European Security Architecture in the light of the Helsinki principles: Lessons learned and new challenges

Etyjin talvi-istunnossa Wienissä 19.2. pitämäni puhe



Mr. Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen.

As we all know, the year 2015 is a special year. It is the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, which was the key founding document of the OSCE. Instead of celebrating the progress made in the implementation of the Organization’s core principles, we unfortunately face the worst crisis of European Security since the end of the Cold War.

In my speech, I will outline the most pressing security challenges that are facing the Organization right now: the crisis in and around Ukraine and the fight against terrorism. I will also bring into discussion some themes and ideas for my upcoming report. I hope this will encourage you to debate on how to move forward.

Dear Colleagues,

For the past year, the OSCE has worked hard in pursuing a diplomatic solution to the crisis in and around Ukraine. This effort has involved high-level diplomacy and on-the-ground monitoring and military visits. The Organization has repeatedly expressed grave concern of the military activities and the use of heavy weapons in the civilian areas. Preventing the conflict from spilling over beyond Ukraine’s borders has been a clear priority. We must also make sure that eastern Ukraine does not become a new frozen conflict. The worryingly long list of unresolved conflicts already includes regions such as Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The OSCE has a direct mandate to work towards resolving them, but a lot remains to be done.

The immediate and most urgent step now in Ukraine is for all sides to respect the ceasefire agreement and start withdrawing heavy weapons from the frontline. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said in Munich this month, like many others, that the crisis cannot be settled using military force. President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine also stated in a press briefing in January that “a simple military solution to the conflict does not exist”. The prisoner exchange last December was a sign of the concrete steps that can be taken when the parties are committed to dialogue.

The Trilateral Contact Group, which includes representatives from Ukraine, the Russian Federation and the OSCE, has played an important role in this task. It agreed on the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum in September 2014, which still represents, together with last weeks’ Minsk Agreement, a strong basis for a peaceful settlement of the crisis.

As you know, Serbia recently assumed its OSCE Chairmanship. And as the current Chairperson-in-Office Mr. Dačić has said, the package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements is yet another reminder of what can be accomplished through joint efforts. As you know, the basis for the Minsk protocol was a ceasefire that is to be monitored and verified by the OSCE. Last week, after 17 hours of negotiations in Minsk, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany stated that “we should not have any illusions – an enormous amount of work is still ahead.” But that “the agreement presents a genuine chance of improvement, a ray of hope.”

We must continue to be actively engaged with all sides in the conflict. No one should be isolated or left out of the diplomatic process. The strength of the OSCE lies in its wide membership and ability to find common ground – no other regional security organization has mandate to operate in such a wide geographical area. As we all know, the OSCE is at the moment the only organization in the European security architecture which includes Russia as a member. This is especially clear after the recent disagreements in the Council of Europe.

This makes the Organization a critical actor in conflict prevention and resolution in Eastern Europe but also Central Asia. It is easy to agree with what the Swiss Foreign Minister and last year’s OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Didier Burkhalter said on his Central Asian visit last November, that “there is much potential in the region”. And that “we are always ready to engage, work on prevention and offer expertise”.

As we all remember, Mongolia became the Organization’s newest participating State in 2012. That decision was taken by consensus and was an important step forward in addressing the security challenges in the region.

Working towards peace starts with pragmatic solutions that increase security and prevent conflicts from escalating or spilling over into neighboring areas. Collective security and human rights have been the principles guiding the Organization’s actions in Ukraine.

In addition to the deployment of the Special Monitoring Mission, inspection teams were sent to the affected area already several months ago within the framework of the Vienna Document. Both the High Commissioner on National Minorities and the Representative on Freedom of the Media as well as ODIHR have supported civil society actors and worked to ensure the freedom of expression.

It should be noted that the ability to deploy field missions is one of the Organization’s biggest assets. We must make sure that operations such as the Special Monitoring Mission are supported by adequate financial resources as well as political support from different countries. As Ukraine’s President Poroshenko has repeatedly said, the expansion of the Mission and the effective monitoring of the Ukrainian-Russian border will be vital to the peace process.

Dear Colleagues,

Then a few words on security challenges besides Ukraine. Namely, the unresolved conflicts and instability in Europe’s broader neighborhood, especially in North Africa and the Middle East, are having a growing impact on security in the OSCE region. These include transnational threats such as terrorism and illegal trade in narcotics, weapons and people. Increasing cooperation between criminal networks and ideologically-motivated terrorists has created a new generation of hybrid threats.

The horrific attacks in Paris and Copenhagen have shown Europe that it cannot consider itself isolated from events around the world. As the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said, “we have experienced the ugly taste of fear and powerlessness that terror aims to create. But a free society has a duty to fight back.” I find it very easy to agree with this statement.

The OSCE has a wide-ranging counter-terrorism mandate. Last December, the 57 participating States adopted a Ministerial Declaration supporting the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2178 on the threat of foreign terrorist fighters and Resolution 2133 on countering kidnapping and hostage-taking committed by terrorist groups. This mandates further efforts combatting terrorism and violent extremism.

The weakness of many states in North Africa and the Middle East has produced a rich breeding ground for terrorism. The security of Europe demands that we remain involved in increasing stability in this region and beyond. The threat of terrorism extends globally, as we have seen with the terrible acts of violence committed by Nigeria’s Islamist group Boko Haram. The inhumane actions by ISIS, including unspeakable acts of violence against women and children, demand a rapid response from the international community.

There should also be increased efforts to combat extremism and radicalization also at home. The successful integration of immigrants is a key factor in preventing home-grown terrorism. Organizations such as ISIS are active and aggressive in their online propaganda efforts. They know that people who are on the margins of society can be easy to recruit to extremist causes. Prisons have been shown to be a problem, too. In both the Paris and Copenhagen attacks, the terrorists had been influenced by their time in prison. The prison system must be organized in a way that prevents radicalization and the spread of extremist ideology to inmates.

The OSCE has been active in raising awareness and promoting effective counter-narratives to extremist propaganda. Each violent group has its own characteristics that need to be properly understood and taken into account when developing these counter-narratives. This is critical in the fight against radicalization.

Terrorism is a common threat for all OSCE participating States. Truly, a common enemy. This should encourage us to be even more active in finding a resolution to the crisis in and around Ukraine. We owe all this to our children that they can grow up in a continent that is peaceful, secure and free of violence.

Now, to sum up: the cornerstones of European security architecture have relied on shared democratic values. They include the inviolability of borders and the peaceful settlement of conflicts.

The OSCE has contributed to Europe’s military security through the negotiation of ground-breaking agreements on arms control. The Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe has significantly reduced the amounts of conventional arms deployed in Europe.

We should not forget that the OSCE has had a central role in regulating the most difficult European security crises of the past decades, for example in Bosnia and Kosovo. But there is no denying that the rapidly evolving geopolitical landscape presents new pressing challenges. The OSCE’s existing capacities must be reformed to cope with them.

The Helsinki Final Act set out the founding vision for a community of states united by the concept of common, comprehensive and indivisible security. The participating States have agreed to a concerted effort to make real progress towards building a security community by the 40th anniversary of the CSCE conference in Helsinki.

This will no doubt be difficult. It demands a strong sense of cooperation and common political will from all participating States. I truly hope we can come together at such a critical time for enhancing the security of Europe.

Thank you.

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