«European Security as a Common Project»


Basel, 04.12.2014 - Opening statement by Mr Didier Burkhalter, Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE and President of the Swiss Confederation at the Working Lunch for the Heads of Delegations of the 21st Meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council - Check against delivery

Speaker: OSCE CiO, Didier Burkhalter (2014); President of the Swiss Confederation, Didier Burkhalter (2014)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to this working lunch featuring an informal discussion on “European Security as a Common Project”.

One of the hallmarks of the OSCE is its comprehensive and cooperative approach to security. The notion that cooperation on a broad range of issues is essential for ensuring peace and security in Europe and rendering the continent indivisible goes back to the Helsinki Final Act. Today, this notion is more relevant than ever. The Ukraine crisis has made one thing clear, namely that it will require a collective effort by everyone involved to restore security, both in Ukraine and in Europe as a whole. The OSCE has an important role to play on both counts.

The OSCE’s engagement in the Ukraine crisis has demonstrated the relevance of the organisation as a forum for dialogue and as an operational responder. At the same time we acknowledge that more needs to be done to mobilise the OSCE’s capacities to effectively guard its core principles, address the existing and emerging security concerns, and promote stability across the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian regions.

Yesterday, at an informal ministerial dinner, we discussed the way forward in addressing the Ukraine crisis and the role of the OSCE.

One thing everyone agreed upon is the significance of the Minsk documents as the one way forward. Despite the many breaches of the ceasefire, we have to patiently work at improving implementation and support the essential and difficult work of the Trilateral Contact Group and the SMM.

Many of you underlined the importance of the OSCE as a platform to create space for dialogue and solutions. Several of you argued that the OSCE should become more political and allow for more political discussions.

Some of you emphasized the need for the OSCE to unequivocally speak out against those who break the rules. Others cautioned that while the OSCE should not shut its eyes, its specific role compared to other organizations was to preserve inclusive dialogue.

I think it is fair to say that there was broad consensus that the OSCE should be both, a forum to engage and an actor with a tool box whose capacity to prevent and resolve conflict should be further strengthened.

Today’s working lunch provides us with an opportunity to discuss the broader crisis of Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security. It is also a chance to informally discuss ideas on how to reconsolidate European security as a common project – our project.

The consensus on European security as a common project began to erode years before the recent developments in Ukraine started to unfold. The implementation of OSCE commitments has been uneven – not only – but particularly in the human dimension. Important pillars of European security, such as the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, have been weakened. The loss in trust and sense of partnership can be felt in our everyday work, in the OSCE and elsewhere.

In New York – on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in September – OSCE ministers gathered at a side event and conducted a first exchange on the way forward in addressing this crisis and the role of the OSCE in this context. There was broad agreement that in the present circumstances, we should not expect quick fixes to the European security crisis.

At the same time, it was also noted that if we fail to address the crisis of European security today we may well be confronted with even bigger divisions in Europe tomorrow. The consequences of these divisions could resonate beyond the continent by negatively affecting trust and collective cooperation in peace and security matters at the global level.

This lunch provides us with another opportunity to have an informal discussion on these issues. We will have to figure out collectively what reconsolidating European security should precisely mean. To me, it is clear that the Helsinki principles and the OSCE commitments are not up for renegotiation – the issue here is how to ensure more effective adherence and implementation. As one minister put it last night: The spirit of Helsinki must not die now when it did not die during the Cold War even.

I propose that we discuss the following questions over this lunch: How to rebuild trust and enhance peace and security in Europe on the basis of the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris? How to reconfirm, reinvigorate and, if appropriate, complement existing elements of cooperative security? How to facilitate an inclusive and constructive security dialogue across the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian regions on European security? What should be our key priorities in addressing the crisis of European security?

Before we open the discussion on these issues, I wish to inform you that the Swiss Chairmanship, in close cooperation with Serbia and Germany, is launching a high-level Panel of Eminent Persons on European Security as a Common Project. This independent Panel is designed to complement and support efforts by the OSCE participating States for an inclusive and constructive security dialogue across the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian regions.

The Panel should inspire our reflection process on how to address the crisis of security and cooperation in Europe, taking into consideration the recent Ukraine crisis in its broader perspective. It will seek close interaction with governments. The idea is that its recommendations will be discussed within OSCE formats, including at the ministerial level.

The Panel will complement rather than replace the important political discussions of all OSCE States in the regular Permanent Council in Vienna and other OSCE formats; it is not our intention to outsource the work of the OSCE.

The Panel will seek input from participating States, OSCE institutions and structures, multilateral actors covering European security issues, think tanks, and other relevant actors, including civil society through hearings, commission of papers, and other forms of activities.

There will be plenty of opportunities for you to engage with the Panel throughout 2015. While the Panelists representing all OSCE regions will be nominated in the coming weeks, I am pleased to welcome among us today Ambassador Ischinger, who has kindly accepted to chair the Panel as primus inter pares. I have invited him to make some remarks regarding the first steps the Panel will take. He will also outline how you can engage and support the work of the Panel.

Ambassador Ischinger, I would now like to give you the floor.

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Last update 26.01.2022

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