“Providing the OSCE with the capacity to reconsolidate European security” (Munich Security Conference 2015)


Speech by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter at the Munich Security Conference in 2015 - Check against delivery

Speaker: Didier Burkhalter; OSCE CiO, Didier Burkhalter (2014)

Ladies and gentlemen

It is a pleasure to be here and share some thoughts with you about future actions of the OSCE.

This discussion is timely indeed. Not just because we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act this year. The question of the OSCE’s future has also gained in relevance in the context of recent developments regarding Ukraine and relations between Russia and the West.

As last year’s chair of the OSCE and current member of the Troika, Switzerland has given much thought to these issues. We consider the OSCE and its cooperative and comprehensive approach to security to be of seminal importance for the security and stability of Europe. We have been committed to strengthening the OSCE for many years and will continue our engagement.

With this in mind I wish to make some remarks on three issues here: the OSCE and Ukraine, the OSCE and European security, and the need to strengthen the OSCE and its capacity to act.

First, the OSCE and the Ukraine crisis.

The Ukraine crisis has struck the OSCE at its very heart. At the same time, the OSCE has demonstrated its usefulness as a bridge between the Euro-Atlantic and the Eurasian region in this difficult context.

The OSCE has promoted inclusive dialogue to advance the search for a political solution to the Ukraine crisis. It has also become the main operational responder in this crisis. It is this combination of dialogue and action that makes the OSCE particularly relevant.

The OSCE requires our full and continuing support for its engagement in and around Ukraine. This is very demanding work – and the OSCE needs the support of all participating States if it is to successfully respond to the many challenges.

This means full support for the OSCE CiO Special Representative, Swiss Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, as member of the Trilateral Contact Group that seeks to advance implementation of the Minsk arrangements. We must do everything to return to the logic of de-escalation, and with its bridge-building role in the Trilateral Contact Group, the OSCE can help move the political process forward.

Unwavering political and material support for the Special Monitoring Mission by all OSCE participating States is also required. These civilian monitors are doing a tremendous job and they are having to work in a very precarious environment. We need to provide the SMM with both the necessary security equipment and qualified staff with relevant experience, sometimes in very specific areas such as crater analysis.

As for the second point regarding the future of European security, our first and foremost responsibility should be not to allow Europe to become divided again. Here too the OSCE has important roles to play.

One such role is to act as the hub for constructive dialogue on the future of security in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian region.
The Panel of Eminent Persons that was commissioned by the OSCE Troika is mandated to come up with proposals on how to reconsolidate European security as a common project.

This Panel will reflect on how to rebuild trust among the OSCE participating States and ensure more effective adherence to the Helsinki Principles, examine perceived threats in the OSCE area and potential common solutions, and explore possibilities for reinvigorating cooperative security.

I have been told that Ambassador Ischinger will brief you in more detail about this Panel, which he has kindly accepted to chair. So let me just add this: while the Panel will be an important source of inspiration, it is the governments that will have to find a way out of the crisis.

This is why we attach great importance to providing exchanges between the Panel and track I diplomacy, and why it is indispensable that policymakers also start to address the issue of how to overcome the crisis of European security. I remain convinced that we will only be able to strengthen the resilience of European security if we succeed in building security with rather than against Russia. The OSCE is the obvious forum for this.

The OSCE can be the key to strengthening cooperative security in Europe. We need a strong OSCE as a solid anchor for cooperative security in Europe.

This brings me to my third point: how can we strengthen the OSCE as an organization?

There are a number of ways. While I am well aware that it will not be easy to establish consensus on these issues, let me conclude with four proposals:

One: we should further strengthen the OSCE’s set of instruments for dialogue and action. This includes strengthening the organization’s capacity to facilitate dialogue and mediate between parties to a conflict. Switzerland has developed a lot of expertise in this field, and we are ready to further increase our engagement with the OSCE in this regard.

Two: we should make more strategic use of the second dimension of the OSCE. The Ukraine crisis has been a stark reminder of how important economic aspects of security are. Disagreements about economic border lines within the OSCE have become a major source of friction. The OSCE is well suited to promote dialogue on the nexus between trade and security. It could also develop new kinds of economic confidence-building measures to rebuild trust and strengthen regional connectivity.

Three: We should reinforce cooperation in those areas where we face common challenges and can come up with common solutions. One particular area I have in mind is the fight against terrorism. The OSCE has demonstrated its ability to assist participating States in dealing with issues such as foreign terrorist fighters and kidnapping for ransom. Switzerland will also back further OSCE activities to prevent radicalization and promote dialogue on tolerance and non-discrimination. We particularly support OSCE ideas for working with youth in this field, as young people have a key role when it comes to preventing radicalization.

This brings me to my last proposal. A major measure for strengthening the OSCE is by including youth in its work. Last year, we ran a successful Model OSCE where 57 young people collectively worked out their Youth Action Plan to inspire the OSCE to come up with a youth action plan of its own. We are pleased that the Serbian Chairmanship is continuing these efforts to give youth a bigger say in the OSCE. As is the case with all politics, OSCE activities should be at the service of the people – of our citizens. This is why engaging with youth, as well as with civil society, is a major asset for the OSCE.

Ladies and gentlemen

The OSCE has significant potential to enhance the security of everyone in Europe. For this organization to play such a role what is needed most is the genuine political will of all participating States to provide it with the relevant capacities – and to make use of these capacities to promote security and cooperation across our continent.

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs

Last update 26.01.2022

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