The Helsinki Accords and the OSCE, 40 Years on, What Now?
On Friday 24 April members and friends of the European Movement International attended a special event marking 40 years since the signing of the Helsinki Final Act. As a result of this Act the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe was created, which later became the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Meeting in Riga, Latvia, ahead of the EMI Federal Assembly 2015, attendees heard from a number of speakers, including Lauri Tierala Special Adviser (EU Affairs) to Finland’s Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, and Member of the EMI Honorary Council. During his address Mr Tierala gave his personal views on the challenges in relations with Europe’s neighbours, particularly towards the East. Mr Tierala questioned how cooperation can be built in current relations with Russia. He stressed that a joint strategic vision is needed that acknowledges people to people contacts between Russia and its European neighbours, whilst the EU should seek to step up its defence of European values and face Russian violation of international law.
Delegates to the meeting also found time to welcome Lidija Doroņina-Lasmane who shared her experiences of living within a free and democratic Europe and under the Soviet occupation. The signature of the Final Helsinki Act, while it didn’t bring ‘teeth’ brought hope to Ms Doroņina-Lasmane who, at the point in question, had been imprisoned for 14 years. Extrapolating for the present day, Ms Doroņina-Lasmane said that the same problems exist today as did back then and asked the assembly to work to think about all those who need that same hope and support today.
A panel debate on the crisis in Ukraine ignited some Q + A from the audience who were keen to understand the role of the OSCE today. The panel was chaired by Lolita Čigāne, President of the European Affairs, Committee of Saeima, Parliament of the Republic of Latvia. The Panellists (Ambassador Dejan Šahović; Andrejs Panteļejevs; Edvīns Šnore; Bohdan Yaremenko – see agenda for more details on speakers) gave their interpretations on how OSCE is being tested as an institution given events in Ukraine. Of particular interest was the role of Russia as a member of the OSCE in monitoring efforts and the strength of international agreements.
Inese Lībiņa-Egnere, Deputy Speaker of Saeima, Parliament of the Republic of Latvia gave concluding remarks, asking those present to remember the enduring principles and values of the Helsinki Act.
Photos from this event can be found here.
This event was live streamed on Twitter, and you can follow the discussions here.
A special video message to the European Movement from OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier, which was screened during the event can be viewed here.
Following this event, the European Movement Federal Assembly 2015 took place.