OSCE parliamentarians focus on economic security fallout of COVID-19 pandemic in first-ever webinar

COPENHAGEN, 23 April 2020 – Some 85 participants joined the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s first webinar on the COVID 19 crisis on Wednesday, focused on the economic security fallout of the pandemic. Experts and parliamentarians shared views and lessons learned throughout the OSCE region and discussed the way forward for economic recovery.

Tsereteli webinarGeorge TsereteliOpening the event, OSCE PA President George Tsereteli (Georgia) stressed that a global economic problem requires a global economic response and said that enhanced international co-operation is the only way to effectively address the COVID-19 crisis.

“International organizations are very important in this crisis to provide co-ordination to build a safer future for our citizens,” Tsereteli said. He urged parliamentarians to make full use of platforms such as the OSCE PA in sharing best practices and developing common approaches.

Expert keynote speakers included Prof. Giovanni Tria, former Italian Minister of Economy and Finance; Jeffrey Schlagenhauf, Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD; and Prof. Gottfried Haber, Vice Governor at the National Bank of Austria. Following their presentations, more than a dozen parliamentarians took the floor to highlight various aspects of the crisis, share experiences from their countries, and pose questions to the experts.

close up webinarGovernments must stimulate productive recovery through financing massive mitigation programs, said Prof. Tria. He noted that competitive approaches must be avoided, especially considering the disruptions in supply chains. While international trade has been negatively impacted by the crisis, he said, the globalization process remains the most effective economic development approach at our disposal, noting however that improvements are needed.

The OECD’s Schlagenhauf said that the importance of getting the response to COVID-19 right cannot be overstated. Governments will be judged on their ability to handle the crisis, he said, and will pay steep price if not done competently. He noted that prior to recent improvements, public trust in democratic institutions had declined for many years, highlighting the importance in this respect of parliamentarians providing strong oversight and guidance to governments.

The COVID-19 crisis overlaps with other essential issues, including rule of law, conflicts, migration, sustainability, climate change, and access to health care, said Prof. Haber. He noted that financial markets and banks are part of the solution, as opposed to the financial crisis of 2008 when they were part of the problem.

HaberGottfried Haber“There is still hope that this crisis, which is potentially the worst since the Second World War, will be mainly of temporary or transitional nature, but for the mobility, tourism, trade and entertainment sectors it will certainly bear longer term and possibly persistent effects,” Haber said. Governments should focus on saving as many businesses as possible and preserve employment, he stressed.

Albanian parliamentarian Elona Gjebrea Hoxha, Rapporteur of the PA’s economic committee, noted that small business owners, the working poor, undocumented migrants, the underemployed, and the self-employed are particularly vulnerable during this period.

“In order to support those who are hit hard by this lockdown, and to prevent the recession from becoming a long-term depression, we need immediate and co-ordinated actions that utilize the world’s best economic practices and proven emergency measures to blunt the impact,” Hoxha said. “Co-operation is needed between countries and within countries if we hope to emerge from this recession and prevent the worst effects from taking hold.”

In the discussion, members underlined the role of parliaments and discussed ways they can continue their vital functions in the period of lockdowns and social distancing, emphasizing that parliamentarians must work together to build recovery in the post-COVID-19 world. There is also a need for greater action on the EU level, it was stressed.

full webinarMembers noted that the crisis poses challenges in both economics and human rights and that it is necessary to protect citizens in both respects. The service sector is hit the hardest by the lockdown, it was pointed out, and there is an urgent need to invest in IT, healthcare, manufacturing and other vital sectors of the economy. Participants also highlighted the need to ensure that all public money is spent transparently and in accordance with good governance principles to avoid waste and corruption.

Parliamentarians stressed the need for a Marshall Plan-style economic recovery plan, underlining the importance of finding common purpose and supporting one another even while so much focus is on the domestic situation in each country. There is a need to both support citizens at home and work to improve the situation for other countries as well, they said. Healthcare workers and others on the frontlines are heroes and deserve support, it was stressed.

Participating in the webinar were parliamentarians and staff from Albania, Andorra, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Montenegro, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

In addition, the webinar was joined by a number of officials from the OSCE executive structures in Vienna, as well as the Office of the OSCE Project Co- ordination in Uzbekistan.

The economic security webinar was the first of a series of Parliamentary Web Dialogues planned by the OSCE PA, with more to come in the coming months focused on various aspects of the COVID-19 crisis. It was moderated by OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella.

To watch a video of the webinar, please click here. Photos are available on the OSCE PA’s Flickr page.



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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