OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Winter Meeting: Interview with Robert A. Hand
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) was established in 1990 at the CSCE Paris Summit. Its objective is to promote greater involvement of national parliaments in the OSCE’s work, to foster parliamentary dialogue, and to lead election observation missions. The OSCE PA meets several times every year to discuss major topics of concern and to adopt resolutions and recommendations
In this interview, Robert A. Hand, Secretary of the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and Policy Advisor at the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), provides his insights into the OSCE PA Winter Meeting, which took place on 22 and 23 February.
What are the main topics on the agenda of this year’s Winter Meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly?
Robert. A. Hand: Russian aggression against Ukraine and its neighbours dominated our concerns and discussions. Other important topics, like migration and countering terrorism, are also important, and progress is possible. However, Moscow’s policies create a lack of trust which may limit our options. As always, we are glad to see that the OSCE PA remains active regarding election observation and human rights developments in several participating States.
Why is the Parliamentary dimension of the OSCE so important, also from a U.S. perspective?
Hand: Parliamentarians demonstrate that the important work of the OSCE has popular support from elected representatives. They also can encourage the OSCE to do more, particularly in areas like combating human trafficking, countering anti-Semitic and other forms of intolerance, and protecting free media. From the U.S. perspective, the Parliamentary Assembly is also a forum where the United States can reaffirm its long-standing commitment to security and cooperation in Europe. In these uncertain times, Europeans tell us our active engagement is reassuring.
What do you consider to be the most pressing security issue in the OSCE region?
Hand: The most pressing security issue in the region remains Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Russia is in clear, gross, and uncorrected violation of all 10 Helsinki principles, and defending those principles is our primary task.
What will be the main issues that you will discuss with Parliamentarians from across the OSCE region?
Hand: We had a number of issues that were country-specific, like the deteriorating human rights situation in Turkey, and threats to democratic development in Russia, Azerbaijan, and other countries. The United States also tries to keep a focus on issues including human trafficking; anti-Semitism, racism and intolerance; countering terrorism; and several other security issues covered by the OSCE. Some of our members of Congress are also interested in economic and environmental areas such as energy security, combatting corruption, and greater transparency in economic activity.