«Implications of the crisis in and around Ukraine for European security at large»

Bern, 05.09.2014 - Newport, 05.09.2014 - Statement of the Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE, Mr Didier Burkhalter, on the NATO Wales Summit - Check against delivery

Mr Chairman
Ladies and Gentlemen

The Ukraine crisis has reached a critical point, once more. It is timely and indeed imperative that we are discussing this here.

The past days have underlined the risk of further military escalation. The number of casualties in these hostilities has been growing rapidly. Relations between Russia and Ukraine and between Russia and the West are in a downward spiral. All this has major negative implications for Ukraine and for European security. For our common security.

Efforts to establish a ceasefire are underway and have become more dynamic lately. The Minsk meeting today may provide a real opportunity to reverse the logic of escalation. But irrespective of the outcome, launching a sustainable political process to resolve the crisis will remain an uphill battle. The OSCE, for its part, will do everything possible to help end the bloodshed as soon as possible and find a political solution.

I have come here together with the Secretary General of the OSCE to make the case for preserving cooperative security approaches in dealing with the Ukraine crisis even at this point of heightened tension. Sanctions and defensive measures to reassure allies and partners should not come at the expense of diplomacy. They render diplomatic efforts at resolving the crisis ever more important.

Violations of Helsinki principles and of international law, whether they concern the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia or military incursions into eastern Ukraine, must be met with a firm response. But any such response should be measured. It must leave room for dialogue and cooperative approaches to address all differences. Merely isolating Russia would not solve any problems and it would certainly create new ones, in Europe and beyond.

Stability can only return to Ukraine and Europe if we manage to resolve this crisis with Russia – it cannot be resolved against Russia. This will become ever more difficult should tensions continue to rise. A political settlement is indispensable to de-escalate the situation in any sustainable way. This settlement must respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Ladies and gentlemen

The OSCE stands for security and stability for everyone from Vancouver to Vladivostok. It is a consensus-based organization disposing of no coercive instruments. The OSCE is an inclusive platform for dialogue. It also provides a toolbox with relevant instruments for preventing and resolving conflicts.

Dialogue and action – the OSCE stands for both. And the Swiss Chairmanship has been working hard to make full use of the OSCE’s broad range of instruments to help Ukraine de-escalate the crisis.

In the current situation, we are pursuing three priorities in our engagement in Ukraine:

First, the OSCE Chairmanship actively supports efforts at reaching a ceasefire and establishing a political process. We need to get to the point where legitimate grievances of Ukrainians in the east are being addressed by legitimate representatives. This ought to be done within the overall objective of preserving the unity and territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state, as outlined in the Peace Plan by President Poroshenko.

Through the participation of my Special Representative Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini in the Trilateral Contact Group, the OSCE has been much involved in discussions on the specifics of a ceasefire. We will also continue to assist the parties in the search for solutions on other major issues such as the effective control of the Ukrainian-Russian border and the release of persons detained in this conflict.

The Swiss Chairmanship also strongly supports, and stands ready to host, diplomatic efforts at the highest levels to facilitate transition towards a political process. Ongoing dialogue between the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia is the best chance we have for settling this crisis.

As a second priority, we are expanding the Special Monitoring Mission and adapting it to the changing conflict environment. With currently 233 monitors in place, we are issuing a vacancy note in Vienna today to substantially increase the SMM presence and also recruit more specialists for tasks such as ceasefire and border monitoring. The SMM further aims to deploy up to four drones and two ground control stations to provide operational surveillance capability around the clock.

We are grateful to all OSCE participating States providing monitors and funding for the SMM. And we now need the support of all of you to help strengthen this mission further by proposing high-quality candidates with relevant expertise.

The third priority concerns the OSCE’s assistance with the broader processes of reconciliation, reconstruction, and reform in Ukraine. Strengthening social cohesion, economic prospects, and good governance are challenging tasks for the Ukrainian authorities. Through coordinated efforts, international actors including our organizations on this panel can make essential contributions.

One major contribution the OSCE can make is to support inclusive political dialogue within Ukraine. Public debates on all issues relevant to bringing back peace and stability to Ukraine, including decentralization and reconstruction, will be an important way of rebuilding trust and foster a common sense of purpose. I told President Poroshenko in June already that we are ready to appoint immediately a successor to Ambassador Ischinger as Special Representative to support any such dialogue formats.

Ladies and gentlemen

There is one more priority I would like to mention, and that is the priority of addressing the crisis of European security – which relates to the Ukraine crisis. The OSCE should play an important role in this too.

The crisis of European security actually preceded the tragic developments in Ukraine.

There were disputes over NATO enlargement and ballistic missile defence, the erosion of the conventional arms control regime in Europe, disagreements about the legitimacy of a series of military interventions, and controversies over declarations of political independence. There were accusations of broken promises, and there were growing deficits in implementing OSCE commitments, especially in the human dimension. All this amounted to an erosion of trust and a weakening of pan-European security. It could be felt in our everyday work, in the OSCE and elsewhere.

The gradual estrangement between Russia and the West, and the lack of a shared vision by Russia and the EU for their common neighbourhood, contributed to the tensions within Ukraine about the country’s future course.

Now that the crisis in and around Ukraine has further increased the uncertainties about Russia’s place in Europe, it is time that we started to deal with this crisis of European security too.

We should discuss why the consensus on the foundations of European security has eroded. And we need to discuss how we can reconsolidate European security as a common project.

A more resilient pan-European security architecture must be in the interests of all. Strengthening the OSCE as an anchor of cooperative security in Europe would be a major step forward in this regard.

In the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997, both sides committed to strengthening the OSCE and to creating a common space of security and stability with no spheres of influence limiting the sovereignty of any state and with no state being isolated.

Current developments demonstrate the importance of finally implementing this commitment. And of re-launching the debate on how to create a more stable European security system.

The OSCE is the obvious platform for such a debate on European security. In the present circumstances, we should not expect quick answers. But this should not prevent us from starting to debate these issues now. If we fail to address the crisis of European security today, we may well be confronted with ever bigger divisions in Europe tomorrow – to the detriment of all.

So, to sum up, three current OSCE priorities concerning Ukraine:

1. Contribute to establishing a ceasefire and launching a political process
2. Expand the Special Monitoring Mission in line with changing needs
3. Support reconciliation, reconstruction, and reform
And a fourth OSCE priority – to launch a debate on reconsolidating European security as a common project.


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