Opening session speakersItaly’s Undersecretary of State of Foreign Affairs, OSCE PA President George Tsereteli, and International Co-operation Vincenzo Amendola, and OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger

VIENNA, 22 February 2018 – Some 240 parliamentarians from 53 countries are gathered in Vienna this week for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s 17th Winter Meeting. With debates taking place on “fake news,” climate change, arms control, migration, and terrorism, the OSCE parliamentarians are also discussing the need for improving the level of dialogue in these times of heightened international tensions.

Today’s opening session included speeches by OSCE PA President George Tsereteli, Italy’s Undersecretary of State of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Vincenzo Amendola, and OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger.

“It is no secret that the level of dialogue and trust within the OSCE area is at a historic low point,” President Tsereteli said in his opening remarks. “On one hand, this could be seen as a failure of multilateral organizations such as the OSCE for falling short of doing what is needed to build trust and manage the challenges we face. But on the other hand, this can also be seen as a historic opportunity to revive this organization.”

Rather than focusing only on deterrence, détente and dialogue must also take center stage, he said, and reviving them should be high on the international agenda. The OSCE is well equipped to do this and must spare no effort to catalyze the needed political will, President Tsereteli pointed out.

In his remarks, Undersecretary Amendola, representing the Italian Chairmanship-in-Office of the OSCE, said that the main challenge for the OSCE remains finding a solution to the crisis in and around Ukraine, and that Italy also confirms its commitment to find a solution to all protracted conflicts, in Transdniestria, Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

“At the same time our Chairmanship plans to put a strong focus on the Mediterranean, a ‘hub’ connecting three continents and thus indispensable to build peace and sustainable development in the 21st century, including beyond the borders of the Organization,” he said. “The OSCE is a model of dialogue, based on the principles of 1975, which we can imagine as a blueprint for the broad Mediterranean region.”

OSCE Secretary General Greminger said that the OSCE is needed more than ever to help countries rebuild trust and foster co-operation, and shared his views on making the OSCE “fit for purpose.”

“I definitely see greater scope for working with you – the Parliamentary Assembly,” he said. “We need to increase awareness of the OSCE in legislative bodies: to generate political will, secure sufficient financial resources, and to ensure implementation of commitments. Parliamentarians have a key role to play in rebuilding trust.”

The 17th Winter Meeting is being held at the Hofburg Congress Centre on 22-23 February, featuring presentations from government representatives of OSCE countries to the OSCE PA’s three general committees on issues related to political and security affairs, economics and the environment, and human rights and humanitarian questions. The general committees are also hearing preliminary reports from committee rapporteurs and holding debates on topical issues.

The Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions will hold a debate this afternoon on “Upholding democracy in an age of ‘fake news’” while the Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment will focus on “Climate crisis: Developing long-term strategies to tackle climate change and its global consequences.”

Meeting on Friday, the Committee on Political Affairs and Security will hold a debate on “Arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation: challenges and opportunities for the OSCE area.”

Also on Friday, the three committees will meet for a joint session, where members will hear reports by the Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on the Rules of Procedure, Lord Peter Bowness; the OSCE PA Special Representative on Gender Issues, Dr. Hedy Fry; the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Migration, Filippo Lombardi; and the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism, Makis Voridis.

This morning, the OSCE PA’s Standing Committee of heads of national delegations met and heard reports from President Tsereteli, OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella, Treasurer Doris Barnett, the heads of recent OSCE PA election observation missions, and OSCE PA Special Representatives.

Sessions of the OSCE PA Winter Meeting are streaming at www.oscepa.org. Photos are available on Flickr. Follow the meeting on social media with the hashtag #OSCEPA.