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Statement in response to the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

Delivered by Minister-Counsellor Henning Hj. Johansen at the Permanent Council, Vienna, 21 January 2021.

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Madame Chair,

We join others in welcoming the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Mr. Peter Lord Bowness to the Permanent Council and thank him for his report.

Norway highly appreciates the work of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. It plays an important role in bringing together parliamentarians from the OSCE’s 56 parliaments, thus enhancing the political and popular legitimacy of the OSCE as a whole. Most importantly, it is an arena for discussing how the participating states live up to agreed commitments and looking at how democratic rule can be strengthened across the OSCE region.

Conflicts in and between participating states of the OSCE remain unresolved. Not all elections take place on even playing fields. Representatives of the opposition or defenders of human rights are being persecuted. These are all issues that should be and are addressed by parliamentarians. Those persecuted on political grounds need to hear that they have the support of others. It is therefore of great value when the Parliamentary Assembly speak out against threats to democracy or against broken commitments. Lately there have been statements with regard to the dangerous attack on democratic processes in the US Congress and with regard to the unacceptable detention of Mr. Alexey Navalny in Moscow.

The pandemic has severely limited the work of the OSCE Parliamentarian Assembly since March last year, as has been the case for all bodies in this organisation. It has therefore been a relief to see that the parliamentarian contacts have been kept and that some election observations have been taking place despite the difficulties. It is of vital importance that election observations continue to take place, within the limits set by the ongoing pandemic. We are happy to see that the February session of the OSCE PA will take place in a digital format, allowing inter alia the assembly to elect its new president. We thank you for filling the role of the PA president in the meantime, and wish you the best of luck with convening the assembly.

Madame Chair,

We live in a time of decreasing trust. Decreasing trust between the participating states in the OSCE. Decreasing trust across party lines in parliaments. Decreasing trust between electorate and the elected. Such distrust might be understandable, but it nevertheless needs to be addressed. Parliamentarians and other representatives of the authorities in our countries have a special responsibility to promote truth and dismiss lies and conspiracy theories. When lies and broken promises become an accepted way to attract voters or gain the support of one’s citizens, the path to animosity to ones neighbours is short. It is therefore of utmost importance that the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly continues to bring parliamentarians representing all our countries and every political view together to uphold a dialogue and build trust.

Thank you