VILNIUS - Lithuania has hosted the Summer Session of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) Parliamentary Assembly, leading to the organization's release of the Vilnius Declaration, the first time one of the Baltic states has hosted the event.
From June 29 to July 3, Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament) hosted over 500 participants from 50 countries, who had gathered to discuss the main theme of the session 's "The OSCE: Addressing New Security Challenges."
Strengthening and reforming of the OSCE, promoting human rights and civil liberties, energy and food security, climate change, freedom of expression, and arms control were some of the issues being discussed. A total of 24 resolutions drafted by different OSCE member states were considered. At the time The Baltic Times went to press, it was unclear how many had been formally accepted.
The OSCE Session was also set to adopt a final document, called the Vilnius Declaration, which includes recommendations on all the discussed issues.
Opening the session on June 29, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus emphasized the importance of this conference.
"This event gives great honor to Lithuania," said President Adamkus. "Through its diplomatic endeavors, free word and the spirit of consensus, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is making a significant contribution to international efforts to create a more secure world for future generations. I thank you for your work."
OSCE President Joao Soares said having the OSCE session in one of the Baltic states for the first time shows not only the geographic but also the political reach of the organization. Soares also noted that even though he is a passionate advocate of the OSCE, he strongly believes in the need for its reform.
"More than thirty years after Helsinki, we need to have the same strategic vision to strengthen the OSCE, realizing that this is a completely new world that needs new solutions to new problems," Soares said.
"If we really want to deliver on our promise, we must understand that the new threats also represent new opportunities to act in an innovative way," he said.
The OSCE is the world's largest regional security organization, uniting 56 countries in Europe, North America and Asia, established in Helsinki in 1975. The organization has missions in the Balkans, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Notably, Lithuania was awarded the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2011 and will be the first Baltic nation to take up the rotating chairmanship.
"A long-lasting Lithuania's experience in the area of regional cooperation of the Baltic Sea states, constructive relations with neighbors, contacts with leaders of other regions and joint initiatives will also create some value added that will enrich the OSCE. Lithuania will use the accumulated experience also for its EU Presidency in 2013" said Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vygaudas Usackas.
Lithuania has prepared two out of the 24 resolutions to be considered during this Summer Session: a resolution condemning the totalitarian regimes of the 20th Century (both Nazi and Soviet), and a resolution on energy security.
The stance of Lithuania on both of these issues was criticized at the event. The Greek representative, Constantine Alissandrakis, accused Lithuania of supporting the Nazis and discriminating against communists. Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador Vladimir Chkhikvadze criticized Lithuanian legislators' decision to prevent investments from Russia in the country's so-called strategic fields 's namely the construction of a new nuclear plant.
Despite this criticism, the Lithuanian resolution on energy security was adopted at the OSCE session on June 30 with some provisions added by the U.S.A. and one Russian amendment.
British representative Tony Lloyd prepared a resolution demanding countries respect the freedom of peaceful meetings. Notably, the resolution could help the cause of the LGBT community in Lithuania, which has been denied the right to gather in public.
Lithuanian media underlined that the event cost the country almost 12 million litas (3.48 million euros) 's a large sum for the crisis-stricken country. The costs stemmed from renovations, computers, copy machines and printers, and a few luxury cars.
Adamkus and the head of Lithuania's delegation at the OSCE session Vilija Aleknaite Abramikiene said these expenses are worth it 's they will help Lithuania's international image.
"We are becoming the center of attention of the European policy and have an equal say. [We are] not some distant province, upon which any European policy decision is enforced. Thus I don't think a conference like that can be evaluated in monetary terms... I think this conference will be heard of even after 20 years" said Adamkus.
The OCSE is presently chaired by Greece. In 2010, during Kazakhstan's chairmanship of the organization, Lithuania will contribute to the OSCE Troika 's formed by future, present and past chairmen in the office.