Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier took part in the OSCE Ministerial Council in Belgrade, Serbia, on 3 and 4 December. The Ministerial Council is the last event to be organised by Serbia’s OSCE Chairmanship this year. Germany addressed the event as the incoming OSCE Chair for the next year, taking up the baton from Serbia.
This year the Ministerial Council focused first and foremost on the work of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Ukraine and debated the issues of migration and terrorism and the challenges these entail. In addition, the panel of eminent persons led by Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger published its final report on the future of European security.
The Chairmanship in turbulent times
At the opening on Wednesday (3 December) Foreign Minister Steinmeier stressed that Germany will be assuming the OSCE Chairmanship “in turbulent times”. As regards the conflict in Ukraine, he underlined that it was thanks to the work of the OSCE that it had been possible to defuse the situation somewhat. All the same, as he pointed out, “we are still a long way from implementing the Minsk agreement. The work must go on.” Steinmeier appealed not only for continued support for the OSCE, but also stressed that support had to be “better and more tangible”. This also applied to budgetary issues. Obtaining at least the budget allocations from the previous year had proven to be particularly arduous in 2015, even though the tasks of the Organisation had increased dramatically since the start of the Ukraine conflict.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier furthermore addressed the representatives of the 57 participating States: “Given the challenges, we really should be concerned about the state of our common security in Europe.” Referring to the escalating tensions between Turkey and Russia, Steinmeier called for the conflict between two OSCE participating States following the downing of a Russian plane in Turkish air space to be ended as soon as possible and direct dialogue entered into by Moscow and Ankara.
The German Foreign Minister called on all Council participants to strengthen the OSCE “in dialogue”. This was important above all as regards crisis response, confidence building and for the future of European security. Steinmeier added:
Let’s not dismantle our ship, the OSCE, in stormy waters just because it isn’t easy to agree on a joint course.
Bilateral talks at the Ministerial Council
As well as taking part in the official sessions of the Ministerial Council, Foreign Minister Steinmeier held bilateral talks with several of the 42 Foreign Ministers attending the event. His appointments included meetings with the members of the OSCE troika – Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić of Serbia and Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter of Switzerland – as well as talks with Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
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