Statement by Mr. Adrian SEVERIN, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

Statement by Mr. Adrian SEVERIN, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
Strasbourg, date ??

Mr. President,
Distinguished Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour for me, as President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisaton for Security and Co-operation in Europe, to address this plenary sitting of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly. I thank you, Mr. President, for the initiative to invite me to share with you all the views and activities of the OSCE Assembly. On a personal note I must say that my presence here today brings back excellent memories of my time as an active member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

My time as Member of this Assembly. enabled me to well understand and value the importance of parliamentary involvement in international organisations. As I have stated on numerous occasions, parliamentarians add value to the work of international institutions. It is today more clear than ever that parliaments and parliamentarians can provide a valuable asset to international co-operation and development. Parliamentary diplomacy is not merely diplomacy by other means. It relates, above all to accountability before our citizens. The importance of parliamentary oversight and accountability in international organisations are primary requisites for organisations whose core aim is to promote democratic values and ideas throughout the world.

We have to recognise the fact that today we are involved in a difficult struggle against those who still think that there is no room for parliamentary diplomacy, who encourage a bureaucratic diplomacy instead of a political one, and who would like, instead of discreet diplomacy, to promote a form of secret diplomacy in which they are not held accountable for their decisions.

The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly as the first European assembly to be created in the history of our continent, and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly as the youngest international parliamentary institution in Europe, shall continue to join efforts towards the achievement of our common objectives and goals.

Building European security, in a comprehensive way, and preventing conflict is a challenge both for the OSCE and for the Council of Europe, and it is a challenge that can best be faced by both organisations working together ;and maximising their respective areas of competence and comparative advantage. Likewise at the parliamentary level, and I am pleased that our two Assemblies have established a close relationship and an effective and mutually reinforcing division of labour. The fact that the governmental and parliamentary leaderships of the OSCE and the Council of Europe have met regularly to co-ordinate their activities and to discuss matters of mutual concern is of paramount importance in that respect.

Mr. President,

After ten years of existence, the 0SCE Parliamentary Assembly continues to address major issues of concern to the citizens of the OSCE while promoting parliamentary involvement in the activities of the Organisation, facilitating inter-parliamentary dialogue and co-operation and providing a vital link between the governmental side of the OSCE and the directly-elected representatives of the citizens of the OSCE participating States.

The Parliamentary dimension of the OSCE is essential, especially as the OSCE has become an important partner to the Council of Europe in furthering peace and stability across Europe. The OSCE remains the most flexible and responsive Euro-Atlantic foreign policy instrument for non-military contingencies. It is the primary instrument for early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict rehabilitation in its region. It offers strong advantages in dealing with intra-state conflict and in addressing trans-national threats to stability. Its broad Euro-Atlantic and Euro-Asian composition and its comprehensive approach to security are an added asset in our Organisation.

Mr. President,
Distinguished colleagues,

Allow me to briefly reflect on some of the political issues that our Assembly is currently addressing, and in which both of our Assemblies should continue to join efforts and enhance co-operation.

The tragic events of 11 September made it clear that international terrorism imposes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security in the twenty-first century and targets the very foundation of our civilization. OSCE States agreed as far back as the Helsinki Final Act in 1975 that they would refrain from direct or indirect activities which might assist terrorism. This commitment has been strengthened over the years with the explicit pledge of the Parliamentary Assembly through its Declarations and Resolutions. Furthermore, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will devote its 11th Annual Session to be held in Berlin next July to the fight against terrorism. I am proud to say that one of the first comprehensive documents adopted by the OSCE after the events of September was the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Sintra Resolution on the fight against terrorism, which maps out guidelines for the fight against international terrorism. We are pleased that the main ideas of that Resolution were included in the OSCE's Action Plan adopted by the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting held in Bucharest last December.

We must not forget, however, that our fight against terrorism is not a fight against any specific religion or ethnic group.. At the same time this fight should not in any way undermine the basic principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms that form precisely the basis of our civilization. In this context I would like to draw your attention to our concept of "multicultural security " or "security through multiculturalism". We, parliamentarians, could contribute to the fight against terrorism not only by adopting the necessary legislation, but also by networking across -various cultures and by promoting intercultural and inter-religious dialogue through inter-parliamentary dialogue. In this respect we look very much forward to the Parliamentary Conference on Terrorism proposed by the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the CIS with the collaboration of our two Assemblies to be held in St Petersburg this March.

In coping with the terrorist threat, we must rely on some principles. Before undertaking action, we must be aware of the principles on which this action is based. In this context, 1 believe that the "ten commandments" in fighting terrorism could be the following:

1. Don't fight only against the existing terrorist networks, but against the roots of terrorism as well.

2. Don't use the fight against terrorism as a means for reaching geopolitical goals.

3. Don't lower the standards for democracy, rule of law and human rights in order to obtain short-term allies against terrorism.

4, Don't think that the short-term alliance against terrorism is by itself enough to root out the long-term rivalries rooted in cultural, political and economic incompatibilities or disparities.

5. The external fight against terrorist networks must be complemented by the internal fight against the democratic deficit in each of the countries of the coalition against international terrorism. If poor people have to choose between political authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism, they will be inclined to choose the latter rather than the former.

6. Don't limit civil rights for the sake of fighting terrorism. Terrorism is fuelled by a deficit rather than by an excess of civil rights.

7. The fight against terrorism is not a fight against one ethnic group or one religion However, the lack of intercultural dialogue leads to frustrations, alienations and misunderstandings, which only encourage terrorism.

8. Don't forget the real cultural dimension of today's terrorist phenomenon: the clash between an incipient culture of globalisation characterising the national communities and the incipient national conscience of tribal communities; as well as the meeting of clan-based civilisation with modern technologies to which it is culturally unaccustomed.

9. Don't forget the main paradox of terrorist networks: they are lead by wealthy people in control of important financial resources with the use of the modern banking system and their ranks are filled by people whose poverty makes them vulnerable to fundamentalist manipulation. Likewise, refugee and displaced persons camps, as well as those entities which are a combination between a quasi-State and a quasi-protectorate (e.g. Transdniestria, Kosovo, Abkhaziaa, etc.) will always be the incubators of terrorism energised by political extremism.

10. Always remember that terrorism is closely connected with corruption and organised crime.

Mr. President

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has continued to develop a particularly active programme for monitoring parliamentary elections.

The level of co-operation we have reached in the field of election monitoring between our two Assemblies and the European Parliament to work as a tri-parliamentary troika has undoubtedly helped to join efforts and to avoid unnecessary duplications, while giving a common message on the electoral processes. The input of parliamentarians in election observation missions is a great asset to the overall evaluation of the processes in countries in transition. In this context I welcome the project of the Council of Europe to analyse and produce a detailed study on electoral systems and the criteria for free and fair elections. Co-operation on this matter between our two secretariats, in order to share values and use the same measurements and criteria in election monitoring will enhance the overall results of election monitoring projects.

Our co-operation within the framework of the Stability Pact for South-East Europe has also proven successful. The Stability Pact further strengthened the parliamentary dimension with the creation, in June 2001, of a parliamentary troika composed of the European Parliament, and the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe and the OSCE. This development marked the beginning of genuine institutional parliamentary links between the Stability Pact, international parliamentary institutions and national parliaments in participating countries. The fact that we are now included in the works of all three Stability Pact Working Tables and of the Regional Table is very positive.

We welcome the initiative of the Albanian Parliament to hold in a few weeks a Third Conference of the Speakers and Presidents of the Southeast European Countries in order to aid in the creation of appropriate conditions for an ever increasing communication and understanding among the peoples in the region on the basis of the values of democracy and the rule of law.

Furthermore, the ad hoc committees of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly continue to serve as an important toot in furthering the development of democracy and stability in the OSCE region. The ad hoc Committees on Belarus, on Moldova, on Kosovo, and the recently created ad hoc Committee on Abkhazia, have contributed to prompting dialogue and seeking co-operation in politically unstable areas. The Committees have promoted, in such areas, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and assistance in the development of the legal and democratic institutions and processes by providing advice to the parties in conflict on legal, constitutional, and political frameworks.

In the field of minorities' rights, I would like to make two quick remarks. First, I want to express my concern towards the fact that when confronted with a minority problem, especially in the Balkans, the international 1 community does not ask for the implementation of the European Convention for Minority Rights, but is instead seeks ad hoc solutions. Are the minorities in the Balkans really so special that the general European standards are not applicable to them? I don't think so. I am afraid that it is the international "mediators" or "facilitators" interests in the region which are special and that is why they sometimes become a part of the problem rather than a part of the solution.

I believe that the European standards for minority rights are minimal, not maximal. That is why each State is free to go beyond those standards long as it is in connection with those minorities living on its own territory. However, unilateral "innovations" with international consequences in this very sensitive field can be extremely dangerous in terms of international stability and security. That is why we must think together to an international system of protection for minorities, in addition to the general protections that each State is obliged to ensure to its citizens, in such a way that we can lift the burden from the shoulders of individual countries (so-called "mother nations") which all too often are acting emotionally or are guided by internal and external political considerations.

Mr. President

Co-operation between the Council of Europe and the OSCE - and co-operation therefore between our two Parliamentary Assemblies- is today more than ever necessary for the sake of peace and stability on our continent. The recently established practice of the (2+2 / 3+3) meetings comprising the governmental and parliamentary dimensions of our two organisations - both at the political and administrative levels - have proven, I believe, a fruitful exercise inidentifying policies and uniting efforts towards common goals. In places like Belarus, fYR of Macedonia, the Caucasus, our joint efforts are very much needed.

As in the case of the fYR of Macedonia, we are confronted there with a general lack of confidence: between ethnic communities, between political actors, between leaders and population, between the Macedonian society and the international community. In the short run, we must overcome this situation and rebuild confidence. In the long run, we must apply the two main therapies needed for coping with all "Balcanic diseases": education and development. It would be advisable if our approach, including the minorities problem is conceived at the regional level. A donors conference as well as one to guarantee the territorial integrity of those countries are also needed.

With regard to Belarus, in which our two Assemblies have had considerable co-operation, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Working Group on Belarus in its new composition, made its first post-presidential election visit to Minsk in November. It had intended to return in early February, although this visit had to be cancelled when the Belarusian authorities placed unreasonable conditions on the modalities of the visit.

As you are probably aware, the issue of Belarus' representation in our Assembly remains unresolved. Since your Assembly will also be making decisions in the coming future regarding the possible reinstatement of Belarus' guest status, it is important that we maintain the dialogue between our two Assemblies so as to send the Belarusian authorities a firm and common message on the need to undertake meaningful steps toward democratisation, political pluralism, and respect for human rights, and the rule of law.

We should remember that the constitutional crisis within Belarus and the deterioration of the country's relationship with the international community started when a new Constitution was adopted in an unfair and rather unfree way. Until the Belarusian society finds political means for reconciliation of these constitutional controversies, the crisis will not be over. We, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, together with the European Parliament, have recognised that the isolation of Belarus is bad for both the Belarusian society and the Western democracies. However, we must also say that that Belarus is itself responsible for its isolation, in which case we may refer to self-isolation. Even so, we must do our best in order to bring back into the European democratic family and to normalise relations with that country. In this context, I want to express our concern and disappointment in reference to the latest news co ming from Minsk, in particular referring to the tough and unfriendly attitude of the Belarusian leaders to the international community and its democratic standards.

We are ready to assist Belarus to overcome its political and constitutional national and international controversies. But we cannot and we will not accept that the conditions for the normalisation are imposed on us by threat and political blackmail; nor will we accept that the normalisation is done at the expense of our moral and political standards.

My visit to the Caucasus last October made me aware of the vulnerable security situation in that region and the need for further democratization processes.

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has established an Ad Hoc Committee on Abkhazia (Georgia), which seeks to create a more fruitful political environment for a compromise solution through parliamentary dialogue. So far, the Committee has been unable to start its co-operation with the Abkhazian side, and we are currently trying to overcome the deadlock by inviting personalities from the region to Bucharest for a meeting.

I have also taken initiative to establish an Ad Hoc Committee on Nagorno Karabakh which would be mandated to promote dialogue in all segments of society, in particular at the parliamentary level in order to encourage reconciliation and rehabilitation. Such an Ad Hoc Committee would work closely with the OSCE Minsk Group, its Co-chairmanship as well as the Chairman-in-office's personal Representative on the Conflict Dealt With by the Minsk Group.

Finally, as concerns regional issues, let me say that we have acknowledged with great concern the deterioration of the political dialogue in Moldova as well as the ever-increasing number of measures taken by the country's leadership which might decouple the country from European values, structures and institutions. Democracy does not mean the right of the majority to rule according with its tastes, but the obligation to pursue a political dialogue which could integrate the minority's opinions and aspirations with the majority's programs. In this spirit, I call on all parties concerned to have a reasonable attitude which should demonstrate, at the same time, respect and understanding for all communities' aspirations to preserve their identities as well as the freedom of all citizens to make their cultural choice and to determine their own future within a pluralistic, free and open society.

Mr. President,

Let me conclude by thanking you once again for this invitation to present here to our colleagues the activities and objectives of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. We are determined to continue to develop relations and co-operation with you. We have had very positive experience from such co-operation in the past by the "parliamentary troikas" in Albania and Belarus and many election-monitoring projects like the very important one in Kosovo, It appears essential to join forces between us, particularly in cases where the international community needs to speak with one voice. We look very much forward to our joint activities in the future.

Also, Mr. President, this being your first Session as President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I would like on my behalf and on behalf of all the members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to congratulate you on you election for this important institution. I would also like to thank your predecessor, my dear friend Lord Russell, for his productive efforts to enhance dialogue and co-operation between our two Assemblies. During his mandate the co-operation between our two Assemblies was considerably increased, and we have built successful channels for coordinating our policies and activities.

Mr. President we look forward to continuing our co-operation with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and I can assure you that the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will continue to do its best in assisting in strengthening respect for and implementation of commitments to democracy, human rights, religious freedom, the rule of law and responsible economic and environmental policies. In other words, furthering peace and stability across Europe.

Thank you very much for your attention.