Berlin Declaration Banner smaller

OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter at the opening session of the OSCE PA's Autumn Meeting in Geneva, 3 October. (courtesy of the Swiss Parliament/Fabio Chironi)OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter at the opening session of the OSCE PA's Autumn Meeting in Geneva, 3 October. (courtesy of the Swiss Parliament/Fabio Chironi)GENEVA, 3 October 2014 –The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s 2014 Autumn Meeting has opened in Geneva, with OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter urging some 200 parliamentarians from more than 50 nations to support the “very fragile shift” from “a military to a political logic in the Ukraine crisis.”

OSCE PA President Ilkka Kanerva (MP, Finland) and Speaker of the Swiss Council of States Hannes Germann also spoke at the opening of the year’s final major gathering of the Parliamentary Assembly, held under the theme “New Security Challenges: The Role of Parliaments.”

“The first and most imminent priority of the OSCE remains Ukraine,” Burkhalter told delegates. 

“We are still far from a political solution. But in view of the more than 3,500 victims and the humanitarian misery caused by the military confrontation in eastern parts of Ukraine, this [fragile shift to a political logic] has been an important development. While August was still dominated by the risk of further military escalation, there is now a political momentum that requires our full support,” he said.

“The parties must continue to take steps to make the ceasefire more sustainable and implement all commitments agreed in Minsk. All shooting and shelling must now stop. Differences must be resolved through dialogue rather than force,” Burkhalter added.

The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office underscored the important role of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in facilitating and supporting that dialogue.

He also emphasized that the danger posed by the Ukraine crisis extends far beyond its borders:

“The violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia have repercussions that go far beyond Ukraine. They call into question the foundations of European security as defined in the Paris Charter on the basis of the Helsinki Final Act. Disregard for the post-Cold War rule book and the growing political divide between Russia and the West have brought about great uncertainty as to the security and stability of Europe,” Burkhalter said.

He also referenced the OSCE PA’s Helsinki +40 Project, a series of seminars aimed at fomenting reform of the Organization. He echoed calls by OSCE parliamentarians on the need for the OSCE to develop better capacities for early warning and mediation of conflicts and ensure vigorous implementation of OSCE commitments, particularly in the human dimension.

In his address, OSCE PA President Kanerva said he was “cautiously optimistic” about recent signs of de-escalation in Ukraine, while underscoring that “any solution to the crisis must be predicated on a genuine commitment by Russia to abide by all Helsinki Commitments.”

“We must also remember that the rules apply to both sides of the conflict, and Kyiv is equally responsible to ensure that armed militias fighting on its behalf respect the [OSCE] Code of Conduct,” Kanerva added.

The OSCE PA President also highlighted the burgeoning threat of ISIS and other radical groups to the OSCE area, urging parliamentarians to work together to strengthen international responses. 

He also referenced recent mass demonstrations on climate change, encouraging parliamentarians to press their governments to fully commit to tackling the problem.

Earlier in the day, parliamentarians also took part in the OSCE PA’s Mediterranean Forum, held under the theme "Facing Current Challenges to Security in the Mediterranean Region: the OSCE Model." The Forum included addresses by the Heads of the Parliamentary Delegations from the OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation and featured debate on topics including the threat of ISIS in the region, the crises in Iraq, Libya and Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and irregular migration.

A parliamentary debate on the Ukraine crisis features later on the Autumn Meeting’s opening day.

For the full programme, speeches and additional information about the Autumn Meeting, visit: http://www.oscepa.org/meetings/autumn-meetings/2014-geneva

The Meeting is being STREAMED LIVE on www.oscepa.org.