +40 Project is a series of international seminars at leading think-tanks that bring together diplomats, experts, politicians and academia to evaluate the OSCE's past and inspire reform ahead of the 40th anniversary of its founding document, the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.
The Project's opening seminar, "Helsinki +40 Process: Prospects for Strengthening the OSCE," was hosted by the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) on 25 September and featured addresses by OSCE parliamentary leaders, Russian lawmakers and OSCE experts.
In his opening remarks, OSCE PA President Ilkka Kanerva (MP, Finland) urged participants to take stock of "the current period of profound crisis and uncertainty in the OSCE region... where heightened tensions and bellicose rhetoric between participating States are reminiscent of the past decades and most discouragingly, there appears to be limited appetite for compromise."
"The rapidly evolving geopolitical landscape presents new challenges which the OSCE's existing capacities may be inadequate to cope with.... I believe that in order to move from abstract ideas into concrete proposals on these issues, one should conduct a lessons-learned exercise on the OSCE's response to the crisis in Ukraine. The Parliamentary Assembly could contribute significantly to such an endeavor," Kanerva said.
Andrei Zagorski, Head of Department at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations - Russian Academy of Sciences, offered a similar proposal in presenting his paper for the seminar. He suggested that a general review meeting of OSCE leaders should be convened in 2015 to reconfirm the principles of the Helsinki Final Act.
In the discussions that followed, participants also considered the prospect of agreeing a legally-binding OSCE charter and a more political role for the OSCE Secretary General.
OSCE PA Secretary General Spencer Oliver suggested that gross violations by Russia of OSCE principles in the context of the Ukraine conflict threatened to make the crisis "the final act for the Helsinki Final Act." Oliver also called on the Russian side to accept the facts of the situation, rather than denying its role in the Ukraine crisis.
In presenting his paper for the seminar, Ambassador Javier Ruperez, a former OSCE PA President and participant in the drafting of the Helsinki Final Act, also emphasized that the OSCE should not stop using or referring to the Final Act's core decalogue of Principles Guiding Relations between Participating States. The Organization must also continue to focus on the primacy of human rights to security, he said.
Igor Ivanov, the President of RIAC, echoed the consensus of participants that despite challenges, the OSCE's response to the Ukraine crisis had demonstrated that its tool kit is diverse and still very much relied upon in today's world. He went on to urge that the crisis not be allowed to create "another Berlin Wall between East and West."
Helsinki +40 Project Chair Joao Soares (MP, Portugal) stressed the importance of the Parliamentary Assembly, arguing for an increased role within the Organization in order to better tap into the voice of average citizens across the OSCE area.
Alexey Pushkov, Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma; Vladimir Dzhabarov, the First Vice-Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Russia's Federation Council; and Ivan Soltanovskiy, Director of the Department of European Affairs at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs all spoke at the seminar, detailing Russia's commitment to working within and improving the OSCE.
Soltanovskiy also discussed the consensus-based decision-making on the OSCE's governmental side, an issue that was then addressed by several members of OSCE PA's Ad Hoc Committee on Transparency and Reform of the OSCE who were in attendance.
Following the seminar on 26 September, Oliver, Soares, Ruperez and Goran Lennmarker, the Chairman Emeritus of the Governing Board of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), met with more than 50 master's students from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University) to discuss the OSCE's role in the world.
The OSCE PA Helsinki +40 Project's next seminar will be hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) in Washington in November 2014.
Further seminars will be held in Stockholm in March 2015, in co-operation with the Swedish Parliament and The Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI); in Copenhagen in April 2015, in co-operation with the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS); and in Belgrade in May 2015, in co-operation with the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE).
The results of the Project will be presented as a final report during the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's 24th Annual Session in Helsinki on 6 July 2015.
For more information, visit http://www.oscepa.org/parliamentary-diplomacy/helsinki40.