2006-WM-FischerFrom 23-24 February 2006, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly held its fifth annual Winter Meeting in Vienna. Attended by over 200 parliamentarians from across the OSCE region and from partner States, the Winter Meeting consisted of two joint sessions of the Assembly's three General Committees, as well as separate meetings of the Committees, and a special debate.

OSCE PA President Alcee L. Hastings opened the Winter Meeting at the first joint session, which was addressed by , and by the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht.

Following the first joint session, the three General Committees met individually to follow-up on previous work, and to prepare for the Assembly's July 2006 Brussels Session. The Committees were addressed by OSCE officials with responsibilities related to the work of each of the three Committees, and heard reports by the Rapporteurs of each Committee, who informed Members about their ideas and intentions for their upcoming reports.

The Committee work was followed by a closing joint session, which was addressed by the Assembly's Special Representative on Gender Issues and by the Secretary General of the OSCE.

Prior to the closing session, the Assembly met for an extraordinary debate on "The World Crisis on Freedom of Expression and Respect for Religious Beliefs". President Hastings had called for this special debate following the controversy and violent reactions to the publication of politically-sensitive cartoons in some newspapers in the months prior to the Winter Meeting.