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OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg: making Europe a safe place through cooperation

07.12.2016 - Article

More than 40 foreign ministers and almost 80 delegations from the participating States of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) will be meeting in Hamburg on 8 and 9 December.

With over 40 foreign ministers, almost 80 delegations and 400 journalists – the world’s largest regional security organisation is coming to Hamburg. The OSCE Ministerial Council is meeting in the Hanseatic City from Wednesday to Friday. Foreign Minister Steinmeier thanked the citizens of Hamburg for their hospitality.

2016 OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg
2016 OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg© mediaserver.hamburg.de / Jörg Modrow

With tensions between East and West, borders shifted by force and frozen conflicts, the European continent appears to be sliding into a continuous loop of crises and conflicts. Dialogue and détente are therefore even more important than ever, and the OSCE provides the perfect framework for these efforts.

All European countries, the successor states of the Soviet Union, the US, Canada and Mongolia are members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The Organization was preceded by negotiations to achieve détente during the confrontation between the blocs in the 1970s. The OSCE stands for open dialogue also in times of great divide. Germany has therefore assumed responsibility for this important forum for dialogue this year as OSCE Chair.

Making better use of the OSCE as a forum for dialogue

The Ministerial Conference in Hamburg will focus on the most urgent conflicts. An important topic in this regard is the situation in eastern Ukraine, where violations of the ceasefire still occur. The Minsk agreements have yet to be fully implemented by both sides. The OSCE has played an instrumental role in helping to prevent an even more severe military escalation of the conflict. As a neutral observer and independent mediator, it is already monitoring military disengagement and demining in a number of areas.

Handwritten open letter by Foreign Minister Steinmeier
Handwritten open letter by Foreign Minister Steinmeier© Auswärtiges Amt

The question as to how the OSCE can equip itself even better for the future as a forum for dialogue and peace will also be a major focus at the conference. Germany is working to make the OSCE’s instruments of conflict prevention, conflict management and post-conflict peacebuilding even better and more effective. New global challenges such as cyber attacks, terrorism and religious extremism are becoming ever greater risks. The OSCE must also find solutions to these problems that safeguard peace on the European continent in the long term.

Thanking the citizens of Hamburg

Steinmeier thanked the citizens of Hamburg for their hospitality. “There are very good reasons for hosting the OSCE meeting especially here in Hamburg. Everything that the Hanseatic City stands for – its long traditions, its values, its role as a bridge between East and West – is reflected in the OSCE and in the objective of our meeting in Hamburg”, said Steinmeier.

In his handwritten open letter, the Foreign Minister apologised to the citizens of Hamburg in advance for the security precautions that the meeting would entail.

Meeting with representatives of civil society

Prior to the beginning of the meetings of the OSCE Ministerial Council, Steinmeier opened a parallel civil society conference in the evening. As OSCE Chair, Germany is financing a meeting of over 90 non-governmental organisations from the OSCE countries, which are to discuss strategies for protecting civil society together.

Find out more:

Joint article by Foreign Ministers Steinmeier, Kurz and Gentiloni on the future of the OSCE in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)

Interview with Foreign Minister Steinmeier on the OSCE foreign ministers meeting in the “Hamburger Abendblatt”

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