080718 Opening Plenary 1OSCE PA President Tsereteli opens the 27th Annual Session in Berlin, 8 July 2018. (Photo credit: DBT/photothek)BERLIN, 8 July 2018 – The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s 2018 Annual Session opened today in Berlin with calls for greater political will to ensure the full implementation of international commitments found in the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE documents. As elected representatives of the people, members of parliament have a key role to play in building support among decision-makers in governments for ensuring compliance with these commitments, speakers said at the Annual Session’s opening plenary session.

With nearly 300 parliamentarians from North America, Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa in attendance, the Annual Session is taking place in the Reichstag, the seat of the German Bundestag. The opening session featured speeches by Wolfgang Schäuble, President of the German Bundestag; George Tsereteli, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly; Olaf Scholz, Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance for Germany; and Guglielmo Picchi, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation for Italy, representing the Italian OSCE Chairmanship.

In his keynote speech President Schäuble drew attention to new international challenges such as cyber-attacks, hybrid threats and climate change, and lamented the tendency of deviation from international rules and standards. He stressed the need for enhancing multilateral co-operation and compromise.

080718 Opening Plenary 2Wolfgang Schauble addresses the Annual Session in Berlin, 8 July 2018. (Photo credit: DBT/photothek)Schäuble noted that the informal encounters of parliamentarians facilitate mutual understanding and the creation of trust. “The parliamentary dimension of the OSCE will continue to gain importance in light of hardened positions and mutual mistrust,” he said.

OSCE PA President Tsereteli spoke about how parliamentarians can promote full adherence to OSCE principles such as sovereign equality, territorial integrity of States, the peaceful settlement of disputes, inviolability of frontiers, and human rights.

“These principles,” he said, “are some of the most important international commitments that exist, but we must admit that the state of implementation is not where it should be. Unfortunately, many of these principles are breached with disturbing regularity.”

He pointed out that violations of OSCE commitments can lead to disagreements and tension within the OSCE area, but that through international pressure, better compliance can be ensured.

“Everyone in the OSCE should understand that if they violate principles, they will receive our attention,” Tsereteli said. “After all, that is what we are here to do – to hold each other to account.”080718 Opening Plenary 3 4OSCE PA President Tsereteli addresses the Annual Session in Berlin, 8 July 2018. (Photo credit: DBT/photothek)

Vice-Chancellor Scholz noted that global challenges cannot be met by any single State, and that difficulties cannot justify political inertia, stressing that international co-operation is the way forward. The OSCE PA Annual Session is the right forum for discussing how to uphold OSCE commitments, he said. The Vice-Chancellor also argued for making full use of the structured dialogue established by consensus at the 2016 OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg.

Deputy Foreign Minister Picchi said, “Parliamentary diplomacy plays a fundamental role to promote inclusive dialogue strengthening ownership among the participating States. The debate today will be very valuable for the Italian Chairmanship also in view of the Ministerial Council which will be held in Milan on 6-7 December.”

He discussed priorities of the Italian Chairmanship, including the crisis in and around Ukraine, the protracted conflicts, organized crime, and developing co-operation with Mediterranean and Asian Partner States particularly on migration and transnational threats such as terrorism, cybersecurity and illicit trafficking.080718 Opening Plenary 5Deputy Foreign Minister Picchi speaks at the 27th Annual Session in Berlin, 8 July 2018. (Photo credit: DBT/photothek)

At the plenary session, members also considered the supplementary item “Minors on the Move: The Role of the OSCE and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Building an Effective Protection Framework.” The resolution calls on OSCE countries to implement policies for unaccompanied minors that take into account their specific needs and ensure family unity. The resolution was agreed to and will be included in the Berlin Declaration to be adopted on 11 July.

On Saturday, the OSCE PA’s ad hoc committees on migration and terrorism met on the eve of the Annual Session to discuss current and ongoing work. Chaired by Nahima Lanjri (Belgium), the Ad Hoc Committee on Migration discussed current issues and reviewed recent activities, including the visit by committee members to Serbia on 10-12 June. Members also discussed differences among OSCE countries in the treatment of unaccompanied and separated minors and possible upcoming committee visits.

Makis Voridis (Greece) chaired the Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism, which discussed the CCT’s visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina in early June and committee members’ participation in terrorism-related international events in Malta, Portugal, Italy, and Albania. The CCT also discussed ways to increase the contribution of parliamentarians in countering terrorism, as well as enhance co-operation with OSCE executive structures and other international organizations.

The Annual Session is being held under the theme “Implementing OSCE Commitments: The Role of Parliaments” and will culminate on 11 July in the adoption of the Berlin Declaration with recommendations to national governments, parliaments and the international community in the fields of political affairs, security, economics, environment and human rights.

For schedules, resolutions, speeches, news updates, press releases and other information, please visit http://www.oscepa.org/meetings/annual-sessions/2018-berlin-annual-session. Livestreaming is available in German and the floor language here: https://www.bundestag.de/mediathek

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is comprised of 323 parliamentarians from 57 countries spanning Europe, Central Asia and North America. The Assembly provides a forum for parliamentary diplomacy, monitors elections, and strengthens international co-operation to uphold commitments on political, security, economic, environmental and human rights issues.

Media inquiries may be directed to Nat Parry, Head of Communications and Press at the OSCE PA, at [email protected] or +45 6010 8177