Parliamentarians have key role to play in protecting minorities, say participants at OSCE PA retreat in Villach

Villach retreat 290517Participants at OSCE PA retreat on national minorities in Villach, Austria, 29 May 2017VILLACH, 30 May 2017 – At a two-day conference concluding today in Villach, Austria, more than 20 OSCE parliamentarians from 13 countries explored ways to improve public support for national minorities in areas such as education, culture, and language.

OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Christine Muttonen (MP, Austria) opened the conference Monday by noting that the reality of our multi-ethnic societies can be a source of conflict both within countries and between countries, but can also help expand perspectives and promote co-operation.

“The friction between national minorities and the majority is at the center of many of our current security challenges,” Muttonen said. “For this reason, it is important to find sustainable ways to ensure a peaceful and just mode of co-existence between all peoples in our countries. We would all profit from utilizing the potential of cultural diversity.”

She expressed pride in the new constitution of her home state of Carinthia, which hosts a sizable Slovenian minority. The constitution, expected to be adopted this week in the Carinthian parliament, will be the first state constitution in Austria to name an autochthonous ethnic group.

Also addressing the opening session on Monday were Governor of Carinthia Peter Kaiser and Mayor of Villach Gunther Albel.

Sessions at the Villach retreat, held on 29-30 May, focused on ways that national parliaments can increase their support for national minorities, lessons to be learned from the case of Carinthia, and reconciliation efforts in South East Europe. Speaking at the session on South East Europe, OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella stressed the valuable contribution made to the region by the OSCE, including through its field presences.

“The OSCE has an excellent toolbox to support national reconciliation and mutual understanding,” said Montella, who before joining the Parliamentary Assembly held positions at OSCE field missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Serbia and Montenegro.

“The conflicts that ravaged South East Europe were tragedies for the countries involved, but also posed challenges for the OSCE. The organization proved that it can have a positive impact on people’s lives, and for this reason, its tools should be reinforced and utilized by all OSCE participating States,” he said.

The retreat on national minorities, hosted by the OSCE PA and the Austrian parliament, was intended to facilitate the sharing of best practices focusing on the potential contribution of parliaments to promote adequate structures and a supportive environment for national minorities and how a region itself can profit from positive development. The conference sought to highlight the potential of parliamentarians to create the conditions for the protection and promotion of minorities.

In addition to nearly two dozen members of parliament from across the OSCE region, the retreat included the participation of several high-ranking diplomats, including Henrik Villadsen, Director of the Office of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Director of the Office of the OSCE Secretary General Amb. Paul Bekkers, and former UN High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Wolfgang Petrisch.

OSCE PA Vice-President and Special Representative on South East Europe Roberto Battelli addressed a session on Monday on parliamentary support of minority politics, with a particular emphasis on his experience as representative of the Italian minority in the Slovenian parliament.



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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