3 October 2023

Political Dialogue Stories: Politicians’ Clear Call for More Interparliamentary Deliberation in Support of Ukraine

Authors: Isotta Ricci Bitti, Deputy Head of the Open European Dialogue and Managing Director of APROPOS |
Olivia Popp, Junior Associate at APROPOS

Disclaimer: The Open European Dialogue is a cross-party, cross-country dialogue platform for European politicians. This piece does not represent the views of the Open European Dialogue, its partners, or its participants. It is written from the perspective of the author(s) alone. The author(s) share their personal insights on the state of European politics and political dialogue, informed by the conversations between members of parliaments from across Europe and the political spectrum.


Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the Open European Dialogue network of elected politicians has met regularly, maintaining an interparliamentary channel open for politicians across borders and party lines to discuss political strategies with regards to the war.

In 2022, over seventy network members, along with experts from international organizations and civil society, engaged in emergency online exchanges to mobilise support for Ukraine. European politicians were brought face-to-face with their Ukrainian colleagues to discuss immediate needs, share perspectives, discuss responses and strategies.

Reconnecting in March, they pondered the challenge of the ‘in-between’ – how to tackle the period between the ongoing conflict and potential peace negotiations.

How can parliaments better prepare for the difficult conversations that will need to be had? 

Six months have passed since the last meeting, and many Ukrainians and network members still don’t see an end to Russia’s war against Ukraine – let alone through peaceful negotiations.  

This is attributed to Russia’s history of initiating prolonged conflicts, making stable peace seem elusive. They believe Russia is preparing for a protracted conflict, requiring a change of strategy for EU countries and Ukraine, especially as Western support is likely to become increasingly costly and has already been dwindling over time. 

In July, just before the NATO summit in Vilnius, committed parliamentarians decided to intensify interparliamentary dialogue efforts. They convened in Warsaw, representing 16 different countries, including Ukraine, to discuss potential future scenarios for the evolution of the war and its implications across the continent.  

They endeavoured to sustain momentum and political attention on the war, anticipating that some worst-case scenarios, such as an extended war or a spillover of the conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders into the EU, seem to be emerging as ever more likely. 

Courageously, they shared personal perspectives and difficulties in navigating this unprecedented political landscape, debating their countries’ positions and dedicating two days to sharing their expertise and experiences with colleagues. 

Participants departed the workshop with numerous new insights, emphasizing their interest in gaining a deeper understanding of what shapes the political positions of their colleagues on this war.  

This political cohort strongly desires to foster a collective understanding of the forthcoming challenges and establish channels for more interparliamentary dialogue on the highly polarizing debate regarding Ukraine’s future. Their primary need appears to be the right platform for doing so. 

“There isn’t a space for us national parliamentarians to work together on our response to the Ukraine War. We need a channel here, we can keep coordinating and exchanging strategies. What we need is a space which is politically neutral, with an independent facilitator and a variety of diverse political voices represented. This is important because it allows us to be better informed about what others are doing, coordinate our response when we can, but without having to necessarily agree on everything”

 – Member of the Estonian Parliament, “War in Ukraine” OED Future Workshop participant


Where dialogue meets action: bridging ideological camps to signal Europe’s strength and advance cooperation in support of Ukraine

This September, network parliamentarians reconvened digitally to continue and intensify strategic exchange in their parliamentary responses to the ongoing Ukrainian war. 

To this end, the Open European Dialogue, recently recognised by the OECD as a best practice for cross-border collaboration, hosted an Interparliamentary Lab. A tailored two-hour collaboration format where politicians gathered to brainstorm effective ways to support Ukraine. 

The Lab, guided by the principle that “politicians are the key resource”, fosters collaborative thinking among Europe’s politicians. An Italian MP, acknowledging the challenges of interparliamentary collaboration, stressed the need to move from a simple exchange of ideas to more concrete action.

“I think the best way forward for us is to try to work on concrete initiatives, so the approach we are trying today with the OED Lab is important, although very ambitious”

– Member of the Italian Parliament, “War in Ukraine: Collaboration Initiatives for Parliaments” OED Interparliamentary Lab participant


Parliamentarians were able to quickly identify a plethora of collaboration ideas and initiatives to tackle the many pressing issues in Ukraine today. This very readily revealed the breadth of support required to support Ukraine not merely in wartime, but also to start preparing for a post-war future.

Two collaborative initiatives were identified as having the highest potential for cross-border collaboration and possible impact  

The first initiative focuses on a platform for sharing best practices in countering Russian disinformation.  
Parliamentarians of countries with Russophone populations have long been aware of the dangers of disinformation from Russia, and with over ten years of active interventions on this front, they were quick to share resources and ideas on how they have tackled the issue, reminding their European colleagues of the critical nature of such a fight.  

“War starts in the brain, if you have a war of propaganda, a war of ideologies, there will eventually be an actual war – that is why it is important that we regulate disinformation and do it now”

Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, “War in Ukraine: Collaboration Initiatives for Parliaments” OED Interparliamentary Lab participant 


The different regulatory capabilities of European countries make unified efforts difficult. Nonetheless, being able to collaborate directly with colleagues who have experience navigating such questions on disinformation was quickly revealed to be an advantage of the Lab’s dedicated workspace. 

The second initiative aims to strengthen political dialogue on the future of Ukrainian-EU relationship and EU-Russia relations.

This involves organising a high-level multi-stakeholder political dialogue on the sidelines of the next European Political Community gathering and engaging a broad range of parliamentarians.  

Continued dialogue and deepened cross-country and cross-party exchange on the issue of Ukraine, is deemed crucial by politicians across the continent – especially now that the space for debate in national parliaments is shrinking as parliaments default back to country-specific priorities. 

In such conditions of scarcity, safeguarding a space for long-term thinking vis-à-vis the consequences and implications of this war on crucial European debates such as the geopolitical positioning of the EU, the effect on rule of law and the future of European democracy, is seen as a strategic priority. 

The network’s politicians are moved by a collective need to understand what the post-conflict landscape could look like. Working across borders on the future of Ukraine is akin to envisioning a new Europe, where Ukraine’s post-war recovery plays a vital for upholding the continent’s democratic foundations. 

Can more interparliamentary deliberation reduce polarisation and catalyse positive action? 

This series of meetings over the course of two years, confirmed the need for better avenues for the exchange of information, best practices, and strategies across Parliaments in the face of the singular challenge presented by the ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine.

Interparliamentary exchange on responses to the Ukraine war was identified as key to increasing the regulatory capacity and know-how of individual parliaments to support Ukraine’s war efforts and to create the opportunity for harmonisation and a stronger, more unified messaging.  

“Every time we get together to talk about Ukraine, we are keeping up the momentum and attention on this important work”

-Member of the French Parliament, “War in Ukraine: Collaboration Initiatives for Parliaments” OED Interparliamentary Lab participant 


While talks about the future of Ukraine remain highly polarised, the Ukrainian members of our network ask to be listened to and included as much as possible in all and any political conversations with their European counterparts.

“Every single small piece of support is existentially important for Ukrainians”

-Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, “War in Ukraine: Collaboration Initiatives for Parliaments” OED Interparliamentary Lab participant

With extremely personal accounts shared from Ukrainian parliamentarians, it was once again clear that such meetings are not only emotionally charged for political representatives on all sides, but also crucial to advance any opportunities for better interparliamentary collaboration on the issue – which is currently very limited.  

While policymakers’ views, rightfully, will not always align, access to a space for exchange with Ukrainian parliamentarians and colleagues from across Europe is a powerful instrument to help policymakers unpack the integral nature of the issues at hand and reflect on what actions are possible.

An Austrian parliamentarian noted that highlighting Ukraine’s unique value to Europe would be an excellent way to continue harnessing assistance as for him, “the need to support Ukraine becomes impossible to ignore when it is crystal clear how it would be beneficial for all.” 

Several Estonian, Ukrainian, and Austrian parliamentarians supported the idea of having more cross-parliamentary delegations visit Ukraine, to witness the consequences of the war first-hand, together, as Europeans.

At the end of these exchanges, a genuine sense of mutual solidarity and shared commitment is always palpable. When faced with highly thorny and polarising issues, debates between parties with different positions can often be counterproductive. A simple exchange of information can often serve to reinforce biases and further polarise political positions.

Formats of engagement such as the OED Futures Workshop or the digital Interparliamentary Lab are designed to foster eye-to-eye exchange between politicians, who are encouraged to weigh relevant perspectives and information shared and come to their personal conclusions. Without being forced to agree about solutions or outcomes, a space for understanding and more profound reflection can open up.

A political conversation can exist in which, even when faced with the most atrocious of challenges, such as war, removing the pressure of always having to react to survive and leaving the negotiation tables behind, politicians are able to wholeheartedly embrace a space where new value and energy can be found in a frank conversation and in listening to the political perspectives of others.  


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