COPENHAGEN, 17 March 2020 – Addressing the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus crisis, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President George Tsereteli (MP, Georgia) today issued the following statement:
“As we cope with the global threat of the coronavirus pandemic, we are all struggling to make the right decisions, whether as individual citizens or as policymakers in parliament and government. I hope that while we deliberate and make these tough calls, we all keep certain principles in mind.
“One is that in order to be successful, we must pursue the highest level of co-ordination possible. It will be more effective in the long run if each government takes decisions that are not only in the best interest of their people, but of neighboring countries, trading partners, and others in the international community. This also means that governments should, to the highest degree possible, follow the recommendations outlined by authorities of the World Health Organization, which is now urging national governments to prioritize testing of every suspected case. Also, of course, citizens need to follow the advice by experts for social distancing and to take other relevant precautions.
“As governments develop responses to the crisis and while many are declaring states of emergency, it is also vital that human rights are fully upheld. Under OSCE agreements and international law, there are principles for ensuring civil liberties and human rights during national emergencies. Namely, the derogation of rights must be strictly limited to the requirements of the situation and must be proportionate, non-discriminatory, and consistent with other legal obligations.
“And finally, I urge governments and parliamentarians to prioritize the need for emergency economic measures, including assistance to people most in need, as well as long-term contingency planning. Many vulnerable people could be pushed over the edge by this crisis, so it is important to ensure safety nets are in place to soften the impact. Businesses are also in need of assistance and we must ensure that we address the risks of a vicious cycle that could lead to a serious economic crisis with all its detrimental effects. ”
Tsereteli added that as a former medical doctor, he applauds the work of medical personnel and volunteers who are responding admirably under stressful conditions. He urged all necessary precautions to be taken to ensure the safety of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.
Last week, OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella sent a letter to all Members of the Parliamentary Assembly describing actions being taken by the PA to help mitigate the crisis, including closing the offices of the International Secretariat in Copenhagen and Vienna until 30 March. Staff are continuing to perform duties by means of telecommuting and the use of ICT tools, he said.
Activities scheduled for March, as well as some of those scheduled for April, have been either postponed or cancelled, Montella announced.