Relaunching conventional arms control in Europe

Rebuilding destroyed confidence and preventing an arms race: these tasks have become even more pressing since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis. For the annexation of Crimea in violation of international law has brought the question of war and peace back to Europe. In August 2016, therefore, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for a relaunch of conventional arms control. On Friday (25 November), 14 like‑minded states met for talks at the Federal Foreign Office and issued a joint declaration.

More dialogue

“In the long term, security cannot be established by working against each other”, said Steinmeier at the Senior Officials Meeting of like‑minded states in Berlin. “And however difficult relations with Russia are at present: we need more not less dialogue.” Arms control within the framework of the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE) proved its worth during the Cold War by creating transparency, reducing risks and building confidence.

Principles for peace and stability

At Germany’s initiative, a group of friendly states came together at the Federal Foreign Office to advance this idea. In a joint declaration, they emphasise the international law principles which are crucial for peace and stability in Europe: “territorial integrity, sovereignty, inviolability of international borders, the right to neutrality and the free choice of alliances and one’s own security policy.”

Destroyed bridge in Sloviansk, Ukraine

Destroyed bridge in Sloviansk, Ukraine
© Photothek / Gaertner

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Destroyed bridge in Sloviansk, Ukraine

Destroyed bridge in Sloviansk, Ukraine

Destroyed bridge in Sloviansk, Ukraine

Violations of these principles are of just as much concern to this group of states as the crumbling of the existing arms control regimes. They therefore highlighted the urgent need “to re‑establish strategic stability, restraint, predictability and verifiable transparency and to reduce military risks.” A relaunch of conventional arms control is a key step towards this.

Call for others to join the endeavour

The countries present at the meeting are now preparing an exploratory, structured dialogue which is to include all sides and use the OSCE as a central forum. For example, talks on arms control are to be held on the margins of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg from 7 to 9 December. All states that share responsibility for Europe’s security are called upon to support this project. For, as the countries present at the meeting conclude their joint declaration: “Working together, we can actively contribute to strengthening security for all on our continent.”

In addition to Germany, the declaration was signed by Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Find out more:

The text of the ministerial declaration by the foreign ministers of the like‑minded group

German commitment to the OSCE

Disarmament and non‑proliferation

A call for a re‑launch of arms control: Article by Foreign Minister Steinmeier (26 August 2016)

Last updated 25.11.2016

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