Online forum promotes regional dialogue in southeastern Europe with leaders of PA Delegations and heads of OSCE field operations

COPENHAGEN, 25 May 2020 – Launching a series of informal meetings for the OSCE PA leadership to discuss regional issues with OSCE PA delegations, parliamentarians from southeastern European countries met online Monday with Assembly President George Tsereteli (Georgia) and Secretary General Roberto Montella.

see GTGeorge TseretelWith a focus on how countries of the Western Balkans are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, the OSCE parliamentarians were joined by the heads of several OSCE field operations, as well as regional experts from the OSCE Conflict Prevention Center, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the High Commissioner on National Minorities, the OSCE Secretariat, and the OSCE PA International Secretariat. 

The purpose of the event was to hear from parliamentarians in the region about what is happening on the ground and to share ideas for focused engagement from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Topics of discussion included the public health situations in individual countries, how executive authorities are responding to the crisis, upcoming elections in the region, and the possibilities for deploying future election observation missions.

President Tsereteli noted that during pandemic, focus must continue to be placed on conflict mediation, the economic situation, and on human rights. “We have held dialogues on these topics through our webinars,” Tsereteli said, “but this is the first of the regional dialogues that we hope to hold.” The President stressed that there are different types of recovery that must receive adequate attention, including health recovery, economic recovery, and democratic recovery. He pointed out that restrictions on fundamental freedoms must be proportionate and legitimate.

Ivan Brajovic, President of the Parliament of Montenegro, reported that his country is virtually coronavirus-free, expressing satisfaction that the health system responded efficiently and that the government introduced timely and effective measures.

see StefanaStefana MiladinovicStefana Miladinovic, Head of the Serbian Delegation, provided an update on the coronavirus situation in Serbia, noting that the number of cases is dropping and that thankfully no COVID-19 deaths have been reported in recent days. She underlined that life is largely returning to normal and discussed the decision to postpone the parliamentary elections, initially organized for 26 April. She said that as soon as the crisis seemed to be coming to an end, a new date of 21 June was announced.

Vladimir Gjorchev, Head of North Macedonia’s Delegation, discussed the usefulness of OSCE PA forums to provide ideas and good practices, including within the context of COVID-19. He worried that North Macedonia is seeing a spike in coronavirus cases, with between 20-40 new cases every day, emphasizing that this is the highest rate in the Western Balkans. He underlined the importance of ensuring that humanitarian aid is not politicized, and appealed to the OSCE Mission to Skopje to pay close attention to this issue. He also urged an observation mission for upcoming elections in North Macedonia, to the extent possible.

Head of Albanian Delegation Ditmir Bushati said that although it has been a tragic public health emergency, the pandemic has also served to ease tensions in the Balkans, noting that there has been a spirit of solidarity in the region. The OSCE, he said, must pay close attention to democracy and rule of law, pointing out that there has been a broad derogation of standards, including on the right to work and freedom of assembly. He urged focus on social and economic development, noting that during the lockdown, a disparity has been observed in the right to education depending on citizens’ online access. He also urged a timetable to be set for EU accession negotiations.

Dejan Vanjek, Secretary of Delegation from Bosnia and Herzegovina, noted that the situation related to coronavirus in his country is improving. He said that there were problems with the hospitals in the beginning, but they coped well and when they received proper supplies, they managed to deal with the situation. He also noted that a coronavirus law is being debated and that elections are scheduled for October.

British parliamentarian Mark Pritchard, the OSCE PA’s Special Representative on South East Europe, reported on the situation in the United Kingdom and discussed developments in the Western Balkans. He regretted that the UK has suffered 37,000 deaths, with the peak at one time at 1,000 deaths every day. With deaths now at 150 a day, he said that while the UK seems to be getting it under control, but there is concern about a possible second wave.

Regarding regional developments, Pritchard discussed the effects of COVID on EU accession negotiations and the importance of continuing dialogue in southeastern Europe. He said that all those who have postponed elections should proceed with scheduling new ones as soon as practicable in order to provide enough time for campaigning and for the international community to prepare possible election observation missions.

Secretary General Montella discussed the challenges associated with deploying normal election observation missions, pointing out that, in addition to the usual considerations that go into deciding to deploy missions, the PA would only do so if ODIHR has the necessary conditions to deploy long-term observers. Due to the travel restrictions associated with COVID-19, it is difficult to predict when this might be possible, Montella said.

see ElonaElona Gjebrea HoxhaPeter Mossop of ODIHR added that in deciding on establishing election observation missions, they are considering all factors, including whether they receive invitations from host governments and the possibilities for travelling.

Elona Gjebrea Hoxha, Rapporteur of the OSCE PA’s economic and environmental committee and member of the Albanian delegation, discussed the recent webinar the PA held on environmental aspects of COVID-19. The international community and OSCE countries must use the opportunity provided by the crisis to promote a shift in environmental policies, she said.

For more on the OSCE PA’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, 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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