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2015 AS Rapporteurs CompositeLeft to right: Committee Rapporteurs Gordana Comic, Margareta Cederfelt and Marietta Tidei (courtesy of Hanne Salonen / Parliament of Finland)HELSINKI, 7 July 2015 – Parliamentary debate on political affairs, economic and environmental issues and human rights concerns is well under way at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Annual Session in Helsinki.

Nearly 300 parliamentarians from more than 50 OSCE participating States have divided into committees to debate draft resolutions and vote on amendments regarding pressing security issues. The crisis in and around Ukraine, arms control, the economic situation in Greece, the issue of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean region, terrorism in the OSCE area and cybersecurity are among the topics being considered.

The resolutions that emerge from the committees will form the 2015 Helsinki Declaration. The document will contain the Assembly's wide-ranging policy recommendations for the OSCE and its participating States and is expected to be adopted on by majority vote on 9 July. Several supplementary items that are approved during the Session will be appended to the final Declaration.

Swedish parliamentarian Margareta Cederfelt, the Rapporteur of the OSCE PA’s Committee on Political Affairs and Security, introduced the debate in her committee:

“The illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and the destabilizing activities carried out by separatists in Ukraine, backed by the Russian Federation and other armed groups, has represented a serious breach of the Helsinki Principles… The political settlement of the crisis, based on respect for one country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and the rights of national minorities, is now the most important task for the OSCE…

“At the same time, it’s also necessary that the Ukraine crisis does not divert precious time, attention, resources and energy from other fundamental priorities, including the resolution of long-running protracted and frozen conflicts in Moldova and the South Caucasus, the re-launch of conventional arms control and transnational threats,” Cederfelt said.

Italian parliamentarian Marietta Tidei, the Rapporteur of the OSCE PA’s Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment, highlighted the situation in Greece in introducing her committee’s debate: 

"We need to stress that excessive rigidity and austerity are not proving to be adequate to solve the problems of many countries. What is happening in Greece is the most striking evidence of this. The crisis has hit the poorest in society. Therefore, fiscal consolidation cannot disregard a strategy of growth, social cohesion and investments in science and technology, which are vital to improving the living conditions of people," she said.

The 2015 Annual Session is taking place in the Finnish capital this year to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the OSCE’s founding document, the Helsinki Final Act. The Act contains the basic commitments to human security that participating States have pledged to uphold. 

Gordana Comic, the Deputy Speaker of the Serbian Parliament and the Rapporteur of the OSCE PA’s Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, urged parliamentarians to help realize the opportunity provided by the Final Act to hold States accountable to their human rights commitments:

“We have a jewel in the [Helsinki Final Act’s basic principles] – the jewel of the human rights basket of commitments – and we do not appreciate it. We are ready to bargain with it. We are ready to see the OSCE Permanent Council not being able to really deliver [on holding participating States accountable]… There’s a lot that has been done, a lot to do, and a lot to lose if we don’t start to be very serious about dialogue, about efficiency, about delivering, about accountability and about our commitments when human rights are in question,” she said.

Committee meetings continue on 8 July, and the Assembly will also convene in a plenary session at 15:00 local time to consider the draft supplementary item “The Continuation of Clear, Gross and Uncorrected Violations of OSCE Commitments and International Norms by the Russian Federation.”

For VIDEO of all committee meetings, the text of all draft documents and other materials, visit: http://www.oscepa.org/meetings/annual-sessions/2015-helsinki-annual-session

LIVE STREAMING of the Session is available on www.oscepa.org.

Follow news from the Session using the Twitter hashtag #PAHelsinki15.