In his speech on Thursday (14 January) to present the programme for the German OSCE Chairmanship in 2016, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said Germany was taking on this role in stormy times. The German Foreign Minister and Gernot Erler, Special Representative of the Federal Government for the OSCE Chairmanship, had travelled together to Vienna to mark the start of the German Chairmanship.
In his speech to delegates from the 57 participating States of the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE), Foreign Minister Steinmeier said that we must not allow ourselves to be intimidated by murder and violence, such as the terrorist attack in Istanbul and elsewhere. “We need the OSCE during these stormy times and these times of uncertainty and new challenges in particular.” This required “clearly defined goals and a compass to guide [the OSCE]”.
Focus on the Ukraine conflict
In his speech, Foreign Minister Steinmeier focused on the crisis in eastern Ukraine that has now lasted almost two years. “The Ukraine conflict shows us two things very clearly – how urgently we need the OSCE and that we need to strengthen its capacities.” Steinmeier praised the work of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), which monitors the ceasefire. “The SMM needs our full support,” he said. The mandate had proved its worth, he added. With a view to its pending extension, he described it as “a good foundation for the SMM’s work in the future”.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin also attended the special session of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna. He thanked Steinmeier for his announcement that the German OSCE Chairmanship would focus on resolving the Ukraine crisis by peaceful means.
Germany’s priorities, “renewing dialogue, rebuilding trust, restoring security”, were also important beyond Ukraine, Steinmeier said. The German Chairmanship would focus to a greater extent on settling conflicts in the OSCE area that are still unresolved, such as those in Transdniestria, the Southern Caucasus and Nagorno Karabakh.
Dialogue must name the difficulties and work towards solutions
Speaking to the representatives of the OSCE participating States, Steinmeier said: “We have to use our OSCE, here and now, to create a future in which war and violence in Europe once again become unthinkable.” He appealed to the participating States not to “cling to the old platitudes and certainties”, but rather to “work together to resolve the new issues which are now facing us”. This required a “dialogue that names the difficulties and challenges, but also works towards solutions. We want to do everything we can to facilitate such dialogue during our Chairmanship.” Steinmeier also announced two conferences on key topics – migration and the fight against terrorism – later in the year.
Following the special session of the OSCE Permanent Council at the Hofburg in Vienna, seat of the OSCE, Steinmeier met the heads of OSCE field operations. Prior to his speech, he had held a meeting with Lamberto Zannier, OSCE Secretary General. Steinmeier also met Michael Link, Head of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), and Dunja Mijatović, the outgoing OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, in Vienna for talks on cooperation on the OSCE’s human dimension.