"Europe whole and free? Reflections on the European peace framework between crisis and renewal from the perspective of Swiss foreign policy"

Bern, 17.06.2015 - Bern, 17.06.2015 - Speech by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter on invitation of the Swiss Foreign Policy Society - Check against delivery

Dear Mrs President
Dear Rector
Dear students
Ladies and gentlemen,

Foreign policy in Switzerland is always determined in dialogue. This reflects our political culture and is something I also attach great importance to personally.

I was very keen to accept the invitation from the Swiss Foreign Policy Society to take part in this discussion with you this evening. The Swiss Foreign Policy Society makes an important contribution to the shaping of opinion on foreign policy in Switzerland. I wish to express my gratitude to you for your efforts.

I am especially delighted to engage in discussion with students on this occasion. One of the main objectives of politics is to create good prospects for young people and future generations. Exchange with young people about Switzerland and its foreign policy is extremely important. I therefore wish to thank the University of Bern for this kind invitation. 

The world has become less stable and more unpredictable over recent years. The number of crises in Switzerland’s regional context in particular has been rising. 

In Europe’s southern neighbouring region, wars are raging in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. Instead of the democratisation hoped for, state collapse, jihadist terrorism and geopolitical friction are predominant. A stable regional order for the Middle East is not in sight. Poor governance and the lack of prospects in many African states have contributed to south-north migration which is presenting Europe, including Switzerland, with major challenges.

Crises have also become more acute on Europe’s eastern fringes. War has returned to our continent with the Ukrainian crisis. There is the threat of a protracted period of strained relations between Russia and the West. In contrast to the Middle East, Europe has in fact succeeded in establishing a regional peace framework over recent decades. This peace framework is nevertheless facing a major crisis and is at risk of eroding which would also have direct implications for Switzerland.

All of these crises have their own specific causes and characteristics. However, the current accumulation of such conflicts is not coincidental. It is the reflection of a tectonic shift in global politics. The diffusion of power owing to globalisation is opening up development opportunities for many states but is also creating a multipolar world where no stable international order currently exists.

Non-governmental players are also becoming more powerful. These include positive forces of civil society as well as criminal and terrorist groups. The large number of players is making international relations more complex and confusing.

It is therefore little wonder that rarely have more demands been made of international diplomacy than at present.
This also applies to Switzerland. Peacebuilding and security are increasingly important tasks for Swiss foreign policy. We must and want to make a contribution towards dealing with the crisis developments taking place around us. Such developments also put our freedom, our security and our prosperity in jeopardy.

Switzerland’s successful model primarily depends upon taking the right steps internally. We nevertheless also require a stable international framework and a rule-based international order. As a heavily interconnected and export-oriented nation, which benefits from globalisation in many respects, it is in Switzerland’s interests to demonstrate commitment to peace and security.

Such commitment is also a duty of solidarity. When I’m abroad, I frequently see how well off Switzerland actually is. We can consider ourselves very fortunate to live in a country not plagued by war and starvation. I see how envious people are of our high standard of living, our economic power and capacity for innovation, our low level of unemployment, our schools and our political stability. And I also see just how much Swiss efforts towards peace, development and relief of humanitarian need are appreciated.

The 15 lorries marked with Swiss flags, which made up the first convoy to cross the line of engagement in eastern Ukraine last month, brought hope to people on both sides of the conflict that more humanitarian aid is possible despite all political divides. A second Swiss convoy will set off next week if the security situation permits. Through this relief effort, Switzerland is aiming to provide purified drinking water for 3.5 million people in the Donetsk region for six months. That is hands-on humanitarianism put into practice.

As OSCE Chairperson-in-Office last year, one thing that became very clear to me was that Switzerland can achieve a great deal through a foreign policy that is both independent and plays a co-determining role. As a European state which advocates western values but is not a member of the EU or NATO, Switzerland performs a specific role in peacebuilding. It is able to build bridges in war-torn environments and make useful and relevant contributions towards peace and security.

We have a strong foundation from which to step up our commitment in this area. The Swiss diplomatic service possesses a wealth of experience and expertise in peacebuilding. The OSCE Chairmanship helped to further strengthen our contacts with key players and to enhance our credibility. Swiss contributions are much in demand. Switzerland has a global presence thanks to its extensive network of representations abroad. Its commitment is also well established in terms of domestic politics.

This last point is an extremely important one. Domestic and foreign politics are closely entwined in Switzerland. Swiss foreign policy is citizen-oriented. Our nation’s internal strengths are also key elements of our foreign policy. In specific terms, this means we are committed to dialogue and a culture of compromise, integration and power-sharing, human rights and a humanitarian approach, democracy and the taming of the powerful by the law. A look at the current conflict map is enough to see how important such aspects are to resolving many crises. Swiss foreign policy has a real “inner” strength.

Civilian peacebuilding enjoys broad support in domestic politics. I have experienced this in many personal encounters – when out and about, at events and elsewhere – where people constantly ask me about the constructive role Switzerland plays in the world.
Parliament also continually demonstrates tremendous support, among other things by providing blanket credit that enables the continuity of Swiss commitment.

According to an annual survey conducted this year by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), 78% of those surveyed were in favour of Switzerland being more involved in conflict mediation efforts and playing a more active role at international conferences. A long-term comparison indicates that these positive responses are peak values in both cases. More than two-thirds of those surveyed also believe that Switzerland should commit heavily to development aid.

The results of this survey are a further indication that the majority of citizens want a Switzerland which is neutral and  that demonstrates solidarity, is committed to peace and security and assumes responsibility accordingly - “Neutralité, solidarité, responsabilité”. That is completely in line with the Federal Council’s foreign policy strategy and its objectives for the new legislative period which give high priority to security and international stability.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Swiss diplomats are involved in the search for solutions to numerous crises and conflicts in one form or another. Look at the nuclear negotiations that took place in Lausanne, at the Syria, Libya or the forthcoming Yemen talks in Geneva, at our efforts towards inter-Palestinian reconciliation and our peacebuilding initiatives in North Africa, Mali, Burundi, the Western Balkans and Myanmar.

This evening, however, I wish to address the crisis that concerns me most. I am referring to the crisis of the European peace framework which was ignited by the Ukrainian crisis but which also affects pan-European security and may even have a negative impact on the global multilateral structure over the medium-term.

Under its Chairmanship of the OSCE, Switzerland was heavily involved in the efforts to defuse the crisis. We are also working to this end this year as a member of the OSCE troika (together with Serbia and Germany) and will continue to contribute through the OSCE and bilaterally.
A more long-term division and further escalation between Russia and the West would have a major impact upon stability in our regional environment, our national security and our economic opportunities.

Switzerland wishes to contribute towards preventing such negative developments. We want to strengthen the European peace framework and make it more resilient. Security in Europe has to become a joint initiative again.

The Ukrainian crisis unfolded at breathtaking speed last year. In contrast, the resolution of the crisis and the renewal of the European peace framework will take a long time. Constructive proposals on how pan-European security can be strengthened are currently in short supply. Switzerland does not have a magic formula either. The problems are complex and there is little willingness to reflect upon a common future until the Ukrainian crisis is resolved.

But it is precisely this issue that Switzerland is addressing. We believe that the Ukrainian crisis can only be resolved if fundamental questions concerning European security are dealt with in parallel.

We therefore initiated a 15-member panel at the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Basel and, together with our troika partners, issued a mandate for proposals on strengthening joint security in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian regions to be drawn up. I was in Vienna this morning where the panel led by ambassador Ischinger presented its interim report containing valuable proposals on strengthening the OSCE.

The panel will draw up its main report by the end of the year which will tackle the fundamental issues of European security. This is a difficult but extremely important task for which we are extremely grateful.

Switzerland nevertheless also wishes to contribute to the debate on European security itself and to help build bridges. At the FDFA we are working on a range of approaches, some of which I would like to outline this evening. It is a kind of progress report as we are at the beginning of a lengthy process.

In order to classify our solution proposals we must firstly address the causes of the crisis. The explanations of how the current situation arose have become increasingly more one-sided in recent months. The debate is marked by the apportioning of blame and little self-criticism. An impartial analysis of the past is nevertheless a key requirement for an objective debate on the future of European security.

Let’s begin then with a look at the European peace framework and how it took shape after the end of the Cold War. What is the basis of this peace framework?

Initially it was the Helsinki principles. They were negotiated in the early 1970s as part of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in Geneva and were adopted as part of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975 by the 35 CSCE states. This CSCE process sought to put the division of Europe into perspective by establishing common fundamental rules and a cooperative and comprehensive understanding of security.

The Helsinki principles are partly based on the principles of the UN Charter, such as sovereignty, territorial integrity and the renunciation of the use of violence. They nevertheless go beyond that and postulate that respect for human rights is a fundamental requirement for peaceful relations between states. The Helsinki Final Act played its part in ensuring the East-West conflict ended largely without violence.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marked a new epoch in Europe. In addition to German reunification, the emphasis was also placed on strengthening pan-European security cooperation.

In the “Charter of Paris for a New Europe” of November 1990, the CSCE states confirmed the Helsinki principles as a core element of the new peace framework. They affirmed that the period of confrontation and division in Europe had been overcome and that a new era of democracy, peace and unity had begun. 

In “Europe whole and free” relations between states should in future be based on respect and cooperation. Europe whole and free. L’Europe entière et libre.

Democracy as a joint basis of European security, in particular, was now recognised in the Charter of Paris. The right of each state to freely select alliances was now also mentioned. The charter also initiated the transition of the CSCE process into an organisation whereby the OSCE and its new institutions would intensify dialogue on security and support participating States in the fields of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
After the Paris summit, two other historical events took place in 1991 – the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The following decade and a half was marked by eastern enlargement of the EU and NATO, which increased from 12 and 16 members respectively to 28 each. In addition to central and eastern European states, with the Baltic states three of the 15 successor states of the Soviet Union were integrated into the western institutions. They all strove for security, freedom and prosperity.

As NATO and the EU became security policy focal points in the new Europe, the OSCE and the concept of an undivided European security space developed less strongly than some people had hoped for or anticipated. NATO and the EU nevertheless established their own forms of cooperative security with Russia to mitigate the consequences of enlargement.

NATO and Russia signed a Founding Act on Mutual Relations in 1997. In this document they announced the establishment of a strong and equal partnership as well as the simultaneous strengthening of the OSCE. They also set out the objective of creating a “common space of security and stability, without dividing lines or spheres of influence limiting the sovereignty of any state.” Five years later the NATO-Russia Council was set up which sought to enable close coordination on strategic matters and to promote cooperation.

The EU for its part signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia in 1994. This was subsequently followed by the concept to create four “common spaces” (economic space; a space of freedom, security and justice; external security; research and education), while the resolution to set up a Partnership for Modernisation came later.

Russia’s accession to the Council of Europe in 1996 and its inclusion in the G-8 two years later can also be regarded as part of the European peace framework.

The Charter for European Security adopted in 1999 at the OSCE summit in Istanbul represented a provisional conclusion to the establishment of the foundation of the European peace framework. Against the background of the wars in the Balkans and in Chechnya, this charter once again called for the strengthening of the OSCE and its operational capabilities. It also raised the prospect of creating a whole OSCE security space without zones with different security levels. An important agreement was also signed in Istanbul on the adaptation of conventional arms control in Europe to the new regional situation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Of these noble intentions much is still piecemeal. Europe’s peace framework has remained fragile. The trust between Russia and the West has gradually diminished. Tellingly, the important Istanbul treaty on conventional arms control never entered into force.

There are many explanations as to why a more stable pan-European security framework has failed to emerge. An important factor in my view is that agreement can never be reached on two key European security issues.

The first concerns Russia’s role in Europe. Moscow expects to have a major say on strategic issues from a partnership with the West. The West offered consultation and cooperation but not a veto option for Russia.

The gulf in expectations became even more evident when the two sides constantly held different views over key matters. There were continually major differences and accusations regardless of whether on missile defence, eastern expansion, controversial military intervention or political declarations of independence.

There was a kind of strategic estrangement (after perhaps only superficial rapprochement): Russia – a country of 11 time zones and great historical awareness – spoke of western arrogance and denounced a lack of consideration of its interests. Criticism was mainly aimed at NATO and the United States, whose leadership role in Europe and the world was constantly called into question by Moscow.

The West had to face the fact that Russia – like several other successor states of the Soviet Union – was not pursuing a path of liberal democracy and once again increasingly positioned itself as an independent major power on the basis of its wealth of resources. Whereas the 1990s are seen from a western perspective as a time of a new joint departure, they will be remembered by Russians as a period of powerlessness and chaos. Russia’s increased disassociation from the West and its values was not just explained by foreign policy factors but instead also reflected change in domestic politics.

Within the context of this change in domestic politics and eastern expansion by NATO and the EU, a second fundamental issue concerning European security has become prominent in recent years. This concerns the sub-regional peace framework for the countries jointly neighbouring the EU and Russia.

A belt of successor states of the Soviet Union - whose future between Russia and the West is increasingly contentious - stretches right across Europe. It extends from the Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova to the southern Caucasus states of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

This is a zone of insecurity but also one of multiple identities and ethnic and political diversity. Both aspects have manifested themselves in various protracted conflicts which have in some cases only been “put on ice” and have not become “forgotten” conflicts.

The West and Russia have failed to develop a joint vision for this region. Four months after NATO held out the prospect of membership to Ukraine and Georgia in 2008, war broke out in Georgia while South Ossetia and Abkhazia were recognised by Russia. Moscow drew a red line and accused NATO of pursuing an encirclement strategy. Russia’s claim to protection of influence in its neighbouring region has since become increasingly evident.

This is also being reflected on the economic front. A competitive situation has developed here which, at least from a Russian perspective, also has geopolitical connotations.

Through the Eastern Partnership launched in 2009, the EU offers the states concerned the prospect of gradual access to the single market (but not the prospect of accession) in the event of progressive political and economic transformation. The corresponding association and comprehensive free trade agreements involve the harmonisation of the legal provisions of the countries concerned to EU norms.

Russia has developed its own integration model with the Eurasian Union. This focuses on its own technical standardisation, introduces protective tariffs and is designed as a political alternative to western integration of the EU. The states in the region were faced with a difficult either-or situation.

It would be wrong to draw a direct line from the war in Georgia to the Ukrainian crisis. Various initiatives were launched after this conflict to bolster pan-European security. President Medvedev proposed a controversial restructuring of the European security architecture and a legally binding European security agreement. Together with Federal Chancellor Merkel, he called for more intensive security cooperation between the EU and Russia. President Obama talked of a “reset” with Russia while President Putin proposed a free trade zone stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok in 2010.

The OSCE launched the Corfu Process to discuss ways of strengthening cooperative security. These Corfu debates were constructive but came to nothing just like the other initiatives mentioned. At the last OSCE summit in Astana five years ago, the participating States could not agree on the adoption of a largely pre-negotiated action plan.

The loss of trust and the differences were too great and there was probably too little awareness that Europe faced the threat of a security crisis. The agenda during that period was determined by crises outside of Europe and European security issues were usually given lesser priority.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Ukrainian crisis did not therefore come from nowhere. The origins of the crisis of the European peace framework go way back. And yet we were surprised by the Ukraine crisis. Nobody suspected how far Russia would go to enforce its interests in its neighbouring region.

The Ukrainian crisis undoubtedly has a dimension related to domestic politics – the Maidan revolution was an outcry against poor governance and, at the same time, the culmination of the country’s long struggle over its positioning between Russia and Europe.
The international dimension, as I outlined previously, is nevertheless key to understanding the crisis.

The annexation of Crimea in violation of international law and the violent conflict in eastern Ukraine stoked by Russia have struck at the very heart of Europe’s peace framework. Moscow regards Ukraine’s shift towards western institutions and values as a threat and will stop at nothing to prevent such a development. Russia justifies this veto policy by pointing to a joint history, ethnic and cultural ties and the need to protect the Russian minority and Russian language.

The Ukraine crisis has serious implications. These primarily concern Ukraine itself. The ruins of the passenger plane shot down, the many faces filled with fear, confusion and desperation and the death of the Swiss ICRC worker – the horror of the war is reflected in many facets. These include the fact that the Donbass Arena in Donetsk, where matches were played as part of the European Football Championship three years ago, is today being used as a distribution centre for aid supplies.

Ukraine is not just confronted by disregard for its sovereignty and territorial integrity but also a major need for reform and enormous economic challenges.

The Ukrainian conflict has also plunged European security into a deep crisis. There is no more talk of a strategic partnership between the West and Russia. Sanctions and military defence measures are setting the agenda rather than cooperative security.

Military provocation has great potential for escalation. Dialogue and cooperation have been reduced to a minimum within the NATO and EU framework. The G8 has returned to being the G7.

Nobody knows where all of this may lead. Protracted economic weakening and political isolation of Russia threaten to increase its propensity towards revisionist politics. Russia’s self-perception is increasingly being defined by distance from the West. This provides cause for concern.
The Ukraine crisis nevertheless also resulted in the rediscovery of the OSCE. It is the only organisation which brings all relevant states involved in the crisis together around a table. With its 57 participating States, it has proved a useful bridge between the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian regions.
The OSCE has become the most significant international player with regard to crisis management in Ukraine. The fact that it was doubly independent last year under the Swiss Chairmanship proved extremely beneficial.

We placed the Ukraine crisis at the centre of our chairmanship year from the outset. When I outlined the priorities of the Swiss OSCE Chairmanship to the UN Security Council in February, much space was dedicated to our approach to defusing the crisis, which included the dispatch of a special envoy and the set-up of a contact group. Switzerland promoted inclusive dialogue and the use of the OSCE’s range of instruments throughout the year.

Consensus was reached on launching a major field mission for the first time in over ten years. The special monitoring mission is playing a central role in the efforts towards de-escalation and verification of the ceasefire. Its daily reports are amongst the most important independent sources of information in this crisis. Thanks to its contacts with all players involved in the conflict, the SMM also provides valuable mediation services locally, such as where the exchange of prisoners is concerned.

I wish to thank the SMM management - the Turkish ambassador Apakan and his Swiss deputy Alexander Hug - and the roughly 500 monitors (12 of whom are from Switzerland) for their highly important work. Your efforts on behalf of the wellbeing of people in the Ukraine deserve our greatest respect.

On behalf of the Federal Council, I also wish to take the opportunity to express my gratitude for the work undertaken by ambassador Heidi Tagliavini. The Trilateral Contact Group, consisting of representatives from the OSCE Chairmanship, Ukraine and Russia, plays a vital role as a permanent working body for dialogue in the implementation of a feasible political solution, as indicated by the Minsk agreements.

Ambassador Tagliavini made an outstanding contribution towards peace in Ukraine by fulfilling her challenging mandate. She played a significant role in ensuring the complex peace process made progress despite setbacks. Her relentless and significant efforts have also become an internationally recognised example of how useful Switzerland’s commitment to peace and security can be. Ms Tagliavini, who has announced that she is to step down, deserves our upmost gratitude for her achievements.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is no sign of a rapid solution to the Ukraine crisis. Switzerland is nevertheless committed, even after its OSCE Chairmanship, to overcoming this crisis as well as that of European security.

This brings me to the question of how Europe’s peace framework can be strengthened and renewed.

Four things are clear in my view:

First, viable security in Europe can only exist with all European states, including Russia. This means security with and not against Russia.

Second, the political will of all states is required in order to re-establish security with Russia and to reinforce the European peace framework. Everyone must want to achieve this and be persuaded that it is feasible.

Third, I firmly believe, as I already mentioned, that we have to tackle the crisis more than in the past simultaneously at its various levels: local – Ukraine, sub-regional – joint neighbouring area of EU-Russia, regional – pan-European level.

Fourth, the OSCE has an important role to play at all of these levels.

Let’s start with the local level of the Ukrainian crisis. The situation remains complex in eastern Ukraine. The signs again point to escalation. More flashpoints are again occurring, the fighting is intensifying and heavy weaponry is being moved to the front. Both sides are blaming one another and the tone between Russia and the West is becoming more hostile again.

In my view more weapons do not provide greater stability. Only a complete implementation of all of the Minsk obligations will enable the conflict to be resolved. All sides are obliged to tackle the implementation work less selectively. There is also a need for greater pragmatism in order to achieve specific progress in the Trilateral Contact Group and its working groups despite differences over status issues.

Switzerland will continue to make every effort to support the SMM and the work of the Trilateral Contact Group. However, we are also stepping up our bilateral commitment. On Monday, we published a new four-year strategy on our cooperation with Ukraine. Switzerland will also intensify its bilateral efforts to promote dialogue and reconciliation. On the other hand, we are also taking account of the fact that Ukraine does not just require peace but also reform and development. Better governance and improved prospects for people are vital factors in citizens regaining trust in the state.

A key issue that was excluded in Minsk concerns the future of Ukraine between the West and Russia. A successful conclusion of the Minsk process depends heavily on the players concerned also addressing this issue. This brings me to the second, sub-regional level of measures to strengthen European security.

This concerns the question of a sustainable structure for the states in the current zone of insecurity.

The accession of these states to the EU and NATO is not to be expected in the foreseeable future. With this observation I certainly do not wish to bring into question the free choice of alliance of all OSCE states. We must nevertheless be realistic when looking for ways of how the economic and security policy prospects of these states can be improved over the coming years.

At the FDFA we are pursuing various approaches under the keyword of connectivity. The objective must be for these states to act as bridges and not as dividing lines (and certainly not as centres of conflict). Connectivity as an alternative to zero-sum solutions. Such approaches are however only implementable if they have the support of all parties concerned and provided these are willing to take account of the multiple identifies and allegiances in this region and to see them as sources of enrichment rather than an encumbrance.

A key dimension of the connectivity concerns the economy. The example of Ukraine has illustrated how trade-related matters can be relevant to security policy.

Inclusive trade regimes which do not restrict trade on any side are of major importance to these states. The approach towards such matters constitutes a fundamental element of European security today.

Although the OSCE is not an economic organisation, it does deal with the economic aspects of security. It should be used to a greater extent as an inclusive discussion platform for such connectivity issues. Switzerland is endeavouring to reinforce the economic and environmental dimension of the OSCE and its future development as part of conflict handling.

It is clear that the actual problems must be resolved by those directly involved. The outcome of the current three-party discussions between the EU, Russia and Ukraine, which, among other things, concern a convergence of technical regulations and standards as well as customs information systems, may also point the way forward for other states in the current zone of insecurity.

If this approach proves successful, and I consider this to be important, then such a process will be supported by trust-building measures. Here we will assess whether the OSCE can make a supportive contribution as a credible third-party player. We will examine, for example, the extent to which the OSCE concept of trust-building measures could be applied in the field of the economy.

Economic connectivity does not just concern the access of these states to the markets in the West and East. To us the concept also appears relevant to the relationship of states, such as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, with their separatist regions. We are currently examining in country studies how the dividing lines in these conflicts impact on economic activity and trade flows.

On this basis, we wish to develop proposals for re-establishing economic activity as effectively as possible on both sides of the dividing lines and counteracting trade being forced into illegal activities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If we succeed together in promoting economic connectivity for states such as Ukraine, this will open up prospects for the West and Russia to jointly work towards the economic stabilisation of Ukraine and redevelopment in the conflict area. Ukraine needs a kind of Marshall Plan, but such an initiative can only succeed if it has the support of all the main players. That is also connectivity.

Finally, I believe it is worth examining whether connectivity, including in its security policy dimension, could be used as a model for these states. Could the security of those currently non-aligned states be improved through neutrality recognised by all sides?

Neutrality does not always have to be perpetual as in the case of Switzerland. However, in the given scenario a neutrality status recognised by all sides under international law could represent a beneficial security strategy in comparison with the status quo. Such a regime would be supplemented by a denunciation-of-violence declaration and joint security guarantees.

It would of course be up to the states concerned to decide whether this would be an option for them – neutralisation from outside will not provide a solution. This approach would undoubtedly also entail a great need for clarification – think of the unresolved conflicts and the soldiers stationed in separatist regions. I nevertheless believe that an in-depth analysis of this option is worthwhile.

I must add that with ambassador Angelo Gnädinger as the OSCE’s special envoy for the South Caucasus, Switzerland has remained involved in the efforts to find a solution to the conflicts concerning Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh this year. Switzerland is also making significant contributions as a guest state at the Geneva talks on Georgia and with its protecting power mandate for Georgia and Russia.

After looking at the local and sub-regional levels, this brings me onto the pan-European level.

Firstly, do we need a new normative foundation for Europe’s peace framework? Absolutely not. No new regulations are required. We need a credible commitment from all parties concerned to establishing a more crisis-resistant peace framework on the basis of jointly drawn up rules – the onus is also primarily on Russia here. Dialogue is needed to improve the joint understanding of these rules. And we have not yet found an answer to the question of how the principle of “equal security for everyone” can be fulfilled in the OSCE area.

In relation to the question of the institutional consolidation of cooperative security in Europe, I wish to restrict myself to one point today. The time has come to strengthen the OSCE. It is time to structure this organisation in such a way that enables it to fully harness its potential for the promotion of dialogue and security cooperation, improving human security and conflict resolution.

In view of its minimal resources, the OSCE makes a remarkable contribution. The gulf between it and comparable organisations is nevertheless vast. The OSCE’s capacity for action must be enhanced in order to reinforce relations between the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian regions.

The panel’s interim report published this morning in Vienna contains a series of such recommendations which Switzerland fully supports. I am thinking, for instance, of the proposed bolstering of the OSCE’s planning and management capabilities or the greater emphasis on conflict prevention. 

In specific terms, Switzerland is working, for example, on approaches to improve the OSCE’s immediate measures in the event of an emerging crisis. This involves improvements in areas such as fact-finding but also the rapid dispatch of experts and mediators.

Switzerland is also initiating a discussion in Vienna about the development of additional capabilities for OSCE peace missions. Experience from the Ukraine crisis has shown that the OSCE must adapt its capabilities for such missions to modern conflict situations. More precisely, the OSCE should be equipped for integrated field missions which will continue to essentially be civilian in nature but can also integrate more robust elements where necessary, such as military drones.

Switzerland is also endeavouring to strengthen the three dimensions of the OSCE. With regard to the political and military dimension, we are focusing on the further development of the Vienna Document which is the key instrument on conventional arms control and trust-building.

In terms of the economic and environmental dimension we are targeting the more strategic orientation towards connectivity issues mentioned previously. Such matters are also of interest to Central Asia, for example, with a view to trust-building through joint infrastructure projects.

As regards the human dimension, Switzerland is continuing to work towards ensuring greater adherence to existing obligations and better monitoring mechanisms. Democracy and human rights must remain the bedrock of European security. The maxim of no security without freedom continues to apply. We are committed, for example, to efforts to combat torture. Another major issue is the protection of the defenders of human rights. We are striving to ensure that the voices of civil society and young people are heard at the OSCE. 

Finally, Switzerland is engaged in ensuring that extensive cooperation between participating States continues at the OSCE despite differences over Ukraine. Transnational threats, such as terrorism, cybercrime and natural disasters, can only be tackled together.

Switzerland has contributed to stronger cooperation in all of these areas through its own initiatives and will continue to demonstrate commitment. Specific and extensive cooperation helps to build trust and bridges.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The strengthening of the OSCE as the foundation of cooperative security in Europe is an important step towards establishing a more stable peace framework. We will remain committed to such measures.

Switzerland has continually shown – and very prominently over the last year – that it can make valuable contributions to peace and security in Europe. We will continue our efforts and also assume our responsibility in future so that our children and future generations can live in an undivided and peaceful Europe.

Une Europe entière et libre.

Thank you.

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