2016 AS Tbilisi Usupashvili 010716Georgian Speaker of Parliament David Usupashvili gives opening address at OSCE PA's 25th Annual Session in Tbilisi, 1 July 2016TBILISI, 1 July 2016 – With nearly 300 parliamentarians in attendance from 54 countries, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s 25th Annual Session opened Friday with speeches by host officials including Georgian Speaker of Parliament David Usupashvili, President Giorgi Margvelashvili, and Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, as well as OSCE PA President Ilkka Kanerva (MP, Finland) and the OSCE’s Chairperson-in-Office, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Welcoming participants to the Annual Session, which is being held under the theme “25 Years of Parliamentary Co-operation: Building Trust Through Dialogue,” President Margvelashvili noted the significance of hosting the event in Georgia, particularly in the context of the 25th anniversary of Georgian independence.

“This forum is taking place for the first time in Georgia and as importantly, as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Georgia’s independence,” he said. “The role of the Parliamentary Assembly is truly unique. The joint efforts of legislative institutions carries vital importance to overcome the challenges that our countries’ peaceful and prosperous development faces today.”

Prime Minister Kvirikashvili said that “membership of the European family is a deliberate choice of the Georgian nation, since we fully understand that this is the best way of ensuring democracy, security, peace and prosperity throughout the country.”

While highlighting reforms that Georgia has implemented, Kvirikashvili also noted the challenges that the country continues to face and called for the restoration of a full-fledged OSCE Mission in Georgia.

Speaker Usupashvili called attention to the serious threats and challenges facing the OSCE area.

“War and terrorism do not recognize borders and become a terrible threat to all. We see this in many countries; we encounter this in Europe as well. In today’s world, there is no such thing as walled-off safety and soon there will be no walled-off wellbeing either. Therefore, I think anyone who tries to solve globalized problems in an isolationist manner is mistaken,” Usupashvili said.

“We need to consolidate our efforts and deal with all types of threats together,” he added.

President Kanerva noted that in the two years of his presidency, the atmosphere has been characterized by diminished trust related to the crisis in and around Ukraine, stressing that parliamentarians should redouble efforts to strengthen ties between nations.

“The challenges we face are real and require real co-operation,” he said. “As we see the interrelated effects that various crises are having on our mutual security, we cannot afford to retreat into an isolationist mindset. Instead we should utilize the OSCE’s comprehensive security framework and work together towards building bridges, not walls.”

Foreign Minister Steinmeier, who is wrapping up a three-day visit to the South Caucasus this week to promote confidence-building measures in the region, said that parliamentarians have an important role to play in creating conditions for dialogue and mediation.

“I am grateful to you, the members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, for your manifold efforts to create scope for dialogue and to support the process of mediation,” said the Minister. “Let us remain pragmatic and committed in our endeavours. And let us work patiently to achieve the dialogue that we so urgently need now – for the sake of our citizens and for the sake of the over one billion voters who are represented by this Assembly.”

The Annual Session runs from 1 to 5 July, with debates in the general committees over the next several days on resolutions related to the crisis in and around Ukraine, transnational terrorism, protracted conflicts in Georgia, climate change, fundamental freedoms in Crimea, the fight against corruption, the rights of refugees, and lifting sanctions against parliamentarians, among many other topics on the agenda.

After the amendment process and their adoption by the committee, resolutions will be voted on by the full Assembly during the final day of the Annual Session on 5 July, for inclusion in the OSCE PA’s Tbilisi Declaration.

The Declaration, containing wide-ranging policy recommendations and pronouncements in the fields of security, economics and the environment, and human rights, will be sent to the foreign ministers of OSCE participating States and presented in national parliaments, serving as policy guidance to governments and the international community.

At the close of the Session, Assembly members will elect their leadership for the coming year, including a new President.

For schedules, resolutions, live streaming during the event, daily news updates, press releases and other information, please visit www.oscepa.org. Selected photos are being posted on the PA’s Flickr page at www.flickr.com/oscepa and on the Georgian Parliament’s Flickr page at https://www.flickr.com/photos/geoparliament. Both the PA and the Georgian Parliament are tweeting using the hashtag #OSCEPATbilisi.

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is comprised of 323 parliamentarians from 57 countries spanning Europe, Central Asia and North America. The Assembly provides a forum for parliamentary diplomacy, monitors elections, and strengthens international co-operation to uphold commitments on political, security, economic, environmental and human rights issues.