Maltese Parliamentary delegation attends OSCE PA 2016 autumn meeting
Member of Parliament Godfrey Farrugia led a parliamentary delegation to the 15th autumn meeting of the OSCE PA held in Skopje, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on 29 September till 2 October. The delegation comprised of Members of Parliament Frederick Azzopardi and Silvio Parnis.
Consisting of a Mediterranean Forum, Parliamentary Conference and meeting of the Standing Committee, the autumn meeting provided an opportunity for parliamentarians from across the OSCE region to debate important topics related to OSCE commitments and values. The theme of this year’s parliamentary conference was ‘Strengthening confidencebuilding measures and good governance in the OSCE region’.
Mr Azzopardi intervened during the Mediterranean Forum on the security challenges resulting from the refugee and migration crisis, terrorism and radicalisation. He urged the OSCE to make a concerted effort to find effective and sustainable solutions to these difficult challenges. It is only through a sound judicial system and the rule of law that nations can face these challenges.
In relation to this, he mentioned the International Institute on Justice and the Rule of Law which is based in Malta. This Institute is an emerging regional actor in the fight against terrorism and in establishing important regional cooperation mechanisms which are focused on a more practical approach. The migration crisis continues to affect the central Mediterranean region and the resulting security challenges are multi-dimensional and transborder in their nature.
Mr Azzopardi argued that the declaration in the Helsinki Final Act that security in Europe is to be considered in the broader context of world security and is closely linked with security in the Mediterranean area as a whole is now more relevant than ever before. This declaration should not only guide the OSCE in its work but it also presents an opportunity to emphasise the strategic importance Mediterranean.
He also made reference to the Maltese proposal on appointing an OSCE Special Representative for the Mediterranean as this would strengthen the role of the organisation in the region.
In his intervention during the debate, Dr Farrugia argued that a holistic migration strategy in the OSCE area as a whole and in its neighbouring countries is of the utmost importance and that the migration crisis in the Mediterranean needs to be addressed together with the migration crisis that other European countries are facing.
He also mentioned the failed attempt of the to adopt a decision on migration at last year’s OSCE Ministerial Council which would have bolstered the role of the organisation in the field of migration. He hopes an agreement will be reached later this year.
Dr Farrugia also referred to the Valletta Summit which was held in Malta last year and the jointlyagreed 16-point action plan which will hopefully be implemented by the end of 2016.
During the last session of the autumn meeting entitled ‘Improving human rights-based governance of international migration’, Mr Azzopardi intervened on the issue of migration. This time, he highlighted the plight of many irregular migrants who find work in the black economy, which ultimately leads to their exploitation and marginalisation.
He added that human rights violations against migrants, including denying them basic human rights such as access to education and healthcare, are closely linked with discriminatory laws and practices, prejudice and xenophobia. Migrants’ rights are human rights as enshrined in the Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and EU legislation and it is the duty of the state to guarantee that these are guaranteed and safeguarded.
He argued that it is now high time to stop uttering words and to deliver results instead. The most urgent challenge is how to protect the human rights of many innocent victims of war, terrorism and climate change. This is not only important for future generations but also to avoid tragic loss of life. These are not easy targets but we must nonetheless commit ourselves to take action.
Mr Parnis stressed that migration cannot be discussed without incorporating the issue of human rights. He said that this does not constitute a problem in itself, but a challenge, an opportunity which all of us can benefit from. For this to happen, it is crucial to focus on migrants’ integration in the host society and solidarity between states. He argued that migrants do jobs which in some cases the locals are no longer interested in. Furthermore, migrants tend to work longer shifts for less pay.
He praised what the EU and organisations like the OSCE are doing but stressed that more still needs to be done. The challenge is two-faceted: On the one hand, the migrants themselves who leave their country in search for a better life, and on the other, the state receiving them which must respect a number of obligations.
Approximately 115 million migrants live in developed countries and 33% of these live in Europe; 75% of whom live in only 28 countries. He argued that migrants’ human dignity must be upheld at all times, considering the living conditions in the refugee camps.