The Summer Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will be held in Vilnius, in the Seimas Building on 29 June - 3 July 2009.
In 2011, Lithuania will preside over the OSCE and will be the first Baltic State to hold the OSCE Presidency.
The Parliamentary Dimension of the OSCE
The OSCE PA is the parliamentary dimension of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, whose 56 participating States span the geographical area from Vancouver to Vladivostok.
The primary task of the 320 member Assembly is to facilitate inter-parliamentary dialogue, an important aspect of the overall effort to meet the challenges of democracy throughout the OSCE area. Recognized as a regional arrangement under Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter, the OSCE is a primary instrument for early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation in its area. The Parliamentary Assembly, established by the 1990 CSCE Paris Summit to promote greater involvement in the OSCE by national parliaments, is now the oldest continuing OSCE Institution and has grown into a very active and important member of the OSCE family.
Human Security for All
The 320 parliamentarians of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, appointed by their national parliaments, come together several times each year to debate a wide variety of issues relevant to the ultimate goal of all OSCE efforts: human security for all in the OSCE region. As elected representatives of the citizens of the OSCE participating States, they play an important role in the future security and stability of the region.
The parliamentarians produce Declarations, Statements and Recommendations addressing governments, parliaments and civil society on major issues concerning the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, economic and environmental co-operation and politico-military policies.
Enhanced Visibility and Legitimacy
The Parliamentarians also discuss OSCE issues in their national parliaments. Today in each of the national parliaments there are Members with OSCE expertise who are in a position to support and influence OSCE policies. Their work in this regard increases the political accountability and legitimacy of the OSCE. Parliamentary involvement in the OSCE also enhances the visibility of OSCE work in all fields, particularly election observation.
Parliamentary Diplomacy and Dialogue
Experience as legislators gives parliamentarians a unique advantage. As elected representatives, parliamentarians can at times open doors and maintain dialogue in a way not available to governmental representatives. Also, when regional tensions arise, multilateral meetings of parliamentarians can be arranged to foster dialogue and peaceful solutions.
Providing Inter-Parliamentary Fora
Parliamentarians also review OSCE commitments by participating in topical Seminars and Conferences, organized on a regular basis by the Assembly. These inter-parliamentary fora focus on specific OSCE themes - such as minorities, migration, organized crime, or freedom of religion - as well as on regional issues, such as democracy-building in the Caucasus, the Trans-Asian dimension of the OSCE, the Mediterranean, and the Arctic. The OSCE PA also organizes an Economic Conference every two years. All these fora provide the parliamentarians with occasions to exchange views with colleagues and international experts and to deepen their understanding of OSCE issues within the wider context of OSCE principles and the OSCE’s comprehensive concept of security.
Election Observation Leadership
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has played a leading role in the observation of elections, particularly parliamentary elections, in the OSCE area. The programme engages parliamentarians as expert monitors to lead OSCE election projects. Whenever the OSCE PA is involved in observing an election, the OSCE Chair-in-Office appoints a senior Member of the Assembly to act as his or her Special Co-ordinator, leading the OSCE short-term observers and presenting the statement of the observation mission on behalf of the OSCE.
Close Co-operation with other Institutions
The Assembly has regular formal and informal interaction with the other OSCE Institutions. The Assembly is represented at every level of official OSCE meetings and maintains a close working relationship with the OSCE Chair-in-Office, the Ministerial Troika, the Secretary General, other OSCE Structures and Institutions in Vienna, Warsaw, and the Hague, as well as with the OSCE activities in the field.
The Assembly has also developed extensive co-operation with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Assembly of the Western European Union, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the European Parliament and the Inter-parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), all of which have observer status in the OSCE PA.
OSCE PA Structures
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly convenes each July for its Annual Session and each February for the Winter Meeting. At the Annual Session the Assembly meets in Plenary to adopt a Final Declaration and Resolutions, and elects Assembly Officers. Decision-making at the Annual Session is by Majority vote. The main Assembly structures are the Standing Committee of Heads of Delegation, the Bureau and the three General Committees.
The General Committees
The work of the Assembly is divided into three General Committees, which correspond to the three main sections of the Helsinki Final Act:
- The First General Committee on Political Affairs and Security;
- The Second General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment;
- The Third General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions.
Committee Members are appointed by National Delegations. A Chair, Vice-Chair and Rapporteur are elected for a one-year term by the members of each Committee. The General Committees meet during the Annual Session and the Winter Meeting. At meetings during the Annual Session decision-making takes place by majority vote.
The Standing Committee
The Standing Committee consists of the 56 Heads of National Delegations and Members of the Bureau. The Standing Committee approves the budget, appoints the Secretary General, and guides the work of the Assembly.
The Assembly’s Bureau consists of the President, the nine Vice-Presidents, the Treasurer, and the Officers of the three General Committees. The President Emeritus (immediately former President) is also an ex officio non-voting Member.
The Bureau is responsible for ensuring that the decisions of the Standing Committee are carried out. Decisions are taken by two-thirds majority vote.
The President may appoint Special Representatives on areas of particular interest to assist or act on his or her behalf. There are Special Representatives on Gender Issues, Mediterranean Affairs, Guantánamo, South East Europe, the OSCE Budget, Anti-Terrorism, Central Asia, the Fight against Transnational Organized Crime, and Migration.
Ad Hoc Committees
Ad Hoc Committees are established to address specific issues or areas that can benefit from parliamentary attention. Such Ad Hoc Committees have been established by the Standing Committee to work on issues in Abkhazia (Georgia), Belarus and Moldova as well as to address the need for greater transparency and accountability in the OSCE.
The International Secretariat
Under the direction of the Secretary General, who manages the day-to-day affairs of the Assembly, the International Secretariat supports and organizes all activities of the Assembly, including the Annual Session, the Winter Meeting, meetings of the Standing Committee, the Bureau and other meetings and conferences of the Assembly. It also serves as a central communications link between the OSCE parliamentary delegations, other OSCE Institutions and the Parliamentary Assembly itself.The Secretariat provides support to the President, the Bureau and the Ad Hoc Committees, as well as the Special Representatives and other missions. The Staff of the Secretariat also organize special missions and visits, as well as election observation projects. Senior staff participate in meetings of the OSCE Permanent Council and the Ministerial Troika and frequently represent the Assembly at other meetings and fora.
The International Secretariat consists of fifteen permanent staff members and seven Research Fellows. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Headquarters, provided by the Danish Parliament, is located in Copenhagen and functions as an international diplomatic mission. The OSCE PA also maintains a Liaison Office in Vienna, established in 2002 by the PA Secretary General as part of the International Secretariat. The Liaison Office is headed by an ambassador, who participates in all formal and informal open-ended meetings of the OSCE executive structure.
Research Fellowship Programme
The Research Fellowship Programme of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is open to post-graduate students of the political sciences and law. The programme offers a unique opportunity to experience a multicultural working environment while participating in the work of the Parliamentary Assembly, and providing substantial research and linguistic capability to the International Secretariat. More than 150 Fellows from 27 countries have served in the International Secretariat.
Many former OSCE PA Research Fellows have taken up positions in their Governments and the OSCE, particularly in the field missions, as well as in other international organizations.