«The OSCE – an opportunity we must seize together»

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Bern, 07.02.2015 – Speach of Swiss Federal Councilor Didier Burkhalter at the donation of the Ewald-von-Kleist-Preises to the OSZE at the „Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz 2015“.

Let me begin by joining my colleague Ivica Dačić in thanking the Munich Security Conference and Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger for honouring the OSCE with the Ewald-von-Kleist Award. I would also like to express our gratitude to his Excellency Kofi Annan for his insightful presentation of the Award. It is a great privilege and pleasure for me to share a few thoughts with you on this occasion.

To honour the OSCE is to honour an idea – an idea of security that is cooperative and comprehensive. The OSCE stands for inclusive dialogue, for shared commitments, for common exertions to find common solutions to common challenges, and for very concrete measures on the ground to prevent and resolve conflicts. 57 States from three continents participate in this endeavour. The OSCE is a bridge-builder and an agent of peace.

The OSCE is an organization with a human touch. This organization is not only about relations between States but also about promoting a human kind of security – security for our citizens. And it is an un-bureaucratic organization, one that is very much driven by people – in Vienna, in the capitals of the participating States, and in the field. The human relations between these people, and their collective effort for the advancement of security and cooperation, are essential in making the organization what it is.

The bestowal of this award on the OSCE is a welcome sign of recognition for the work of the organization and its people. In these times of crises, it is with a good measure of modesty that we should acknowledge, and express our appreciation for, the growing recognition of the OSCE’s role and potential.

The Ukraine crisis has struck the OSCE at its very heart

War has returned to Europe. The people in the conflict-affected areas of eastern Ukraine are suffering enormously. The risk of further military escalation is real. This is not what the OSCE stands for. It is only through a cooperative political solution that this crisis can be resolved.

European security has rapidly deteriorated. The Helsinki Principles – a key foundation on which the OSCE and the overall security of Europe are built – have been repeatedly violated in the Ukraine crisis. This was most blatantly the case when Crimea was annexed, in a breach of OSCE commitments and international law. With the erosion of mutual trust, relations between Russia and the West have deteriorated to a dangerous degree. We heard a lot about this today. The notion of building security with rather than against each other has come under genuine threat again in the OSCE area.

In this difficult context, the OSCE has well demonstrated its usefulness as a bridge between the Euro-Atlantic and the Eurasian region. The OSCE has promoted inclusive dialogue to advance the search for a political solution to the Ukraine crisis. It has also reaffirmed its ability to act as a normative intermediary, reminding States of their commitments. Beyond that, the organization has become the main operational responder in the Ukraine crisis.

The Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine provides invaluable objective information concerning developments on the ground and has proven its ability to react quickly to the many incidents and challenges it is confronted with. It provides a strong signal that collective solutions are still possible between all OSCE States, that we are capable of working together to jointly advance de-escalation efforts. It is a worthy reflection of the culture of dialogue and cooperation that characterizes the OSCE.

How can we preserve this culture of dialogue and cooperation?

How can we make certain that Europe does not once again sleepwalk its way into a major catastrophe? I believe that what is required most today is political leadership, a shared sense of responsibility, and an unremitting effort to keep dialogue alive.

It was these three principles that stood at the beginning of the cooperative security approach à la OSCE, and it is these principles that are needed now to preserve and protect our common future.

Four decades ago, Europe was deeply divided between East and West. It was with a view to finding a way to reduce this division that governments decided to hold the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe – the CSCE. The several hundred diplomats and experts who gathered in Geneva in 1973 had little idea what to expect. It was widely assumed that the conference would last a few weeks only.

Ultimately, the negotiations continued for almost two years. In fact, they took so long that many diplomats left their hotels and moved into houses. Some settled in Geneva for good. A number of participants even got married during those CSCE negotiations – and some of those marriages were actually between delegates from Eastern and Western bloc countries.

I tell you this because the outcome of these negotiations was truly remarkable. The CSCE Final Act, which was signed in Helsinki in 1975, transformed security in Europe for good. The Helsinki Final Act was the result of a shared sense of responsibility combined with a shared political will to enhance the security of all by defining common commitments and promoting broad cooperation. It was thanks to the unfailing determination of everyone involved to continue their dialogue until a solution was found that this landmark document of European security came to see the light of day.

Today, as we commemorate the signing of the Final Act, 40 years ago, this spirit of the founding fathers of the CSCE should indeed be a source of inspiration to all of us. It is our shared responsibility not to allow Europe to become divided again. We must persist in our efforts to work out common solutions to overcome the Ukraine crisis and the broader crisis of European security.

The OSCE is capable of playing an important role on both these fronts. This organization is an opportunity – an opportunity we must seize together. The OSCE deserves our continuing full support for its engagement in and around Ukraine. This is extremely demanding work – and the OSCE needs the support of all participating States if it is to successfully face up to the many challenges that abound.

As concerns the need to overcome the broader crisis of European security, I have no doubt that this will require much time and patience. This is why it is important that we begin to address the issue now. The further strengthening of the OSCE and its capacity to act seems an obvious measure to take. We need a strong OSCE as a solid anchor of cooperative security in Europe.

There is also the Panel of Eminent Persons on European Security as a Common Project that has been launched by the OSCE Troika. We look forward to the proposals of this Panel on how to rebuild trust and strengthen adherence to OSCE commitments. I would like to thank Ambassador Ischinger once more for agreeing to act as Chair and for hosting the first meeting tomorrow, here in Munich.

I wish to conclude by thanking you, Ivica, and the Serbian Chairmanship for your great commitment to steering the OSCE through this challenging time. I also thank our Troika colleague Frank-Walter Steinmeier for the excellent trilateral cooperation between us, and for Germany’s untiring efforts to promote a political solution to the Ukraine crisis. Last, but not least, I commend you, Secretary-General Zannier, for your own work and for that of everyone who has been involved in moving the OSCE forward – day by day, step by step. To accept this award is to thank and serve the OSCE, its idea of peace and security, its principles, and its marvelous people.

Über Gerd M. Müller

Der Zürcher Foto-Journalist Gerd Michael Müller gründete vor 20 Jahren die Presse- und Bildagentur GMC Photopress. Müller arbeitet seit über 25 Jahren in der Tourismus-, Medien- und Kommunikationsbranche. Er hat über 1000 Publikationen und Reisereportagen in renommierten Medien veröffentlicht (u.a. «Welt am Sonntag», «FAZ», «FACTS», «Weltwoche», «SonntagsZeitung», «Globo», «Animan», «Reisen & Kultur-Journal», «FAZ», «Spiegel», «Süddeutsche Zeitung») und darüber hinaus auch für hochkarätige Spa- and Travel-Magazine wie «Relax & Style», «Tourbillon», «Excellence International», «World of Wellness» und «Wellness Live» gearbeitet. GMC Photopress besitzt ein umfangreiches Bildaurchiv mit rund 250'000 Bildern aus über 80 Ländern zu den Themen Lifestyle, Luxus, Beauty & Spa, Kultur, Touristische Highlights, Natur, Landschaft, Wildlife, Umwelt, Humanitäres und Soziales.
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