Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

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Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCEPA)
Secretariat Denmark Copenhagen, Denmark
 •  Secretary General United States Spencer Oliver 1992-
 •  President Finland Ilkka Kanerva 2014-
 •  As the CSCE PA 1992 
 •  Renamed OSCE PA 1995 

The Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE (OSCE PA) is an institution of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The primary task of the 323-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. The Parliamentary Assembly pursues objectives which are stated in the preamble of the Assembly's Rules of Procedure: assess the implementation of OSCE objectives by participating States; discuss subjects addressed during meetings of the Ministerial Council and summit meetings of OSCE Heads of State or Government; develop and promote mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflicts; support the strengthening and consolidation of democratic institutions in OSCE participating States; contribute to the development of OSCE institutional structures and of relations and co-operation between existing OSCE institutions.

To pursue these objectives, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly employs a variety of means: a Final Declaration and a number of resolutions and recommendations are adopted each year at the Annual Session; committee work addresses important contemporary international issues; different programmes, including an extensive Election Observation Programme, and various seminars, have been designed to develop and strengthen democracy; and delegations are sent on special missions to areas of latent or active crisis.[1]

The Parliamentary Assembly was originally established by the 1990 Paris Summit to promote greater involvement in the OSCE by national parliaments of the participating States. By passing resolutions and issuing formal recommendations to the OSCE's governmental side and to parliaments, it aims to pursue the implementation of OSCE objectives by participating States, including through legislative action.[2]

Parliamentary Committees and Groups[edit]

The three General Committees correspond to the three main sections of the Helsinki Final Act: the General Committee on Political Affairs and Security; the General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment; and the General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions.

The Standing Committee consists of Heads of National Delegations to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the Members of the Bureau. The Standing Committee and the Bureau prepare the work of the Assembly between sessions and ensure the efficient operation of the Assembly.

Several other committees and groups address specific issues or areas that can benefit from parliamentary attention. The Standing Committee approved the creation of bodies to work on problems in Belarus and Moldova as well as to address the need for greater transparency and accountability in the OSCE.[3]

Election Observation[edit]

At the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Annual Session in Helsinki (1993) the then Chairperson-in-Office, Swedish Foreign Minister Baroness Margaretha af Ugglas, urged parliamentarians to actively participate in election observation and monitoring. In response to this call, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has developed a particularly active programme for observing elections in the OSCE area.

More than 5,000 parliamentarians from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly have observed some 140 elections since 1993, using their experience as elected officials to enhance the credibility and visibility of the OSCE election observation work.

President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE[edit]

OSCE President Ilkka Kanerva (left) with Secretary General Spencer Oliver (right)

At each Annual Session the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly elects a president who acts as the highest representative of the Assembly, appoints Special Representatives on topics of concern, recommends to the OSCE Chairman-in-Office leaders of OSCE election observation missions, and presides over meetings of the Assembly. The president is elected for one year and can be re-elected for an additional one-year term.

In June 2014 Ilkka Kanerva from Finland was elected the new president of the Parliamentary Assembly. Kanerva is the former foreign minister of Finland who was sacked in 2008 after sending over 200 text messages to Johanna Tukiainen an erotic dancer. Then Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen had said that "Kanerva has shown a great lack of judgment ... he doesn't enjoy the full trust which a minister needs,".[4] Kanerva initially denied the reports [5] but later claimed the messages were work related.[6] Previously, in 2005, when Kanerva was deputy speaker of the parliament he had been rebuked for sending text messages to two nude models [7]


In 2010 the International Peace Institute called for the OSCE PA to update its election monitoring guidelines and procedures to ensure that its election reporting would be free from bias. The institute also criticized the OSCE PA’s way of conducting its election-monitoring by stating that “Parliamentarians parachuted in to read out headline-grabbing statements undercut the credibility of long-term and constructive election monitoring” [8]

In 2010 the Parliamentary Assembly was criticized from within by the Latvian delegation for lacking transparency and democracy. Robert Spencer Oliver (b. 1938) secretary general of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, who has held the post since the organization's inception in 1992, faced a challenge from the Latvian Artis Pabriks. According to the rules of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly the incumbent general secretary can only be replaced with a full consensus minus one vote of the Standing Committee, which comprises 56 heads of delegations. A full consensus minus one vote would therefore require 55 votes. The incumbent secretary general however needs only a simple majority to be re-appointed.[9] A rule change proposed by Pabriks, would also have required a consensus minus one vote. Pabriks called the rules "quite shocking from the perspective of an organization that's monitoring elections"[10]

In 2004 the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly sent election observers to the US presidential election. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s president at the time was Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings. Hastings had previously been impeached for corruption by the US Congress. The OSCE faced criticism of partisanship and double standards due to Hastings's past and the fact that the OSCE's mandate was to promote democracy and the values of civil society.[11]

Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Secretaries General[edit]


External links[edit]