COPENHAGEN, 21 January – In his first address to the OSCE Permanent Council, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Peter Lord Bowness (United Kingdom) today recalled that building commitment to the Organization’s values requires co-operation at all levels and that the PA is dedicated to working with all partners in advancing principles of multilateralism.
Regretting that some parts of the OSCE region have slipped into democratic decline, he noted that recent events have made clear that democracy is fragile and requires constant attention.
“They are a clear reminder that no matter one country’s democratic standing and influence, commitment to the OSCE’s values and principles is an everyday effort,” Bowness said. “If, by their words, democratically elected leaders repeatedly encourage disrespect for their own democratic institutions and a free media, this can lead to lawlessness and tragic consequences.”
He stressed that trust requires credibility and avoidance of any double standards, as well as mutual respect.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain all our societies, we must work together to choose dialogue over confrontation, and co-operation over unilateral action,” the President said.
Bowness expressed support for the priorities that were outlined last week by the new OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, in all three dimensions of the OSCE’s work, and welcomed the new OSCE Secretary General, Helga Maria Schmid, who also addressed the Permanent Council for the first time today.
Noting the transition of power that has taken place in the United States, Bowness indicated his hope that there would be a renewed commitment to multilateral institutions.
Bowness also expressed the PA’s appreciation for the leadership of the Albanian OSCE Chairpersonship during 2020, and for OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella who has just started his second five-year term.
More than a dozen OSCE ambassadors took the floor following President Bowness’s remarks to offer feedback and ask questions. In a full and frank exchange of views, delegations raised issues related to improving the level of dialogue in the OSCE, counter-terrorism, the crisis in and around Ukraine, and institutional co-operation within the OSCE. Bowness reiterated the OSCE PA’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, full access for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, and implementation of the Minsk agreements.
Following the convocation of a new parliament in Georgia, George Tsereteli stepped down as Assembly President last month and as the most senior Vice-President, Bowness took over as President. He will serve in this role until the OSCE PA’s Annual Session in July.
For the President’s full remarks, please click here.
Video of the speech is available here.
OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
A photo from the International Secretariat of President Bowness addressing the Permanent Council, 21 January 2021