Ireland’s Chairmanship-in-Office of the OSCE: Statements

May 12th, 2012 - Pat Breen

Deputy Pat Breen: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to these important statements on the OSCE chairmanship. My first encounter with the OSCE as a parliamentarian was when I was asked by the Opposition Whip a few years ago to attend the annual plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly in Astana, Kazakhstan, when Kazakhstan held the presidency of the OSCE. This was an important meeting for the 56 states represented at the session, as are the other OSCE meetings that take place throughout the year. It was addressed by the President and a number of foreign ministers, including a large delegation from the United States, Canada and Russia. It was very interesting for me to hear for the first time of the important role the OSCE plays in conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict issues, as well as the role it plays in the Caucasus countries, that is, those post-USSR countries and the Balkan countries to name a few and its important role in election observation
Many people in Ireland do not know a great deal about the OSCE and how it works and few realise the importance of Ireland holding the chairmanship of this important body in 2012.
I commend Deputy Eoghan Murphy, leader of the Irish parliamentary delegation of the OSCE, on ensuring this debate was held today. Its important the Irish people are briefed on activities during our chairmanship. Deputy Murphy wrote to me some time ago in my capacity as chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade seeking support for this debate today. I was glad to be of assistance in this regard. It is hoped further time will be made available for statements on Ireland’s chairmanship of the OSCE before that chairmanship expires at the end of the year. Irrespective of our chairmanship, it is important our members of the OSCE and Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly report back to Dáil Éireann on their activities following the plenary week. Perhaps following the plenary week the Whips will consider providing time for further statements on what is happening given Members are representing this House at the plenary sessions.

In my role as chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, I have had a number of meetings, formal and informal, to highlight Ireland’s chairmanship of the OSCE. We had a very interesting debate on this matter last year. The committee also received the Secretary General, Mr. Lamberto Zannier, ODIHR Director, Janez Lenarcic and Mr. Spencer Oliver, Secretary General of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The foreign affairs committee has put Ireland’s chairmanship at the top of its agenda and will continue to do so during 2012.

Ireland’s chairmanship of the OSCE will raise its international profile. I commend the Tánaiste on his tireless work thus far during our chairmanship. It is a busy schedule involving a great deal of travel and meetings. The Tánaiste bears responsibility for the executive action of the organisation and the co-ordination of its activities. The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade recently held an important meeting with former US Senator George Mitchell, leading Northern Ireland politicians and representatives of some 50 OSCE countries at which we discussed the Northern Ireland conflict, the peace process and our experience with conflict resolution. It was a very successful meeting, from which the international delegates learned a great deal about Ireland’s successful peace process. Our experience could be helpful in assisting conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan and other areas.

I take this opportunity to welcome the new Russian ambassador to Ireland, who presented his credentials last week. I acknowledge the attendance of a representative of the Russian embassy in the Gallery today to hear our statements on the OSCE. I commend all of those involved in Ireland’s chairmanship of the OSCE, including the Tánaiste, Ministers of State Creighton and Costello, our ambassadors and officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including Mr. David Donoghue who has done much work in this area. It is timely that Ireland holds chairmanship of the OSCE as it takes over the Presidency of the EU in Jan 2013.