Speakers at OSCE PA Winter Meeting opening session call for unified response to Russia’s war against Ukraine

230223 WM MCMargareta Cederfelt addresses the opening of the Winter Meeting, 23 February 2023VIENNA, 23 February 2023 – The Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine has shattered European security and requires parliaments, governments and the OSCE to work together in developing a common response, speakers said today at the opening session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s 22nd Winter Meeting. A top priority must be to ensure justice and accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and for the crime of aggression.

With nearly 250 parliamentarians from 52 countries in attendance, OSCE PA President Margareta Cederfelt (MP, Sweden) opened the meeting with a speech noting that for the past year, every principle of the OSCE’s founding document, the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, has been violated by the Russian Federation. “As a direct result of Russia’s actions, our entire region is spiraling into the unknown,” Cederfelt said. “And as a consequence, the OSCE and our Parliamentary Assembly find themselves at a crossroads.”

Quoting War and Peace, in which Leo Tolstoy wrote that “war is so unjust and ugly that all who wage it must try to stifle the voice of conscience within themselves,” Cederfelt pointed out that “some in this room have trampled their mandates.” While the OSCE PA has long championed the role of parliamentarians as agents of peace, “some have become promoters of war, murder, and destruction.”

She noted that multilateralism has never been easy, but today, considering the OSCE’s membership and its consensus-based rules, it is particularly challenging. “How can we move forward if the countries responsible for devastating our common security are also the ones crippling the OSCE?” she asked. Left unchecked, these violations could lead to the demise of collective security, it was stressed, and therefore it is essential that international obligations and commitments are upheld.

While defending the OSCE PA’s historic role as a forum for open, frank and honest dialogue rooted in shared values and commitments, she pointed out that this does not mean the Assembly should provide an unrestricted platform to promote a war of aggression. “Although I find the situation very unfortunate, I do sympathize with the fact that some Members find it unbearable to sit in the same room as the aggressors,” Cederfelt said. “But for those present today, this is your opportunity to stand up to them and confront their lies.”

Also addressing the opening session was President of the Austrian National Council Wolfgang Sobotka, who spoke about the need for a common approach to security, highlighting the war in Ukraine and several other pressing challenges in the OSCE area.

Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE and Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, Bujar Osmani, who is attending a special session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York observing the one-year mark of the war in Ukraine, addressed the Assembly in a video message.

Osmani noted that the Winter Meeting comes at very difficult times for the whole European security architecture and also for the OSCE. He stressed though that as someone who values the role and the utility of parliamentary diplomacy, there is a need to engage constructively in this important parliamentary forum, underlining the role of parliamentarians in fostering the political will that the executive branch needs to move forward.

Director of the OSCE Secretary General’s Office, Amb. Luca Fratini, delivered remarks on behalf of Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid, who was invited to participate in events with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and a number of Ministers in New York in the context of the one-year mark of the war against Ukraine.

At the beginning of the opening session, a moment of silence was observed for the victims of the war in Ukraine and the 47,000 who have perished in this month’s devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria.

The Winter Meeting continues today and tomorrow with sessions of the three general committees and closes Friday with a joint session featuring addresses by OSCE PA officials with mandates related to the war in Ukraine, followed by an open debate.

The Winter Meeting is streaming live on the OSCE PA’s Facebook and YouTube channels, as well as at www.oscepa.org. Photos are available for public use at the PA’s Flickr page. For more information on the Winter Meeting, 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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