Mr. President, Mr. Janvier Ruperez, Vicepresident, Secretary General, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues,
It is a pleasure and a privilege for me to address you today on the occasion of the Seventh Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
It is a pleasure to welcome you warmly to Denmark and to Copenhagen. I hope you will enjoy your stay.
It is also a privilege to address you. Your assembly represents one of the core principles we have fought for: The right of every citizen to express his or her political beliefs in a free and open society. And the right of every citizen to have his or her views represented in a parliamentary democracy. You are a token of this fundamental principle. Your assembly gives the OSCE a direct link to the people. If we did not have the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly we would have to invent one immediately.
During the past decade: New states have emerged to become members of the European family of nations.
This development has been accompanied by broad processes of co-operation and integration at the regional and sub-regional level.
The OSCE itself is the broadest of these fora comprising all states in Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the United States and Canada.
The European Union, NATO and the Council of Europe are all major players who have also opened up towards the new states through membership or co-operative arrangements.
At the sub-regional level, co-operation has developed around the Baltic, the Barents and the Black Sea, in Central Europe and in South-East Europe, as well as in other regions.
This co-operation brings together states with different backgrounds – and often with different prospects for participation in the over-all co-operation processes.
Therefore it deals pragmatically with concrete issues close to the their citizens, often involving local levels of government. In doing so it provides an important contribution to creating an undivided Europ.
An undivided Europe. To use these words is still new and yet so close to our vision for Europe. We have set ourselves common goals. We have come to share the same basic values of democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and market economy.
We have, Mr. President, a historic opportunity for creating free and open societies throughout the OSCE area.
But there are obstacles to the new opportunities. New risks and challenges have emerged that threaten our common security. In some cases they have had – and still have – tragic consequences in the very heart of Europe. We see conflicts re-emerge. And here I can not but mention the tragic situation in Kosovo.
We must unite all our efforts and prevent the situation from escalating further.
Because today, we can stand together and combat the common dangers.
Because we must, because we have learned, because we have not forgotten.
And because we know, that security, prosperity, and welfare of a state and its people can never be built in isolation. Only when all states and peoples enjoy the same prospects and opportunities can we reach this goal.
May I underline: We can not have a secure state without secure people inside.
Why are we here today ? For one fundamental reason:
Dealing with these new risks and challenges to security is the most formidable task confronting our generation. I believe we are fit to meet the challenge. Because we do remember from our history what could happen if we fail. To be divided is to create the basis for conflict.
To co-operate and to treat each others minorities in the same way as you want to be treated yourself - that is to establish the basis for lasting peace.
Learning from the mistakes of the past and drawing on the principles we share we must build the world of tomorrow – a world offering security, prosperity and democracy to all.
In addressing this challenge we must never forget the simple basic philosophy: Prevention is better than cure.
And prevention is best served by offering assistance to those facing problems. We must help to make our common values a living reality in all OSCE states.
In this endeavour, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly plays an important role. A decisive role in my mind.
Firstly, because building democracy, peace and stability, both nationally and internationally, requires openness, readiness to share experience, to learn, and to improve. The meetings and discussions of the Parliamentary Assembly contribute positively to both national and international political dialogue. The bringing together of parliamentarians from all OSCE participating States gives a unique opportunity for an exchange of views, of information and of best practices. In this way, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly serves as an engine for promoting democratic developments in Europe.
Secondly, because the debates and recommendations of the OSCE parliamentary Assembly contribute to the ongoing work of the OSCE within the fields of conflict prevention, crises management and post-conflict rehabilitation.
And I want to stress that Denmark strongly supports strengthening the ties between the Parliamentary Assembly and OSCE institutions and activities. We support frequent visits by parliamentarians to Vienna and to OSCE missions in the field. We encourage your participation in OSCE meetings and seminars. Also, we appreciate very much the participation of you, Mr. President, and of the Secretary General of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, in the meetings of the OSCE Ministerial Troika.
And we have started a good practice by sending out to different missions the President of the Assembly as the personal representative of the chairman in office.
That brings me to the third reason why the role of The Parliamentary assembly is so important: OSCE parliamentarians play an increasingly important role in promoting democratic values at their very root: The election process. Elections provide legitimacy and accountability in democratic societies. The ability to carry out elections and the will to accept and implement their results is a precondition for democratic development. In new or emerging democracies, international observation of elections is often useful for securing transparency and openness in the electoral process.
I highly recommend the members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly for their active participation in this important task. Their engagement – and indeed your personal engagement, Mr. President – in the elections in Albania, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Montenegro and elsewhere has contributed greatly to results achieved. 'Even if we are late', as the president indicated. Small steps in the right direction are better than no steps at all. But we have to make even further progress.
Making the tools and instruments of the OSCE and its institutions more effective is high on our common agenda. You have chosen a very central theme for this year’s session - The development of the structures, institutions and perspectives of the OSCE. A theme which offers a valuable contribution to this work.
It is also a theme which is very relevant at this time.
Relevant because making the tools and instruments of the OSCE and its institutions more effective is high on our common agenda.
And relevant because Denmark as other nations strongly supports strengthening the ties between the Parliamentary Assembly and OSCE institutions and activities.
I therefore encourage the discussions which are to take place here in the next few days.
During this session you are also going to discuss the very important issue of how to empower and engage women to participate in the OSCE work of conflict prevention. I strongly encourage this discussion. Because the participation of women is fundamental in obtaining effective and durable conflict prevention.
Denmark attaches great importance to further improving the ability of the international community to promote democratic development through assistance to and monitoring of elections. To this end it is paramount that the international actors work together in a mutually reinforcing way. Much has been achieved already. Within the OSCE, co-operation between the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the ODIHR is on track. And there is a growing understanding of the need to further improve co-operation with the Council of Europe, including with its Parliamentary Assembly.
At the Copenhagen Ministerial Council Meeting in December 1997, participating States set out guidelines for an OSCE Document-Charter on European Security. A key element was the elaboration of a Platform for Co-operative Security, comprising a Common Concept for the development of co-operation between mutually reinforcing institutions. The objective: To strengthen the OSCE’s relationship with those organisations and institutions concerned with the promotion of comprehensive security within the OSCE area.
Security, Mr President, for all the citizens of Europe is based on democracy.
Democracy is based on parliaments. The Platform for Co-operative Security should, therefore, also have a parliamentary dimension. As the broadest based Assembly in the Trans-Atlantic, Eurasian area the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is particularly well suited to strengthen co-operation between the parliamentary assemblies.
Mr. President, Dear colleagues,
We share more knowledge of what is right and what is wrong than ever before.
Democracy is sometimes taken for granted. But we must never do so. Democracy and freedom of thought and expression are not given things. History has shown us that they can be lost.
I know that we can not fulfil all our commitments overnight. I know that.
To preserve democracy, we must make it work. You, dear colleagues, do this every day by addressing problems and seeking solutions in your own national parliaments.
Today, you are doing it by addressing important issues facing us at the international level. By taking your mandate to the international level, you are furthering co-operation and promoting better understanding between the peoples you represent. You are, indeed, making democracy work at a higher level.
I salute you for this effort and I wish you a fruitful annual session.