Statement at the 25th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
Tbilisi, Friday 1 July 2016

Dear President,
Dear colleagues,

It is an honour and a special privilege for me to address the 25th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly here in Tbilisi.

We live in difficult times with challenges at every corner.

  • For the last 8 years we have faced major economic problems.
  • Last Friday Europe woke up to a major institutional hurdle: BREXIT.
  • Every day of every week, we face fundamental security issues;
  • terrorist threats: only a few days ago Istanbul was rocked by another heinous attack, driven by hatred and anger and I want to express, once again, my solidarity with the Turkish people.

-  There are unfortunately other security issues as well:

  •  frozen and open conflicts in Europe
  •  violent conflicts in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the world
  • You cannot look at the news without the asylum and migration drama reaching the headlines.

Amongst all these challenges it is sometimes difficult to find good news. Well, colleagues, fortunately there is some! We can celebrate a 21st birthday in September of this year. 21 years ago the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe and the OSCE signed a co-operation agreement, the fruits of which can be seen in a number of areas.

Our Assemblies have many things in common.

Firstly our member states:

  • all 47 states of the Council of Europe are members of the 57 participating OSCE states, and many of the others have close co-operation with the Council of Europe.

Secondly we pursue the same objectives, in particular:

  • the common values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law
  • and, we are committed to mutual reinforcement of action, taking into account our different membership and working methods.


The challenges our Continent is facing are truly global and require a multilateral, comprehensive and strategic response. Parliamentary diplomacy has a special role to play and let me highlight 6 issues on which I believe our co-operation should focus:

Firstly: Institutional challenges

Last week we saw the people of the United Kingdom express themselves on BREXIT. While this may be half-mast for the European flag and certain European ideals, it is not the end of Europe. Sometimes it is necessary to step back before you can step forward. BREXIT has shown us two things. Firstly we have to be more in touch with what the people of Europe want, and secondly that we have a long way to go in explaining to the women and men in the street, young and old, what organisations such as the European Union, the Council of Europe and the OSCE offer them. BREXIT is a lesson for all of us.

Secondly: Security challenges

International terrorism constitutes a fundamental, multi-faceted danger. We have to combat terrorism without fear and defend our freedoms and our way of life, in full compliance with our human rights and rule of law standards.

Regarding the issue of terrorism, during the PACE part-session, last week in Strasbourg, we launched a new initiative called "Terrorism: No Hate No Fear" - the right to live without fear. It is based around a hash-tag campaign to mobilise politicians, civil society actors and ordinary citizens against hate speech, populist rhetoric and stigmatisation of certain groups and communities. It aims to tackle the general feeling of suspicion, insecurity and fear within our societies. I hope that you as Parliamentarians will join this initiative.

Thirdly: Refugees and Migrants

On the refugee and migration challenge, we are drowning in our inability to show solidarity, and the longer we take, to work together, the more difficult it will be to find solutions. We see too well the consequences in our countries of our failure to deal with this challenge earlier.

Furthermore we must not lose sight of the wider migration phenomena. It is not going away. How we integrate our migrants and refugees will be one of the major issues of the next decade.

Fourthly: Conflicts

"Frozen" and "burning" conflicts still remain unresolved in Europe and represent a threat to the security and stability of the Continent. I strongly believe that parliamentary diplomacy, confidence building and dialogue have a role to play in the search for solutions to these conflicts. It is in this area that the OSCE has such an important role, whether in Ukraine, or the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, or other frozen conflicts, such as those affecting the territorial integrity of Georgia, our host today.

Fifthly: Parliamentary Diplomacy

Colleagues, in this connection I would like to bring to your attention a declaration made by the Bureau of PACE last Friday, on the importance of political dialogue among democratically elected members of parliament.

Today, we witness a growing lack of cohesion and mutual trust among our member States, and we have a duty to prevent new divisions in Europe.

Dialogue and co-operation among parliamentarians, which are the very essence of parliamentary diplomacy, make a positive contribution to easing inter-state tensions, building confidence and finding feasible solutions to complex problems.

We have to work together to counteract terrorism and radical extremism, we have to hold hands to combat intolerance, hate and discrimination, we must stand up and protect the rights of national minorities and foster social cohesion, and we must promote inter-cultural dialogue. These numerous challenges require a concerted and effective response by all states and all parliaments and all international organisations.

Against such a background, the fact that for two consecutive years, parliamentarians from the Russian Federation, have not participated in the work of PACE, limits the capacity of the Assembly to represent the rich plurality of views from across Europe. It also prevents the Assembly from contributing to shaping a unifying agenda for the European Continent. This is not in the interest of the people of Russia, it is not in the interest of the people of Europe. Yesterday I was in Moscow discussing these very issues with Russian leaders and I believe strongly that parliamentary diplomacy is a key to solving complex problems.

President, colleagues,

I come to my sixth and last point: Elections

Our two Assemblies, together with ODIHR and the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) have put into practice a highly respected framework known as the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) for monitoring elections. Through this we work together with partner organisations to make more efficient the cooperation procedures during all stages of the election observation process.

Both our Assemblies are very active in this. In 2015, with our partner organisations, PACE observed elections in seven countries and around 120 of our Assembly members representing 35 countries participated in these observation missions.

Our hosts, Georgia, on the 8 October, will hopefully be able to attest to the usefulness of this monitoring and this co-operation after their elections!

President, colleagues,

Thank you again for allowing me to address your Assembly.