“Reversing the Logic of Escalation in Ukraine: Next Steps by the Swiss OSCE Chairmanship”

Bern, 06.05.2014 - Vienna, 6 May 2014 - Austrian Presidency of the Council of Europe - Speech by the President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr Didier Burkhalter - Check against delivery

Dear colleagues

I am grateful that we are having this debate on Ukraine. We have reached a pivotal moment, both for Ukraine and for Europe. It is important that we do not turn our backs against each other in this situation. Rather, we should all commit to resolving this crisis through dialogue.
As you know, Switzerland is chairing the OSCE this year. From the beginning of our Chairmanship, we have been closely involved in efforts to assist Ukraine in resolving this crisis. I take the liberty of addressing you here as Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE. And I wish to make four main points:

First, we need to reverse the logic of escalation that has marked this crisis so far.

Just a few months ago, in early December last year, most of us met in Kiev for the OSCE Ministerial Council. Little did we anticipate then how much the Ukraine crisis would evolve and expand. Today, not even half a year later, Ukraine is struggling for its territorial integrity and national cohesion. Instability is growing in eastern and southern parts of the country. The spectre of new rifts looms on Europe’s horizon.

It is our duty as politicians to reverse this logic of escalation. I am convinced that we can accomplish this – it is above all a question of responsible leadership.
“Responsible” in this case means commitment to dialogue and cooperation, to de-escalatory measures and rhetoric, and to constructive engagement in the search for solutions in keeping with national and international law.

Second, we need a roadmap for the period until the elections.

Time is of the essence now. The roadmap that the Swiss Chairmanship is proposing covers a series of issues. Convergence on these issues should help stabilize the situation and provide conditions to hold the planned elections.

These issues include international commitment to presidential elections on 25 May; international commitment to the conduct of a nationwide consultative opinion poll on decentralization (in parallel with the elections), which is tied to broad national dialogue, including roundtable discussions in the regions; recommitment to implementing the measures agreed in the Geneva Statement. Security questions will also have to be addressed.

It is essential that the four parties of the Geneva Statement back such a roadmap and its implementation in the form of an Action Plan. The Swiss Chairmanship is currently consulting with the leaders of all four parties on how to proceed on this matter.

Third, the OSCE is ready to take up a lead role in implementing this roadmap.

The Special Monitoring Mission that was set up by consensus decision has been tasked to support Ukraine in implementing the Geneva Measures. We are currently evaluating how this should best be done in the light of the proposed roadmap. And we are enlarging the capacity of this Mission, from 154 monitors today to about 300 by the end of June. I invite all of you to support the Monitoring Mission with additional funding and monitors, including experts in disarmament and mediation.

The OSCE is also ready to facilitate inclusive national dialogue in Ukraine. We are convinced that such roundtables are essential to address grievances, to reassure all parties that they have a stake in the Ukrainian state, and hence to strengthen national cohesion.

Finally, the OSCE through ODIHR is observing the elections. 100 long-term observers are already deployed throughout the regions in Ukraine. An additional 900 short-term observers will follow in due time.

My fourth and final point is this: As the OSCE is demonstrating its value, we should redouble our efforts to strengthen its capacity to act
One effect that the Ukraine crisis may well have is that not all of the priorities that the Swiss Chairmanship had defined for this year will be fulfilled. But one thing is clear: Our objective of strengthening mediation capacities in the OSCE is more relevant than ever. Bridge-building will remain in high demand, and the OSCE has an important role to play in this regard.

As ministers, it is also time to get more actively involved in the “Helsinki+40” process on the OSCE’s future. On the one hand, this may result in recommitting to the Helsinki Principles and discussing the cornerstones of European security. But on the other hand, it should also mean discussing practical measures to enable the OSCE to tap its full potential.

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