Co-operation for progress

7 November 2011

By Petros Efthymiou (Greece), President of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation Parliamentary Assembly and Audronius Ažubalis, Foreign Minister of Lithuania and Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE

With the Fall Meetings opening today in Croatia, OSCE PA President Petros Efthymiou and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Audronius Ažubalis have held up South East Europe as a model for co-operation.

This October more than 250 Parliamentarians from across 56 countries, covering almost the whole northern hemisphere, will meet in the historic city of Dubrovnik. This meeting in Croatia will also be a testament to one of the biggest success stories in the OSCE region.

Since the early 1990s, the OSCE has actively promoted peace, democracy and prosperity throughout South East Europe. This engagement began during difficult years of tension and war. Yet from the very beginning, the aim of the OSCE has always been to consolidate peace and build trust – trust among states and peoples, and trust between citizens and the institutions that represent them.

In many ways, our engagement in the region has defined the modern history of the Organization and shaped how the OSCE looks today. We have focused our work in the region on building partnerships with the authorities of the countries that host our field operations, with civil society and with local populations. We are proud of what the OSCE has accomplished, but we have not acted alone, and any of our achievements can be directly attributed to the work of host countries and partnerships with other regional and international organizations.

Despite continuing challenges and even setbacks, today the region as a whole has made huge progress in many areas. One of the most impressive is the normalization of relations between the countries of the region. Establishment of cordial, economic and diplomatic relations throughout the region has been an OSCE priority. Work on issues such as elections, refugee return, war crimes prosecution, disarmament, confidence building and human rights protection has contributed to this success. This shows clearly how the OSCE is a forum for constructive dialogue and a model for resolving conflict.

This is ultimately not our success, however – it is the success of the people of the region and their governments. Progress is sustainable because it was achieved through the work of the countries themselves and their citizens.

In few other places is the strength of the people’s commitment to making progress in partnership with the OSCE as evident as it is in Croatia. When we look back at the number of tasks and issues that the OSCE assumed in the country 15 years ago, it is impressive to see so many marked as ‘accomplished’.

Can anything be a greater symbol of security than people returning to their homes after years of displacement? Consistent efforts on refugee return and reconstruction of war-damaged homes, with support from the OSCE, demonstrates the Organization and its participating States working at their best. Similarly, the efforts to prosecute all war criminals regardless of their nationality demonstrate a commitment to reconciliation and the rule of law now seen at all levels in this region.

The recent initiative by the presidents of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia in Brijuni to co-operate further in law enforcement, criminal prosecution and extradition procedures in order to fight organized crime and improve prosecution of war crimes shows the lasting effect of relationships first fostered through OSCE dialogue.

The OSCE and its Parliamentary Assembly have been actively involved promoting parliamentary oversight of security forces and budget processes – key factors that increase government accountability and contribute to regional stability.

Beyond the work of governments on these critical issues, parliamentarians who have risen to power with intimate knowledge of the OSCE have found the Organization worth re-investing in themselves. In Belgrade this July the Serbian parliament hosted the Parliamentary Assembly’s Annual Session – the first time the Assembly’s summer meeting was held in the region. This fall, parliamentarians come to Croatia for the first time for a series of meetings focused on economic co-operation in South East Europe and democracy in the Mediterranean region.

Lawmakers from South East Europe have taken on leadership roles in the Assembly, and, remarkably, account for nearly a third of all election observers. The OSCE PA’s Special Representative on South East Europe, Slovenian parliamentarian Roberto Battelli, has recently led two election observation missions to the region, and continues to fulfill his mandate to promote dialogue in all segments of society to encourage reconciliation and rehabilitation in the region.

But reconciliation does not happen just because the OSCE is present and the governments participate. It takes a sustained effort from all sides. In the past months, we have seen Serbia redouble its commitment to the cause of reconciliation through arresting the last remaining war crime suspects wanted by the ICTY (The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia). These actions show a government moving beyond rhetoric to solidify a region at peace.

By maintaining this level of international engagement, South East European parliamentarians and government officials remind their colleagues of the value of multilateral diplomacy, and particularly the unique forum for transatlantic and Eurasian dialogue offered only through the OSCE.

Petros Efthymiou is president of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation Parliamentary Assembly and a member of the Greek parliament. Audronius Ažubalis is the foreign minister of Lithuania and Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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