PA Bureau members hear from OSCE Secretary General, discuss Assembly work in virtual meeting

COPENHAGEN, 26 January 2021 – OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Peter Lord Bowness (United Kingdom) and OSCE Secretary General Helga Schmid were among the speakers at today’s meeting of the Assembly leadership, held in an online format. OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella also addressed the meeting, providing an overview of upcoming Assembly activities and ongoing work.

Helga Schmid 260121OSCE Secretary General Helga Schmid addresses the Bureau, 26 January 2021In her remarks, Secretary General Schmid welcomed the OSCE Call for Action issued by the PA on the margins of the Ministerial Council in December last year. She praised the Parliamentary Assembly as a valuable source of new ideas and proposals, noting she had been in Istanbul for the 1999 summit where OSCE heads of state and government commended the increasing role of the PA in promoting democratic development.

“The PA is indispensable to ensure that the OSCE is receptive to the needs of our citizens, particularly at a time that many have lost trust in multilateral institutions,” Schmid said. “Parliamentarians can help build the OSCE’s public profile, including by connecting the Organization with decisionmakers and civil society in countries across the OSCE area.”

As OSCE Secretary General, she wants to strengthen the cross-dimensional approach to security, Schmid said, noting that the PA has an important role to play in this regard.

President Bowness underlined the Parliamentary Assembly’s support for the work of the Organization as a whole, welcomed the addition of all Bureau members as signatories to the OSCE Call for Action, and mentioned the possibility of holding regular online dialogues with leaders of the OSCE’s executive structures.

“The PA values very much the strong relationship that has been built between OSCE institutions and stands ready to support the work of the Secretary General and Chairperson-in-Office in advancing OSCE values,” the President said. “In working together to build the Organization’s potential, co-ordination is essential and therefore I hope that we can continue to build upon communication tools to ensure the highest level of teamwork.”

IS Bureau meeting 260121OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella addresses the Bureau, 26 January 2021Montella reported to the Bureau that the International Secretariat is coping effectively with the COVID-related restrictions and that most PA staff are still telecommuting. He informed members that next month’s Winter Meeting, which is usually held in Vienna, will be fully online, while expressing hope that the annual Bureau meeting in April can be held in person. Montella also reported on two recent election observation missions, to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, conducted earlier this month with 10 staff members deployed altogether, pointing out that no COVID infections have been reported.

Secretary General Montella and OSCE PA High-Level Expert Lamberto Zannier discussed the PA’s Helsinki +50 initiative, which is working on identifying the key issues to focus on and developing ideas for raising the OSCE’s profile ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act in 2025. One of the biggest challenges, it was stressed, is to increase the high-level attention from governments to the Organization. Ambassador Zannier also previewed the OSCE PA Online Roundtable being held on Wednesday, “Toward Helsinki +50: Reaffirming a Common Purpose,” expressing his hope that the meeting will be a genuine debate and will provide a concrete work plan for the rest of the year.

In the discussion, members noted that the past year has been a challenging one that has put to the test principles of multilateralism and democracy. Parliamentarians discussed the need to discuss the level of knowledge of what OSCE institutions do – both in terms of the PA understanding what other parts of the OSCE do, as well as improving the OSCE’s understanding of what the PA does. Members raised issues that must remain in focus in the Organization’s work, including the situation in Belarus, the crisis in and around Ukraine, developments in the Russian Federation, and climate change.

Bureau members also discussed Assembly activities and priorities for 2021, including reforming the PA’s Rules of Procedure and working practices, as well as upcoming meetings and projects.



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