Briefed by Lombardy Region President, OSCE PA leadership discusses steps forward during coronavirus crisis

GT Fontana 250320OSCE PA President George Tsereteli listens to a briefing by President of Lombardy Region of Italy Attilio Fontana, 25 March 2020COPENHAGEN, 27 March 2020 – In a series of virtual meetings this week with leaders and staff of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, members discussed the way forward in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic. The OSCE parliamentarians were briefed by the President of the hard-hit Lombardy Region of Italy, who appealed for assistance.

Opening an informal Bureau meeting on Wednesday, OSCE PA President George Tsereteli (MP, Georgia) noted that at such a critical moment it is crucial to maintain regular communication and for OSCE parliamentarians to work together towards resolution of the crisis. “We are ready to meet the challenge,” he said. “Politicians need to be active and united and deliver what they can.”

The Bureau discussed the importance of using the platform of the Parliamentary Assembly to channel international requests for help, to co-ordinate with other international organizations, and exchange information and best practices.

There was agreement among the Bureau – comprised of the President, Vice-Presidents, Treasurer, Officers of the three General Committees and President Emeritus – that online meetings should be held regularly to exchange views and to work on concrete proposals. Bureau members stressed that parliamentarians have an important role to play in this crisis, and must demonstrate leadership on the situation in their home countries.

OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella emphasized the need for strong multilateral engagement to respond to the crisis and informed the Bureau of ongoing brainstorming by the Secretariat to explore ways in which the OSCE PA can contribute. Montella also announced that upcoming election observation missions have been postponed and that the spring Bureau meeting, scheduled for April 27 in Copenhagen, will be held remotely.

Discussion focused on practical aspects of continuing the Assembly’s activities, in particular what alternatives are possible for statutory meetings and decision-making procedures.

The OSCE PA’s conference team held an online meeting with staff from the Canadian parliament on Thursday to discuss the prospects for continuing with plans for holding the Assembly’s 28th Annual Session in Vancouver this July. A decision on this is expected to be announced by the end of next week.

In a special address to the Bureau meeting, the President of Lombardy Region of Italy, Attilio Fontana, provided a briefing about the situation in his region. He noted that the number of deaths continues to rise and that while the first priority is to fight the ongoing health emergency, the socio-economic impact is also a major concern.

In order to combat the virus the authorities have prioritized social distancing and extraordinary measures have been taken to limit citizens’ movement, Fontana reported. The decisions have been made in co-ordination with all the relevant authorities with the full understanding that the fundamental rights of citizens are being restricted, he said. He appealed for governments to assist with the deployment of doctors and necessary equipment to Italy.

Bureau members stressed that focus must also be placed on the plight of migrants and that human rights should be at the forefront of the PA’s response. United States Congressman and Chair of the PA’s Committee on Political Affairs and Security Richard Hudson emphasized the need for transatlantic solidarity in response to the crisis.

Other issues raised by Bureau members included the need to set firm deadlines for making decisions on upcoming OSCE PA activities, the importance of combating fake news, promoting food security and addressing economic impacts of the crisis. Members offered updates on the situations within their countries and described measures taken by their governments to combat the virus.

In an online staff meeting Monday, it was announced that both the Copenhagen and Vienna offices of the International Secretariat will remain closed with telecommuting to continue at least until 13 April.

Since the crisis broke, Secretary General Montella has been in constant contact with both OSCE PA members and Secretaries General of partner organizations such as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Discussions with counterparts have focused on practical aspects of continuing activities through technologies such as video conferencing and webinars, as well as implementing remote decision-making procedures.

The SGs have also discussed how parliaments are handling the crisis, and the importance of maintaining public communication on all the other priority issues for international organizations – such as conflict resolution, migration management, environmental security, and human rights – which remain as relevant as before the COVID-19 crisis.

Montella has initiated a challenge for OSCE parliamentarians to post brief videos with messages of support to their constituents, governments and people of the OSCE area. Members are invited to post videos on their favorite social media platforms with the hashtag #WeAreOSCEPA.

For more on the #WeAreOSCEPA video challenge, please click here.



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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