2013-WM-Standing-Committee-2The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's 12th Winter Meeting took place 21-22 February 2013 at the Hofburg Congress Centre in Vienna.

Opening with a call by PA President Riccardo Migliori for remembering the OSCE's roots in tackling the challenges of the present and future, the meeting also included addresses by the President of the Austrian Parliament, Barbara Prammer, OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier, the Special Envoy of the Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE, Viacheslav Yatsiuk, and OSCE PA Special Representative for Mediterranean Affairs Alcee Hastings.

2012-WM-Vienna-Standing-Committee-VotingIn his opening address to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's 11th Winter Meeting on 23 February 2012, Assembly President Petros Efthymiou spoke of the need for governments to respect the rule of law, particularly in prison systems, and called for better protection of freedom online.

"We all have the responsibility in our home parliaments to advocate for laws that protect freedom of expression wherever that expression is taking place," he said. "To ensure citizens remain free from government pressure online requires us to take more difficult action."

President of the Austrian Parliament Barbara Prammer called on the parliamentarians to protect and strengthen OSCE commitments, especially in the human dimension. "It is especially vital now, after all initiatives in this area have failed to gain consensus at the OSCE Ministerial Council in Vilnius in December," she stressed.

2011-WM-EfthymiouThe tenth Winter Meeting of the OSCE PA, held in Vienna on 24-25 February 2011, concluded with a special debate on the situation in the Mediterranean area. OSCE PA Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs Alcee Hastings (United States) opened the debate by calling on the OSCE to proactively reach out to help Mediterranean countries in transition to democracy, noting the courage of the people in the region.

"This debate is inspired by the courage and dignity of the people in Tunisia, Egypt, and throughout the Mediterranean region," Mr. Hastings said. "These are challenging and uncertain times but also hopeful in their opportunity." 

OSCE PA President Petros Efthymiou issued a statement on behalf of the Assembly at the closing of the debate, noting that the OSCE PA "expresses its deepest concern for the conflicts and violence in the countries of North Africa and for the unacceptable repression carried out in Libya by Gaddafi's regime."

2010-WM-Standing-Committee2Nearly 50 parliamentarians participated in the special debate on the situation in Afghanistan during the second day of the OSCE PA's ninth Winter Meeting held in Vienna on 18-19 February. The debate was introduced by OSCE PA Vice-President and Head of the Kazakh Delegation Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and Michel Voisin who serves as the Assembly's Special Representative on Afghanistan and as head of France's delegation to the OSCE PA.

Mr. Tokayev noted that the Kazakh Chairmanship has made stabilizing Afghanistan one of its top priorities. "One of Kazakhstan's main priorities for this Chairmanship of the OSCE is to enhance the Organization's role in the international efforts to rehabilitate Afghanistan," he said. Mr. Voisin lamented that "coalition forces have not been able to provide adequate security, which has led to a crisis of faith."

The special debate on Afghanistan was the main highlight of the Winter Meeting, which also included meetings of the three General Committees. During these meetings, the Committee Vice-Chairs followed up on actions that had been taken on OSCE PA recommendations from the last Annual Session, and the Committee Rapporteurs presented their ideas for the upcoming Annual Session in Oslo.

2009-WM-Groushko-Bujon-BarreThe Eighth Winter Meeting on 19-20 February 2009 concluded with a lively debate on European security architecture, involving prominent speakers from Russia and France and almost 50 of the 250 parliamentarians participating in the Vienna meeting.

The security debate took place as a follow-up on recent initiatives by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy for new European security arrangements.

"We need a fresh approach," stated Alexander Groushko, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, one of the two main speakers, while the other, Veronique Bujon-Barre, Deputy Director for Political and Security Affairs in the French Foreign Ministry, talked about a new "crisis of trust in Europe" after the war last year in Georgia and the "need to re-establish that lost trust."

The seventh Winter Meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly was held 21 and 22 February 2008 in Vienna before almost 240 parliamentarians from 48 of the 56 OSCE participating States.

During the opening session, the Meeting was addressed by OSCE PA President Goran Lennmarker, the President of Austria's National Council, Barbara Prammer, and State Secretary Teija Tiilikainen, the special representative of the Finnish OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva.

''The parliamentary dimension is vital for the good health of the OSCE,'' said Ms. Tiilikainen in her speech.